Oral History Transcript — Dr. Roger Revelle
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Roger Revelle; February 3, 1989
ABSTRACT: Scripps Institute of Oceanography. During the 1950s, high bottom heat flow, young age of ďguyotsĒ (flat-topped sea mountains), thinness of ocean sediments, patterns of fracture zones. Deep sea drilling program AMSOC and MOHO (1960-1970); Ocean magnetic surveys. Long-term measurements of carbon dioxide at Scripps by Keeling; greenhouse effect. International cooperation in oceanography via ICSU-SCOR. Circulation mixing and expansion of ocean waters; equatorial countercurrent. Some outstanding geophysicists; turning points in geophysics: 1) Harald Sverdrupís work, 2) the IGY, 3) World War II and the coming of age of science (Federal government support of geophysics by the Office of Naval Research and the National Science Foundation); 4) geophysical modeling of the ocean/atmosphere interaction; 5) predictability of weather and ocean events. His concerns about government support of science; his areas of expertise and publication. Return to Scripps and his involvement in University development at San Diego; applied geophysics mission to Pakistan; population studies at Harvard. His family and private life.
Droessler:We are planning an interview for the next several hours, looking into the history of geophysics over the past thirty, forty years. Good morning, Roger. Iím awfully glad to be with you again today.
Revelle:Hi, Earl, how are you?
Droessler:Letís begin by asking you to talk about some of the advances in geophysics as you have observed them over the past several decades.
Revelle:Well, of course, what I can talk about primarily are the things that I was involved with. There were a great many events in geophysics that came from elsewhere, that I wasnít involved with. But I thought I might start with the period in the l950s when oceanography was a great exploratory science, what I have called the new age of exploration, because it was an age very much like the age in the 17th century, 16th and 17th centuries, when the world was — when human beings found out about the world, the surface of the world. What we found out about in the 1950s and to some extent the early l960s was not the surface of the world, but the world beneath the sea, the part of the world that you canít see with your naked eyes. This started, as far as I was concerned, with two Scripps Institution expeditions — what we called the Mid-Pac Expedition, Mid-Pacific Expedition, and two years later the Capricorn Expedition. These took place in both cases on two ships. The Mid-Pacific Expedition was the Scripps ship HORIZON, which is an old Navy tug, sea-going tug, and the EPCER, I think it was 852 or 832, which was owned and operated by the Navy Electronics Laboratory. Then the Capricorn Expedition in 1952, Ď53, we had two Scripps ships, the HORIZON and the SPENCER F. BAIRD. These were both sea-going tugs.
Droessler:And you were the scientist on one of these vessels?
I was the leader of both these expeditions. I was director of the Scripps Institution at the time. First, with the Mid-Pac, I was acting director. The second one, I was the real director, and I was the leader of the expeditions. On the Mid-Pacific Expedition, we went down to the Equator, up to Hawaii, and then out to Bikini. The principal discoveries were made west of Hawaii, between Hawaii and Bikini, in an area which we later called the Mid-Pacific Mountains. That word, Mid-Pacific Mountains, still is used by all the chart makers. Itís an undersea mountain range extending for about 1500 miles, from Neckar? Island in the Hawaiian chain out to Wake Island in the middle of the western Pacific. And there were four great discoveries on that expedition. The first one was the measurement of the heat flowing from the floor of the ocean. It had been thought and stated by Harold Jeffries in his great book THE EARTH that the heat coming through the sea floor would be considerably less than the heat coming from the continents, the reason for that being that on the continents there was a lot of plutonic rocks which were high in radioactive elements, particularly uranium and thorium, which were separated out by a process geologists call differentiation.
The uranium goes with the rocks that are high in silica, and thatís the rock that the continents are made of. Thatís why the continents rise above the surface of the ocean, because theyíre light, because theyíre full of silica and not so much iron and magnesium. And therefore Jeffries postulated that these rocks, the continental rocks, or the continents would have a high heat flow from the interior of the earth, and the ocean would have a low heat flow, the sea floor would have a low heat flow. It turned out that this was wrong. It turned out that in fact there was just as much, in fact perhaps more heat coming from the bottom of the ocean than came through the continents. The reason for this is still not clearly understood, but it basically says that both the ocean and the continents, under the sea as well say, well, particularly under the sea, you must have convection. That is, rocks must be overturning and bringing up heat from great depths up to the surface. If the heat was the original heat from the formation of the earth, and no convection, youíd have a very much smaller heat flow, because rocks are such good insulators.
Droessler:And this great discovery was made as one of the four discoveries on this expedition?
Revelle:The Mid-Pacific Expedition, yes. Art Maxwell was the scientist in charge of the heat probe, as we called it, which was the spear that you stick into the mud on the bottom of the sea, and leave it there for about 15 minutes to come to equilibrium, and on this spear were two thermistors, and what we measured was the temperature between the two thermistors, which was about a tenth of a degree usually, and these two thermometers essentially were about a meter apart, so we found that a temperature difference about a tenth of a degree in a meter, which in a thousand meters is quite a bit —
Droessler:Quite a bit.
About 100 degrees. Actually, the gradient was not as great as that as you go down into the deeper layers, but itís about 20 degrees per kilometer, instead of 100 degrees per kilometer. And this was quite a technical feat, because you had to lower this probe and stick it into the bottom, and then not jiggle it. But you had to be able to pull it back to the surface of course at the end, with a wire, with a cable, so the ship had to pay out cable all the time, to keep from wiggling the heat probe, the spear, but not pay out so much cable that the cable would foul up on the bottom. If you get too much there it would snarl up on the bottom. So you had to do it just right. And one of the things that helped here was a device that John Isaacs had invented, which we called the ball breaker. We used an ordinary fish net float, glass float, and when an instrument would hit the bottom, you would release a trigger, which would hit this glass float and break it and make it — the breaking of the float, particularly at those depths, made a very loud bang, and weíd hear that at the surface, and we knew then that the instrument had hit the bottom. So that helped a lot in making sure that we could pay out cable after it hit the bottom, but not too much, just the right amount of cable. Another discovery on that expedition was from dredging on the tops of these mountains, the Mid-Pacific Mountains.
These were known as — the flat tops of these mountains had been discovered during the war by Harry Hiss, and he called them ďguyots,Ē named after a building at Princeton which is the geology building, which in turn was named after a French geologist named Guyot. So these guyots, that word is still used, for flat topped sea mounts, sea mounts that are below the ocean surface. And there are a lot of them all over the ocean, but particularly in the Pacific. And Harry had thought that they must have been formed in the early days of the earthís history, and that they had gradually been submerged by the continual influx of water into the ocean from the interior of the earth, the outgassing of the earth, as itís usually called. But we dredged on these sea mounts and it turned out that they were Cretacious in age, so you would find shallow water fossils, shallow water corals on the tops of the guyots. And these shallow water corals were about 60 million years old. The younger part of the Cretacious period, which is about 100 million years long. And this really changed the whole picture of what the ocean was like, the fact that these sea mounts, instead of being as old as the earth, as old as pre-Cambrian, as often said to be, were really quite young. And Russ Rate, the man who did the dredging and identified the corals and fossils, was a man named Ed Hamilton, who was a staff member at the Navy Electronics Laboratory, but at the same time Russell Rate and his group were making seismic refraction studies of the sea floor, and what they found was that the sediments were only about 200 meters, and beneath that was basalt, and beneath that was an even more dense rock, and then finally you came to what geophysicists call the Mantle, the Moho (?) discontinuity between the crust and the Mantle.
So that the sea floor itself must be very young, because it was only such a thin layer of sediments on it, whereas it had been thought to be thousands of feet of sediments, and Morris Ewing in fact went to his grave thinking there must be thousands of feet of sediments buried somewhere, but actually the sediments are quite thin because the sea floor is quite young. It turns out that the rate of sedimentation is about somewhere around a millimeter to a centimeter per thousand years. If itís a millimeter, that means essentially a meter per million years, or 100 meters in 100 million years, and thatís about the age of the sea floor in the North Pacific, between 100 and 200 million years.
Droessler:So these two finds started you looking for a mechanism to explain it.
Revelle:Thatís right. We did not think about plate tectonics, but we did think about convection. The other discovery was, as I said, Russís discovery of this layer cake structure of the rocks of the earth beneath the sea, and finally, Bill Minard and Jeff Frouchy(?) found huge fractures along the so-called Mendocino Escarpment, or Mendocino Fracture Zone, which extended for about 2000 miles due west into the Pacific from Cape Mendocino, and thereís a series of these fracture zones about 200 miles apart, I think the most northern one being the Mendocino Escarpment, but thereís a series of them to the south, and these are, we now know these are transform faults, as Kuzo Wilson described them. So those were the three or four discoveries. The young age of the guyots, the thinness of the sediments, the high heat flow, and the Mendocino Escarpment. On that Mid-Pacific Expedition. And of course, this is really the basis of our modern understanding about the earth, that the sea floor is very young. Itís renewed constantly by volcanic activity in the mid-ocean ridges, and then the volcanic rock spreads across the ocean and then is subducted in the trenches. And the Capricorn Expedition, two years later — the two things we did were to study the trenches, particularly the second deepest trench that there is, the Tolga Trench, which goes down to about 35,000 feet.
Droessler:Where is that located?
East of the Tolga Islands. Between — it goes all the way to New Zealand, itís called the Tolga Curvideck(?) Trench. But it turns out that the trench is bare of sediments. There isnít any sediment in it. And the reason it is, as we now know, the reason there isnít any sediment is that the trench is constantly being subducted. Itís going down into the bowels of the earth. Itís a V-shaped crack in the sea floor. Then we also crossed the so-called Mid-Ocean Ridge, in this case the Easter Island Ridge, Rise. And Russ found that the structure there was rather different than it is on either side, in the more passive, the less active part of the sea floor. It was very hard to find these layers that he found elsewhere, and the reason is that you have there a big magma chamber of molten rock which is rising to the surface. One of the other things we did on these expeditions was to tow a magnetometer. This was a device invented by Victor Bockey whom you probably remember, during the war, which was used on airplanes actually to look for submarines with a magnetic signature. But it was modified and used in a different way by Rollo Mason and also by the people at LaMont. It was towed by the ship, and gave a record essentially of the magnetic, the remnant magnetism on the sea floor beneath the ship.
You towed it from a cable back to the ship at sufficient distance so that the magnetism of the ship itself wouldnít interfere with it. Or at least the magnetism of the ship was effectively constant from the standpoint of the magnetometer. The man who was in charge of this was a little Englishman named Ronald Mason, and he came to me after we got back from the Capricorn Expedition with a great idea. He had found out that the Coast Geodetic Survey had a plan to map the sea floor off the west coast of the United States, out to several hundred miles from land, using Loran navigation to locate themselves and accurate echo sounding to find the depths of the bottom, and Ronald said, ďWell, why donít we tow our magnetometer on this survey? This will give us essentially a three dimensional or two dimensional, will give us a map, instead of just these little lines that we couldnít interpret at all.Ē thought that was a good idea, and we applied to Washington for the money, not to ONR but to — maybe we did apply to ONR for it. I guess maybe we did. But by that time there was of course the National Science Foundation too. I forget which we applied to, but anyhow they turned us down, and they turned us down on the basis of a recommendation by the magnetic guys in the Geological Survey, that we wouldnít find out anything. And this turned out to be the most spectacular thing we ever did find. The magnetic map of the sea floor, with the magnetic striping, which enables you to tell how old the sea floor is and how different parts of it are related to each other.
Droessler:Sometimes it works out that way, doesnít it? The old ideas have to be swept away by sort of a new vision and a new experiment.
Droessler:Otherwise weíd be stuck on what the gentlemen in power want to keep us on.
Revelle:Thatís right. What happened in this case was, I used my own directorís contingency fund to fund the thing. Itís about $100,000. Somehow Iíd squirreled away that amount of money. So it was possible to pay for Ronaldís survey. But not with any help from Washington!
Droessler:You were going to talk about a third expedition?
Revelle:No, just those two, Mid-Pac and Capricorn. But after Capricorn was this survey that Ronald made of the magnetic topography of the sea floor off the West Coast of the United States. What he found was a series of stripes which represent magnetic reversals — first lava coming up which has remnant of magnetism, as it has today, then next to it was an older piece of the crust which had come up from the mid-ocean ridge say a million years ago, and there the magnetism would be reversed. So youíd get these — the map showed very different intensities, between ones that were oriented with the present magnetic field, and the ones that were oriented in the opposite direction.
Droessler:Why donít you talk about how these findings, these half a dozen findings, fitted in with the new ideas in the development of geophysics as they came on, plate tectonics and so forth?
That came later. Iíll come to that. One of the other things we did, after the Capricorn Expedition, was that Art Maxwell made a series of heat flow measurements across the mid-ocean, the Easter Island rise to the South American coast, and what he found there was that the heat flow was high on the ridge and low near the trench, and diminished more or less continuously from the ridge to the trench, and of course we know that thatís exactly what does happen, now. The hot rock comes up in the mid-ocean ridge and then spreads across the ocean and cools and sinks as it moves away from the ridge. So that the rock at the trench is about 100 million years older than the rock, or 150 million years older than the rock underneath the ridge, interestingly enough. Teddy Bard and Art and I wrote a paper on this, which I think is referred to in this little thing here, in which we said that this must indicate convection underneath the sea floor — that is, thereís a convection current where the rock is rising under the ridge, moving across the ocean and then sinking in the trench and then coming back again, a circulation like this. And of course, thatís now, everybody believes that now, of course, and thatís the basis of seafloor spreading. But we werenít smart enough to think of it, that the rock itself at the surface as moving, but itís now known that it is, and that the whole seafloor moves and not just the rocks at some depth below the surface.
The part that we missed was the spreading of the seafloor right at the surface of the ocean bottom. And this is what Harry Hess wrote in his famous ďGeopoetryĒ essay, ďEssay in Geopoetry,Ē this idea that the seafloor was moving apart and rising at the ridge and sinking at the trenches, which of course everybody believes now. This was actually demonstrated by Art Maxwell in one of the deep sea drilling, one of the very early deep sea drilling cruises, when they took a series of drill holes from the center of the Atlantic Ridge to the coast of South America, and what they found was that as you get away from the ridge, you get older and older sediments. So off the South American coast, they got down to Cretaceous sediments; in the middle, right over the ridge, the only sediments you find are recent sediments, just a few tens of thousands of years old. And as you go along, you get deeper and deeper sediments, and this is exactly what youíd expect, of course. As the bottom of the ocean moves, over here youíve got a record, itís old seafloor and youíve got a record of the whole deposition ever since it began. Here you haves a young seafloor and you have a record of just the very latest depositions. Beautiful, in fact, a marvelous example of how theory and fact work together. One of the interesting things about this, as far as I was concerned, was that — what made all these discoveries possible, and what made the difference, was new technology, most of which had been developed during World War II, particularly very accurate recording echo sounders which gave us the depth of the seafloor within about a meter everywhere. Second, new methods of navigation. Actually, navigation improved continuously from 1950 on until now itís fantastically different than it was even then. We now can locate ourselves within a few feet on the sea floor. Third was this heat probe which was really the development of electronics, to make it possible to record in a chamber at great depth something that was happening outside the chamber. One of the interesting developments there was the O ring. You know what an O ring is?
Revelle:An O ring is simply a rubber ring, a thin rubber ring that fits between two pieces of metal, and as the pressure increases on the metal, the metal is squeezed together, and the O ring is squeezed in such a way that — how shall I put it? It becomes less and less leaky. The higher the pressure, the more the thing resists leaking. If you have ordinary room pressure like this, itís rather loose, and you put it in water, it would tend to leak, but you put it under 10,000 pounds pressure, the O ring is squeezed together and thereís no leak. But the other thing was the development of electronics, which made possible the temperature measurements of the heat probe, the development of electronics that made the magnetometer possible, and the seismic refraction, all of these new methods of exploring the world beneath the seas really came out during World War II or even before, but were used after the war. One who was very much involved with these discoveries was Bob Fisher, Robert L. Fisher. He was particularly concerned with the ocean floor topography, as was Bill Minard. Both Bill Minard and Bob Fisher were specialists in deep sea topography, and Bob Fisher was particularly interested in the trenches. The variety of different trenches, which ranges all the way from the trench off of Central America, the Middle America Trench, which is flat on the bottom and is fairly shallow, only about 16, 17 thousand feet deep, and may be a trench thatís not actually subducting now, and then the South American Trench and the Tonga Trench, these deep trenches in the western Pacific, the Mindinao Trench and the Mariannas Trench and the Japan Trench, Koreal Trench, these were all zones of very active subduction, down sinking of the crust into the bowels of the earth, along whatís called the Benihoff(?) Fault Zone. And Bob was particularly interested in setting these topographic and sedimentary characteristics of the trenches. One of the interesting things he found in the Tonga Trench was a guyot, a flat-topped sea mount, which was in fact tipped. Instead of being horizontal, it was dipping toward the trench. And this in fact was another proof of subduction. The guyot was actually moving from the open sea floor into the trench and gradually being pulled down on the side of the trench.
Droessler:How many acres would a typical guyot cover?
Revelle:Oh, maybe theyíd be 20 miles long, five or six or seven miles wide, or it could be not more than two or three miles long, more or less equi-dimensional.
Droessler:So it would be a very significant finding, to find one of them that was tipping into the crack.
Revelle:Oh yes, very much so. This is a relatively shallow feature on the side of the Tonga Trench, the edge of it, as it dips down into the bowels of the earth. All this, all of these discoveries were really part of the data, part of the observational framework for the later development of plate tectonics. Plate tectonics was developed by seven or eight different people, none of the at Scripps, by the way. One of them was Tuzo Wilson. Another was Jason Morgan of Princeton. Another one was -Ė
Droessler:You mentioned Harry Hess.
Revelle:Harry Hess, of course, Bob Dietz. There are two guys in England, at Cambridge. For the moment Iím having a mental block about their names. Then there was a Canadian named Morley, Tuzo Wilson and Morley. Morley was the first man to think of it, and his paper was turned down I guess by JGR or maybe JGR didnít even exist in those days, but anyhow, he had the complete idea and well worked out, but it was so wild and so radical that he never was able to get it published. So the people who finally got it published were these two Englishmen. But Morley was the man who really did it first.
Droessler:So it really was a loose association of an international group, Canadians, English and some of the group there at Princeton.
Revelle:Yes, thatís right. But it was basically all, all based on these deep seas exploratory voyages, not only ours but also Lamont, Morris Ewing on the Vema, and to some extent the Russians too, but mostly Scripps and Lamont. We were the ones that were constantly sending out expeditions. We sent out, the Scripps ships during the last 30 years have traveled well over four million miles on the deep sea, and I imagine Lamont about the same, and we went sometimes, I remember once that somebody asked Morris Ewing, ďWhere do you keep your ships?Ē He said, ďI keep my ships at sea.Ē Instead of in a dockyard somewhere. And we did pretty well. Ours were at sea an average of about 180 to 200 days a year, but Morris I think did better than that.
Droessler:Thatís very good, though.
Revelle:It was fantastic. One of the other major things that happened at Scripps was the measurement of atmospheric carbon dioxide, which of course is the basis of the Greenhouse Effect. This is kind of an interesting happening, in this sense, that in the 1950ís it was realized that we were producing quite a bit of CO2 by burning fossil fuels, but it was thought that nearly all of it must be going into the ocean, and the reason that was believed was that the ocean contains about fifty times as much CO2 as the atmosphere, 35,000 gigatons in the ocean, about 700 gigatons in the atmosphere. And so it was thought that the partition of CO2 would be in that ratio of 50 to 1, which would mean that the atmospheric carbon dioxide would be going up very slowly. It turns out, from Keelingís(?) measurements, and from predictions made by Suess and me in 1957, that in fact about half the CO2 released by the burning of fossil fuels would stay in the atmosphere. This is because — Seuss and I wrote a paper about it in 1957 — which showed that because of the buffer mechanism of seawater, you have something called the Revelle Effect, which is that if you increase CO2 in the atmosphere by say one part per million, you increase the CO2 in the ocean by only a tenth of a part per million, a big difference, and thatís because of the way that the carbon dioxide in the water is partitioned between carbonate ions and bicarbonate ions and free CO2, and as you add a little CO2 to it, it tips the equilibrium between these three kinds of carbon dioxide, so that the result of this buffer, what they call a buffer factor, not the Revelle Effect but the Revelle Factor itís called, or just the buffer factor, it means that you can add quite a bit of CO2 to the air without getting much in the water, and vice versa.
Droessler:At some time I want to have you talk about the modern interest in the Greenhouse Effect, but before we do that, would you just speak a little bit about how that very unique facility that came to be housed here at Scripps, you know, Keelingís facility —
Revelle:Because of the, it was during the IGY that we started. I was a member of the IGY committee, the American committee, and I became convinced, as I said, that there would be a big increase in atmospheric CO2 because so little of the CO2 would get into the ocean, and this paper that Seuss and I wrote in 1957, that was the conclusion of that paper. So I talked the IGY people into supporting a project to measure atmospheric CO2. And Keeling was at Caltech then as a post-doc. What he was doing was measuring carbon isotypes, C-l3 and C-l2, the ratio of C-l3 to C-12, and I persuaded him to come down to Scripps and to start this program of atmospheric CO2 measurement. So he thought of two places to do it. One was the top of Mona Loa and the other was the South Pole. The reason for those two places was that he thought, and itís true, he was right, that the two places were where the atmosphere is thoroughly mixed, and so what you get at the top of Mona Loa or at the South Pole is a different signal but a signal in each case where youíre sampling a very large volume of air. Mona Loa, for example, because itís so high that youíre getting, not exactly the jet stream but the lower edge of the jet stream, which blows across Mona Loa. In the case of the South Pole, youíre getting — itís so far away from any sources of C02 that youíre getting a pretty thoroughly mixed atmospheric signal. And at that time, there had been developed a new instrument by Beckman, a continuously recording spectrophotometer. What this does is to measure the absorption of infra-red radiation in air samples which are passing through the instrument, and you continually pass the air through the instrument, and you measure the infra-red absorption on a path across, leading right across the air. And of course, the more CO2, the more absorption, the less CO2, the less absorption, so you get a continuous record of the CO2 content of the air as it passes through the instrument. So that was started in 1957 and has been continued ever since.
Droessler:If my memory serves me correctly, after the IGY, NSF on a regular basis took up the support of Keelingís laboratory.
Revelle:Thatís right. For a while.
Droessler:And the documentation of the CO2 measurement of the atmosphere, and what a marvelous chart that has turned out to be! Itís the one reference that all meteorologists who study Greenhouse Effect or climatic change all refer to, the Keeling graph.
Revelle:Thatís right. The interesting thing about that is, Keelingís a peculiar guy. He wants to measure CO2 in his belly. He really never wanted to do anything else but measure CO2. And he wants to measure it with the greatest precision and the greatest accuracy he possibly can, and heís done that. Heís measured it more or less consistently to a tenth of a part per million, and continuously for 30 years. Itís really quite a remarkable record.
Droessler:Itís remarkable, really.
Revelle:It is a remarkable record and quite a remarkable feat on his part. He has more and more difficulty getting supported for it, because NSF is bored with these measurements, of course. NSF has never really believed that monitoring is a way to do science. And to some extent, theyíre right. This is something that NOA has done and should do rather than NSF. Itís really not scientific discovery but scientific record keeping. But —
Droessler:But NOA hasnít been always right out there in the forefront, and NOA hasnít always had the funds to pick up these new record keeping — Revelle NOA never has any funds. Particularly during the Reagan Administration, they starved them to death. So itís really been a bad business. Weíve constantly had to fight to keep these CO2 records going, and it looks right now as if weíre having to fight harder than ever, because it was turned over to DOE, and DOE for some reason has gotten completely impossible. I donít understand the DOE position at all. They had a man named Fred Kuminov(?) but now theyíve fired him, and where it stands is a mystery as far as Iím concerned. There are lots of people who donít believe itís necessary to measure it with great accuracy. But Keeling has demonstrated in half a dozen ways that it is. It makes a lot of difference, in terms of understanding where the CO2 comes from and where it goes to, and whatís liable to happen in the future. Iím very much in favor of his emphasis on accuracy and precision, and standardization.
Droessler:Now, I did not read your paper, but I understand you have published a rather recent paper on the Greenhouse Effect.
Revelle:The last one I — I think the last one in which I was very much involved was the Carbon Dioxide Assessment Committee of the NAS, in a book called CHANGING CLIMATE. I was one of the committee that put out that book and I wrote three chapters of it, of the book on, — Iíll show you. ďThe Welfare of MankindĒ is this CO2 business, the Greenhouse Effect. And now of course it turns out to be quite a few different gasses, not only carbon dioxide but also methane and tropospheric ozone and freons and nitrous oxide. One of the other major oceanographic accomplishments in the last fifteen years or so has been the deep sea drilling program, and one of the people that deserves a great deal of credit for that and doesnít get any credit is Bill Bascomb. You know who Bill Bascomb is?
Revelle:He really invented the method thatís used for doing the deep sea drilling, and that is not to anchor the ship, but to have propellers on four corners of a barge, and keep the barge located with respect to a transponder on the sea floor, sonar transponder, so you actually position the barge over this transponder and keep it from drifting, and if you do that, then you would lower a pipe from the surface to the bottom, get it into the bottom, and you donít break the pipe, the pipe is so long itís quite flexible. Itís almost like a string lowered from the surface to the bottom of the ocean, 4000 —
Droessler:— when did Bill do this, was this in the 1950ís?
Revelle:1960ís. It was about — I think it was 1961 or Ď62. Iíve got something which makes sure when it was. He was actually working for the National Academy of Sciences, for what was called the AMSOC committee. You remember that Gordon Lill and Johnny Kenows and Art Maxwell started something called the American Miscellaneous Society. The American Miscellaneous Society was a fun organization. They published a journal called OTHERWISE. Instead of Weatherwise. And they had various committees that reported to them, like a Committee for the Better Treatment of Visitors from Outer Space, and another Committee for Teaching the Lower Animals Their Proper Taxonomic Position, I remember those two committees. When the idea of drilling to the MoHo was proposed, the American Miscellaneous Society organized a committee to make a proposal, and we made a proposal to the National Science Foundation through the National Academy of Sciences. It was called the AMSOC Project of the National Academy, ANSOC being American Miscellaneous Society. And the members of AMSOC were actually the Principal Investigators for the project. The first phase of the project was to develop a method for doing it, and this was where Bill Bascomb fitted in or entered. He at that time was working for the National Academy of Sciences. (off tape)
Droessler:Before I turned the tape over, Roger, you were just beginning to start talking about the deep sea drilling program.
Droessler:Will you continue?
What Bill did was organize a team of engineers, one of them being Walter Munkís brother-in-law, Ed Horton, another an Italian whose name I canít remember, but he was quite important, and two or three others, and they developed — they worked at various aspects of the technology for holding a ship in position at sea without anchoring. Essentially what they did was, on this thing called the Cut, you can see the diagram of it on the side there, — here it is, this is the drilling barge, and on each corner of this thing, they had a powerful outboard motor. Then in the pilot house they had a joy stick, so it could go in any direction, and then the sonar transponder on the sea floor, and what they did was to keep the thing located with respect to this transponder by steering these four outboard motors. Then in the center of the barge, there was a drilling rig, about 60, 70 feet high. Theyíd pull up the drill pipe and then lower it through a hole in the middle of the barge, and screw it into what was already there and then lower it, just exactly like drilling an oil well. The rig was very — the identical procedure, provided that you could keep the ship in position, keep it from drifting. They first tried this out in shallow water off La Jolla, and it worked pretty well, so then we went down off Guadalupe Island, off the coast of Mexico, off Lower California, about two or three hundred miles offshore, in something like 15,000 feet of water, and lowered the pipe through the water and it hit the bottom and we got about a thousand feet or so into the bottom sediments and eventually got into basalt, under the sediments. Remember, I told you the sediments were very thing.
Theyíre a little bit thicker off Guadalupe but not very much, so it was well within a thousand feet that we went through the sediments into the underlying basalt, and then we came up again, brought the whole thing up again, and actually got cores all the way. This technique was quite successful, but Alan Waterman, thinking that he would please Albert Thomas, — remember, Albert Thomas was a Congressman from Texas, chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee that had the money for the National Science Foundation — Alan thought he would make Albert Thomas happy by giving the contract for drilling the MoHo to Brown and Rucke, the Texas engineering firm who had Albert Thomas in their pocket. He was sort of their man in Washington. And Brown and Rucke ignored Bill Bascombís technique. Iíve forgotten how they were going to do it, but however they were going to do it, they were going to spend 135 million dollars doing it. And this became — this really became a scandal, and the whole project was killed by the Senate, a Senator from Colorado whose name again, I forget his name but you can easily find the record.
Droessler:Yes, thatís no problem, weíll find the record of that.
So then it was decided, instead of drilling to the MoHo, which neither Morris Ewing nor I thought was a particularly good idea anyhow, we thought it was much better to drill a lot of holes and really find out what the ocean floor was like, it was then decided to do just that, not to try to drill to the MoHo but to try to drill through the sediments and into the underlying rocks or the underlying crust, as many places as possible. And that project has been going on ever since. Iíve forgotten when it started, but probably around 1964 or Ď65, and the first twenty years or so, the project was managed by the Scripps Institution. One of Bill Nierenbergís accomplishments was getting this deep sea drilling program organized and under way. And it had remarkable results. They got all sorts of fascinating scientific discoveries from it. One of the most spectacular was the drilling in the Mediterranean, where they found that about 3000 feet below the — I guess it was less than that, only a few hundred feet below the sea floor, there was a salt bed, and the salt was several hundred feet thick. And apparently what happened was that the Straits of Gibraltar raised up a little, so that the Mediterranean became isolated from the Atlantic Ocean, and the water just simply evaporated.
The whole God damned three thousand or four thousand feet of water in the Mediterranean, more than that, about a mile, six thousand feet of water, all this water just simply ended up as salt on the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea, and as water came in from the Black Sea and from the Rhone and the other rivers that flow into the Mediterranean, all that water evaporated too, so there was just nothing but a huge salt bed there, and the deepest hole that ever has existed above sea level on the face of the earth, not above sea level, but outside the ocean was the bottom of the Mediterranean. But even much deeper than the Dead Sea, which is about a thousand feet deep. This is about three or four thousand feet deep and covering an enormous area. Another thing they found was black shales, during the Cretaceous period, in the Atlantic, and they found that during the Cretaceous the Atlantic was only a few hundred miles wide. It has spread to its present width in the last hundred million years. And they were drilling into this pre-Atlantic, well, pre-big Atlantic black shale. I told you about Art Maxwellís proof of sea floor spreading in the South Pacific. And there were many other remarkable results of the deep sea drilling program. I wrote a paper on it which you can find in the JOURNAL OF SEDIMENTARY PETROLOGY, I guess, Iím not quite sure. It was reprinted half a dozen times. I actually wrote it for Bob White when he was president of Joy, Joy Oceanographic Institutions Inc. But then it got reprinted several times. Another man involved with that was a man named Mel Peterson, who was at least the chief scientist of NOA. He may not be in the new administration. I think itís a political job. But he was, at least.
There was also a man named Bill Evans involved with that. Iím not quite sure how Peterson and Evans fit together. I think Evans was the administrator of NOA. A thing which we had nothing to do with, but which I think is an important geophysical event is the ability to measure the carbon dioxide and other atmospheric gasses in ice cores. This is something that one of our Scripps faculty tried to do years ago, Pete Shulander(?), but never succeeded. But they now have succeeded, both in Greenland and in the Antarctic, in drilling deep into the glacial ice. In fact, theyíve gotten back to 150,000 years in Antarctica, the Russians did. Thereís a man named Lorias in Grenoble, France, who measures, actually measures CO2 and other gasses in these ice cores, and this is a record of past time and past atmospheric history, through the entire ice age, or through the last ice age, back to the previous interglacial and before that. Now, I wanted to say a word also about cooperation in oceanography. Oceanography has been, right from the beginning, not as much as meteorology, but in a somewhat different way, an international science, a science where cooperation between different countries is desirable although not necessary. In the case of meteorology, itís essential. You have to have people all over the world telling you what the weather is like. You donít have to do that in oceanography, at least at the present time, you donít. Nevertheless, we have developed quite a bit of cooperative activity through an outfit called SCOR, the Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research, and the governmental counterpart of that called the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, which is part of UNESCO, and George Deacon and John Lyman and I were deeply involved in forming the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, and I was the organizer of SCOR in the — SCOR I guess was in the late 1950ís. Ď56, Ď57.
Droessler:SCOR is part of the International Counsel of Scientific Unions?
Revelle:Thatís correct. Itís a so-called scientific committee. There are half a dozen of these scientific committees. One of them is the Scientific Committee on Space, CO-SPAR. Another is the Scientific Committee on the Antarctic, SCAR, and the third is SCOR. And there are some others too now, one on genetics, and then we have a new one, I guess itís called a Special Committee on Global Change. The International Geosphere Biosphere Program. IGBP. But one of the earliest, but not the earliest, was SCOR, the Scientific Committee on Ocean Research, and thatís grown from a committee of about six people, Columbus Islam and Benny Schaefer, no, not Benny Schaefer, Columbus Islam and a guy named Guenther Berneke from Germany and another guy from France, one from Japan, and me — to now an organization of about 200 people. Itís a huge organization, with national committees all over the world reporting to this international SCOR committee which in turn, as you said, is part of ICSU. (?) Itís really a kind of oceanographic union, which cuts across biology and physics and chemistry and geology.
Droessler:Has SCOR been able to plan some worthwhile international projects?
Revelle:One of the first was the International Indian Ocean Expedition. Thatís what we started with. That took about ten years and itís been very very effective. They found out an awful lot about the Indian Ocean, which was a completely unknown ocean before that, and Bob Fisher, of our place, whom I mentioned earlier, was one of the chief — in the latter part of that program, was one of the chief people working on the sea floor topography, under sea floor topography. Another thing more recently has been the International Decade of Ocean Exploration, an idea which really concentrated on rather large projects, like the process of upwelling, for example, in different parts of the earth and different parts of the ocean, and thereís two or three fairly big international cooperative projects like that, that SCOR really was the motivating force behind them.
Droessler:About how many nations take part in international cooperative oceanography? Because it takes a certain amount of resources to do oceanography.
Revelle:It takes a lot of resources. This has been one of the things that Iíve been very disappointed about, is that the IOC, which was the governmental agency to encourage cooperation in oceanography, Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, run by less developed countries, by Third World countries, and the result is that damned little comes out of it — we thought of it as a club of countries that could cooperate in oceanography, oceanographic research, but there are only half a dozen of those countries. Soviet Union, Japan, France, Germany, United Kingdom, United States, thatís about it. To a much lesser extent, the Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands. But we never have gotten any cooperation from the developing countries, and they in fact hold back cooperation by refusing to let ships go into their waters. With the new law of the sea, the 200 mile economic zone, that means that the most important part of the ocean is pretty much at the mercy of all these Third World countries. They donít understand science very well at all, in fact, theyíre against it. They think that somehow people are going to steal their resources. This has been a — this IOC cooperation I think — itís done some good things, but on the whole it certainly didnít live up to what I hoped it would. The kinds of things that theyíve done are for public standards and technology, some of these methods, things like that.
Droessler:And looking ahead, it probably doesnít look too bright either, because it will take these Third World nations quite a while to put the kind of resources in so they would have an oceanographic activity they could be proud of and enter into the international cooperation.
Revelle:Thatís right. Another country that does enter into it is Australia, by the way. And Canada, of course, very much so. Canada, Australia, UK, South Africa too has to some extent. In fact, the last but one president of SCOR was a South African named Simpson. Physical Oceanography has been an important aspect of the work here at Scripps, largely because of two people, Harold (?) and Walter Munk. The modern theory of the ocean, of the general circulation of the ocean is really Sverdupís (?) theory, and you know the measure of volume of flow, itís called the Sverdup(?) — itís a million tons of water per second, quite a large amount of water, but quite small in terms of the major ocean currents. For example, the Gulf Stream flows about seventy Sverdups(?) —has a flow of about 70 Sverdups, the Antarctic current, circumpolar Antarctic current, about 200 Sverdups. 200 million tons of water per second flowing past any given point. Thatís a good deal of water. In fact, one Sverdup is about equal to the flow of all the rivers on earth, to give you some idea of the order of magnitude.
Droessler:Was it Sverdup who brought you to Scripps?
Revelle:No, I was here before he came. I was a graduate student here in 1931. He succeeded T. Whalen Vaughn as director in 1936. He came from Norway. But what I was going to say about it was that the problem of circulation of the ocean is much less — we know much less about it than we do about the bottom of the sea, whatís beneath the bottom of the ocean. For example, we really donít understand turbulence, as you know very well. The turbulence of the ocean. And heís probably right, thereís very much less turbulence than people have thought existed. What we have instead is motion along isopikants(?) — surfaces of equal density. You get a good deal of interchange of water masses along an isopikmil(?) but almost none across an isopikmil. A little bit but not much. Iím right now concerned about this, in a funny sort of a way. People say, and Iím sure theyíre right, that the sea level is going to rise over the next hundred years, and why is it going to rise? Itís going to rise because of the Greenhouse Effect, because of the warming of the ocean waters and as they warm they will swell, occupy more volume, and the only way that the volume can increase is by a rising sea level. The ocean is constricted around the edges. The only way it can go is up. The question is, how far up is it going to go? And this depends very largely on what happens to the deep water of the ocean. Now, most people, many people think, and maybe theyíre right, that you get the deepest water at the bottom and the only way youíre going to get new water at the bottom is to make it even deeper, make it even denser. I should have said denser, not deeper. The densest water is at the bottom.
Revelle:And to replace that water, you have to get even denser water. Thatís what the people think and say. Or else, two other things could happen. One of them is that you get heat flowing from the interior of the earth, which warms that deep water and gradually changes its density, or you can get some kind of mixing, a convective overturning of the deep water and the surface water, in such a way that the density gradually decreases and the volume gradually increases. I think that the third way is possible. The second way is more likely, that is, just by heat flowing from the interior of the earth. But if you look at the time constant here, that takes thousands of years, because in a thousand years you only heat about 400 meters of water one degree. The amount of heat that you get is about 40 calories per square centimeter per year, from the interior of the earth, and thatís very very slow. Itís not so slow but what it could have happened in the past, because we know that a hundred million years ago, the temperature of the deep sea water was about ten to fifteen degrees, but over a million years of course you can get a hell of a lot of heat from the interior of the earth which could warm a lot of ocean waterÖ This is called esteric(?) change in sea level, and what I was saying is that if you have sufficient, you can get all the heat you want from the interior of the earth to do this. As I said, itís about, 400 meters of water one degree every thousand years, something like that. But thatís not going to do us very much good over the next hundred years.
Droessler:And you think the Greenhouse Effect may add more heat to the ocean, in a quicker time.
Revelle:What I think is that the deep water will slowly mix and increase in volume, as warm water sinks from the surface at high latitudes. Not very much warmer, just a little bit warmer, in any one convective overturning, but essentially by dynamic forces rather than gravitational forces, buoyant forces. But I could be wrong about this. We donít really understand very well these processes of mixing in the ocean. Thatís one of the things that we need to know a good deal more about. And it requires a good deal of computerism and a good deal of mathematics to use it, to do it very well. There are several groups that are doing ocean modeling. Kirk Brian at GFDL in Princeton, a group at Oregon State, some groups in Europe, but not very many, and itís not clear to me that theyíre making much progress. But I may be wrong about this. Iím not sure I understand this very well. You have to ask somebody else about ocean modeling. One thing that we do know, and itís very interesting, is that in the equatorial region, you have quite strong currents with very small pressure gradients because the Coriolanus force is zero at the Equator, and varies only slowly away from the Equator, so you can have a very small slope of the sea surface and get a pretty strong current.
Droessler:Now, these are the currents that Art Maxwell opened up our vision on — Maxwell measured?
Revelle:Not that I know of. Did he? Iím talking about water currents. Art Maxwell has always been interested in the lithosphere, in the crust of the earth.
Droessler:Oh, not the water?
Revelle:Not the water. But a lot of people have worked on this, Henry Stonall(?) of Woods Hole. A bunch of physical oceanographers at Woods Hole. Here at Scripps, itís Walter Munk and his — a very large group of theoretical oceanographers, mostly quite impractical, as far as I can make out. But they all rely on fancy mathematics. Bob Stewart in Canada is another one. Not Maxwell, though. Heís a solid earth type geophysicist. But what I was going to say was, one discovery that was made here was quite interesting, and thatís something called the Equatorial Undercurrent. This was found by one of our graduate students named Townsend Cromwell. What he observed was that when he went down near the Equator, and lowered a buoy into the water, the buoy drifted in the opposite direction to what he thought it was going to drift. He thought it was going to drift with the surface current to the East, and it went to the West at quite a high velocity. Then if he lowered the buoys or the anchor, the drobe, as they call it, still deeper, then of course the thing would reverse and go in the right direction, but there was a layer about 100 meters thick, about 100 meters below the surface, where the current was going just the opposite to what everybody thought it was. It was going to the East instead of to the West. And Johnny ?? has done a lot of work on this since that time. He found it in the Indian Ocean and in the Atlantic too, as well as in the Pacific. In the Indian Ocean, the currents reverse every six months, with the monsoon. Thereís a huge current called the Salali(?) current off the Horn of Africa, which flows to the North, during the summer monsoon, and then stops and reverses during the winter time. Itís an incredible thing. Incredible in the sense that nobody expected that the ocean would behave like this. In fact, the theory was all against its behaving like that. Apparently at low latitudes, the ocean can change quite rapidly. And we know that from the El Nino. One of the great physical oceanographic phenomena of our time is the so-called cellular oscillation in the atmosphere and in the ocean, and the interaction between the ocean and the atmosphere in this oscillation. What they call ENSO, El Nino Southern Oscillation.
Droessler:This has brought oceanographers and meteorologists close together, in trying to use this phenomena as a way to make long range weather predictions.
Droessler:The surface of the ocean must have an immense effect on the atmosphere. ? in his later days was here at Scripps, really opened that subject up to a very — ? and Jerry Namias. (??)
Revelle:Thatís right. Jerryís still here and still active. (?) is dead of course, died several years ago, but that was really his greatest discovery, the discovery of the interaction between the sea and the air in the El Nino. Although he did pretty well in inventing modern air mass forecasting, too. He was quite — you undoubtedly knew him. He was a remarkable man.
Revelle:Well, now I guess I can come to your list of questions. After Iíve exhausted mine, Of course, the geophysics of the last forty years, everybody will have his own opinion about that. In my opinion, there are several people that should be thought of in that connection. One is Teddy Bullard, who headed the geophysics department at Cambridge, (?) Rise, and at the end of his life was a professor here at Scripps. Walter Munk, particularly for his work on the various kinds of waves, not only ordinary wind waves, but internal waves in the ocean, and the waves of longer period. A third man that I think was one of the great, probably the greatest leader in physical oceanograph was Harald Sverdup. Harald, by the way. And of course, a fourth person who was really one of the great pioneers of geophysics is Harold Jeffries, the theoretician in England. Iíve always been very much impressed by Jimmy van Allen, too, particularly because of his work on these outer atmospheric phenomena, essentially magnetic fields surrounding the earth. Morris Ewing, I think, did a good deal observationally. He had a gift for being wrong about things. For example, he never really believed in plate tectonics. As I said, he went to his grave thinking that there must be places where the sediments were tens of thousands of feet thick, instead of, as we now know, the sediments — no sea floor sediments are more than 150 million years old, instead of billions of years old. Other people outside my field, I canít express a very strong opinion about. One of them is Jacques Berkness(?) of course, I do know quite a bit about him. Probably the greatest, one of the two or three greatest meteorologists of our time, the other one being Carl Gustav Rospi. Sidney Chapman, I donít really, I never understood why he was, what he was — why he was so famous, but everybody talks about his being famous, and he must have been.
Droessler:He was a great synthesizer, putting things together on a large scale. The atmosphere and the earth and the sun. Ableson.
Revelle:What was that?
Revelle:Heís not much of a geophysicist, is he?
Revelle:Geochemist, yes. Obviously heís a wonderfully nice guy, but — and heís a genius as an editor.
Droessler:Well, thatís a remarkable list you have there already. Youíve covered our next question, some of the turning points in the development of scientific geophysics, by mentioning in oceanography, for instance, the importance of the technical developments in World War II.
Droessler:And how they were able to use them, and bringing up the use in the discovery of the ocean and the ocean floor.
Revelle:Thatís right, Of course, we had a lot of things going for us in the 1950ís. One was that both ONR and NSF had some money; compared to what we needed they could provide it. The second thing was these new technologies. The third was the migration of quite a few people from other sciences into geophysics, particularly from chemistry and physics into geophysics.
Droessler:In addition to the money that was available at ONR and NSF and perhaps a few other government agencies, I think one of the important parts of the federal government involvement in science was the people who had the vision, who came to manage, in the early days, this federal enterprise, and saw the importance of supporting basic research at the universities on a grant and contract basis. And then they would hold the line on giving reasonably long term support for this. And I remember, you were one of the people in ONR who gave a lot of voice to this, in the very early days of ONR, in the field of geophysics — the atmosphere, the earth and the oceanography, the liquid earth — that this was what had to be done if we were going to make progress.
Revelle:Thatís right. What I felt strongly then, and I still feel strongly about, is that we need continuity in support, not project support. I think the present system of small scale individual projects, so-called peer review system, is really disastrous in oceanography. It is not as bad as it might have been, because theyíve invented a system for operating ships, the university — Iíve forgotten what itís called, but the acronym is UNOLS, University Operated Laboratory Ships, I guess they call it, and the financing of the ships more or less independently of the projects has helped an awful lot to make this project system work. But it doesnít work very well, even so. If it wasnít for ONR and its support of Scripps as an institution, pretty much, I think weíd be in much worse shape than we are. ONR has, right from the beginning, laid much more emphasis on institutional support than project support, as you know very well, because we were there.
Droessler:Well, you see, ONR was tied to the Navy mission, and the Navy mission includes the ocean and understanding of the ocean for all kinds of naval activities out there, and so one could expect, you know, if we had good enlightened leadership in ONR, a good strong leadership, that they would take a long term view and support institutions like Scripps and like Woods Hole.
Revelle:And they did.
Droessler:And they did, and they do. I think itís a remarkable organization. I remember back in the early days, you were Commander Revelle and one of the people who gave voice to this idea, along with people like Captain Daspit and Captain or Admiral Bolster.
Revelle:Yes, thatís right.
Droessler:Manny Fiore and Alan Waterman.
Revelle:Yes, thatís right. ONR was great, as far as Iím concerned, one of the greatest experiences of life. It was really a revolutionary organization. I remember very well arguing with Merle Tuve about this. He was right and I was completely wrong. Iíd worked for the Bureau of Ships all during the war. In the Bureau of Ships, we thought of, Lyman Spitzer and I thought of the projects, and then thought of people like Russ Ray to carry them out.
Droessler:And put him on a short leash.
Droessler:The worst possible thing to do.
Revelle:Merle Tuve said, ďI donít give a damn whatís good for the Navy, what I want to do is do good science, and Iím going to decide what the science is, not you bureaucrats.Ē And he was right. I came around to that position very shortly, that what we wanted to support was the best science, done by the best people.
Droessler:Tuve is a name we should add to this list of people who have made geophysics —
Revelle:Yes — respectable.
Droessler:— accomplish things in the modern world. Heís a very important person in the Washington scene, in helping to formulate new policies, new visions for the federal agencies. The IGY, for instance.
Revelle:He wasnít involved with that, was he?
Droessler:Oh yes. He was involved in the planning of that, you know, in the Academyís Committee on IGY. And in the subsequent publication of the IGY results, you see, expanded JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH, using his own publication as the beginning for expanding the JGR. Yes, he was very influential in working with NSF in getting NSF to understand and realize that the support of research was not ended until the publication had come on the market.
Revelle:Yes. That was important, of course.
Revelle:The guy that I think of, in terms of the IGY, though, is Lloyd Berkner.
Revelle:Much more than anybody else. And Hugh Odeshaw really had the tremendous drive to push it through.
Droessler:Yes, and Joe Kaplan and his vice-chairman Alan Shapley.
Droessler:The immense hours of work that they did.
Revelle:Thatís right. Thatís right. Not Harlow Shapley.
Droessler:No, Alan. Alan is still living in Boulder.
Revelle:Alan Shapley. Yes.
Droessler:But thatís the first time that I remember, in our US history, the development of geophysics, that we bring scholars of the atmosphere, scholars of the ocean, scholars of the solid earth together to sort of plan what at that time was a massive US program, albeit an international activity.
Revelle:It sure was. Tremendous. And in fact, it involved eventually every aspect of geophysics, including oceanography, which was pretty much neglected at first, because of being led by Berkner.
Droessler:While weíre speaking about the Washington scene, did you have much involvement with the Presidentís Science Advisory Committee?
Revelle:What was that again?
Droessler:I donít recall how much involvement you had with what we used to call PSAC.
Yes, I had a lot of involvement. I was not a member of it, but I was a member of half a dozen of their panels, including the Panel on Restoring the Quality of Our Environment. That was the first time that an official government publication mentioned the Greenhouse Effect. John Tutti was chairman of that panel, and I talked him and the other members of the panel into having a little chapter about the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere and what it might lead to. We didnít at that time have any models which would tell us how much the temperature might rise. Or at least we didnít have them in that chapter. But we had a pretty good idea that the CO2 was rising. This was several years after Keeling had started his measurements, about ten years. Yes. 1967. And I was a member of the Panel on the World Food Supply, and I was a member of the Panel on University Research, that Glenn Seaborg and MacBundy were involved with too. And I was also a member of something called the Federal Council for Science and Technology, Interior Department representative, which was closely related to the PSAC. Particularly when Jerry Wiesner was chairman of PSAC, or was the Presidentís Science Advisor, I was much involved. What were the turning points in the development of scientific geophysics? I think an important turning point was the publication of THE EARTH, Jeffriesí book THE EARTH, which treated geophysics as a mathematical respectable subject. Another one was the work that Sverdup did in the Arctic, Sverdup and his colleagues on the Maude Expedition. Really high level scientific work in the field, under field conditions. And thatís the essence of it, in my view, thatís the essence of geophysics, is field measurements.
I think itís an observational science as well as a theoretical science. You see this so clearly if you go to the Soviet Union, where you have dozens of these young theoreticians, and nobody can understand what theyíre talking about or whether it means anything. I remember Rekosky, the great under water sound man, commenting about these young menís papers, ďWhat the hell are you talking about?Ē heíd say, time after time. Not quite those words but that was exactly what he meant. It was impossible to understand what relevance they had. Many of the great geophysicists, not all but many of them have been observational people like Sverdup. Antioch Bergnes is another example, and Rospi to a lesser, somewhat lesser extent, but still he was concerned with observations too. Another great turning point was certainly the IGY, perhaps as important as anything, not so much in terms of accomplishment as in terms of getting people to think in global times.
Droessler:Just lifting our sights.
Droessler:As a nation and —
Revelle:— as a world, science.
Droessler:And in the world.
Revelle:Another important turning point was actually World War II, in a variety of ways. The coming of the age of science in the United States, the fact that scientists turned out to be important in the war, and the result was that since then government has given a lot of support to science, which they never did before World War II. So that was a quantum jump, at the end of World War II, and you know it very well because you were in ONR which is one of the quantum jump points.
Droessler:And perhaps the man who was most influential in bringing about this new (off tape)
Revelle:The other major turning point of course is the development of plate tectonics. This is a whole new paradigm for understanding the earth and its history, a revolution in fact. Everything, the problems we had before, we donít have now. Itís unbelievable.
Droessler:You had a new benchmark.
Revelle:Thatís right. Well, more than a benchmark. A revolution, a scientific revolution. A new way of thinking, of looking at the earth and thinking about the earth. I guess the other major turning point has been the development of space vehicles, being able to look at the earth from satellites. And look at other planets from satellites too, or not satellites but space ships. Because the comparative study of planets is one of the amazing accomplishments of our time, perhaps not as well recognized as it should be, but the fact that we really understand the difference between us and Venus, and us and Mars, let alone between us and Jupiter — thatís a tremendous observational accomplishment. So I guess observations from space, the development of the paradigm of plate tectonics, the development of government support of science after World War II, particularly geophysics, the development of new technologies — those are maybe the major turning points that I can think of. What do you think?
Droessler:I believe youíre right.
Revelle:What are the outstanding unsolved problems of geophysics? It seems to me that the principal unsolved problem, in a kind of a philosophical way, is what is the role of plate tectonics in the evolution of the earth and its inhabitants, of the earth and life? Another way to put this is that life and the earth co-evolve, living things and the inorganic part of the earth evolve together. Iíve just recently been thinking about this in terms of carbon dioxide and oxygen. See, the fact is, if it wasnít for plate tectonics, youíd run out of carbon dioxide very quickly, if the recycling of carbonates through subduction and then re-emergence in volcanoes provides the new carbon dioxide. Otherwise it would all quickly be deposited at the bottom of the ocean and just stay there. If Morris Ewing had been right, there wouldnít be any carbon dioxide at all, and wouldnít have been for a long time. Because it would all have been deposited as limestone on the sea floor. But because of plate tectonics, it comes back again, in a cycle of about 300 million years. And you can see the same thing with phosphate. You can see the same thing with oxygen. Why is oxygen constant in the atmosphere? You have constantly organic matter being buried in the deep sea, and every bit of that organic matter represents a certain amount of carbon dioxide thatís been transformed into organic matter and oxygen, free oxygen, so the oxygen content of the earth would just be going up and up and up, but it doesnít. It stays pretty much constant. And the reason for that, I think, again, is probably plate tectonics, the subduction of the sediments and their organic matter. So this is one of the sort of grand scale problems of the history of the earth, is how does plate tectonics interact with life? You can call that geophysics, or you can call biogeophysics.
Droessler:Itís certainly something that we will be occupied with for a good long time.
Revelle:Thatís right. Another geophysical problem is, as I mentioned earlier this morning, the problem of turbulence. This is a problem that I donít understand at all, but it has to do in some way with the new ideas about chaos. The mathematical concept of chaos and fractiles. The unpredictability of phenomena. This is all in a way talking about turbulence. You know about fractiles, these complicated figures that have an infinity of scales, from infinitely large to infinitely small, all in one continuous series. So I guess if you talk about chaos or fractiles or turbulence, youíre really in some way talking about the same thing, and this is an enormous field that we donít understand. One way to look at it is the way Ed Lorenz looked at it, you remember, the unpredictability of the weather. He said, and I guess all the meteorologists now agree, that you canít predict the weather more than a few days in advance, except by looking at patterns, like blocking patterns, for example, which gives you some idea whatís going to happen. Or looking at climate.
Droessler:Of course, we may do better in making forecasts of seasons, rather than —
Revelle:— yes, thatís right.
Droessler:— an accurate forecast beyond about two weeks.
Revelle:Thatís right. Can you go that far? I thought it was about six days. Can you go as much as two weeks?
Droessler:About 14 days, before —
Revelle:I see, before it completely breaks down.
Droessler:Before things just break down in chaos. Then we have to start over again.
Revelle:Another, Iím not sure itís unsolved but at least we have a long way to go before we can solve it, and that is modeling. Making better models of the ocean and the atmosphere and the interaction between them, which weíre not very good at, at the present time. We canít forecast, for example, how the hydrologic region is going to be affected by the Greenhouse Effect. At all. Except in a very vague way, we can say weíre going to get more evaporation. And this whole business of geophysical modeling I think is a — not a wide open field, but a field with a lot of unsolved problems in it.
Droessler:And here weíre very fortunate to have modern computers.
Revelle:Yes. Whatís that again?
Droessler:I say, on this problem weíre very fortunate to have modern computers available.
Droessler:To take into account the wide number of observations and points that are needed.
Revelle:Thatís right. Absolutely.
Droessler:On that point, Roger, Iíd like just to explore something with you. In the early days of ONR, Minna Reese came to the geophysics branch and suggested that we put up half of the money to support —
Droessler:— von Neumann.
Revelle:Oh, I donít remember that. I guess youíre right. Absolutely.
Droessler:And I remember, you were head of the geophysics branch at that time.
Droessler:Before you turned it over to John Adkins.
Droessler:That was a miraculous stroke, really, for ONR to support such a brilliant man in reaching out to a whole new concept of using his computer at Princeton to solve physical problems.
Revelle:— meteorological problems. Yes, thatís quite right. Well, Minna and I did something else too, that I thought you were going to talk about. We decided to support astronomy. Did you know that? Do you remember that? We each put $25,000 into a project to support astronomy, a program to support astronomy. And I went around the country talking to astronomers, like Lyman Spitzer and Ike Bowen, to ask them how we could spend $50,000 for the best advantage in astronomy. And they said what we should do with it is support young astronomers at the big observatories. Young astronomers who were teaching at Bowling Green University or Oberlin or wherever, give them a chance to go and use a big telescope, and we did exactly that. We somehow created ten $2500 fellowships, and spread them around the country. And that was the first time the government ever supported astronomy! Minna and I did it between us. We each put in together this gigantic sum of 50,000 bucks. But Iíd forgotten about Johnny. Of course we also supported his development of the, what was it called?
Revelle:The JOHNNYAC. Yes. INIAC, I think it was. Exactly. Whatís his name, the chap who died, from MIT, was involved with that too.
Revelle:Jules Charney, yes. Very much involved with it.
Droessler:Very much involved, yes. Another trademark of geophysics at the federal level was that the support program for geophysics was not afraid to support other people other than geophysicists. I mean, we supported statisticians, like John Tucci. We supported mathematicians like John von Neumann. We supported engineers.
Droessler:Thatís right. We were not a closed corporation. I think that added a tremendous amount of strength to us.
Revelle:One reason, of course, was that there werenít any geophysicists. Nobody was called a geophysicist. And we had to sort of create the science, what we meant by the science. Who invented the word geophysics branch, I wonder?
Droessler:I donít know.
Revelle:I remember thatís what it was, it was the geophysics branch.
Droessler:It was there right essentially at the beginning. Iím not sure who invented it.
Revelle:I donít know either. But there werenít any geophysicists, that I can remember. Except maybe Lloyd Berkner.
Droessler:We had a few oceanographers and a few meteorologists, a few solid earth physicists. We called them solid earth physicists. And that was it.
Droessler:And then we kind of lumped them all together.
Revelle:Thatís right. A stew of geophysics.
Droessler:Itís been a very fruitful stew, to have the word geophysics.
Revelle:Thatís right. What was that again?
Droessler:Itís been a very productive stew to have, to have the word geophysics, as an umbrella under which we can bring together a large assortment of scientists and sciences.
Revelle:Thatís right. And of course, one of the important things weíve done here is bring the chemists under this tent, the geochemists, guys like Wallie Broker and Ham Craig and Jerry Wasserberg and many others, but those three, I think of particularly. Edward Anders at Chicago. These were a different kind of geochemists than the old fashioned kind who were really quite dull people, finding the abundance of iridium or something like that. What the new breed did was to use the abundance of iridium to invent the end of the age of the dinosaurs. It was really a different kind of geochemistry altogether. And Broker and Craig in oceanography have just really accomplished marvelous things, incredible things. What in your view is the outlook for geophysics? Well, I donít know what to say about that. The reason I donít know is that science always renews itself in unpredictable ways. I remember very well my old professor at Pomona College, Alfred Woodford. I talked a little bit about him in that paper. He told me that crystallography was a completed science, that all the crystal forms were known, there were a certain number of them, that was all there were, and that it was a marvelous sort of intellectual feat that had been accomplished. It was done. Hell, crystallography was just beginning! Those were the days when the Braggs were starting X-ray crystallography. And you know, now it deals with protein structure and the structure of other organic molecules. Fantastic development of crystallography. Completely unexpected, and completely new direction, a direction that wasnít forecast in any way. So how can you say what, I donít see how you can tell what the outlook for geophysics is. God knows. Unless it does have some new renaissance, itís going to gradually fade away, but itís always had new renaissances. What do you think? I guess Iím very much worried about the present federal support of science, and the reason Iím worried is that so little of it, so few proposals can be supported. Itís only about one-fifth or one-sixth of them. And I suspect that more good science could be done, a good deal more could be done if about half the proposals could be supported. Maybe more than half. But what the present tendency is is to play it safe. People are so desperate to support their laboratories and their research assistants and maybe their graduate students that they donít take any chances. Well, Iíd say that one example — Rollo Masonís work on the remnant magnetism. That never would have happened, ever. I mean it would have been years before it would have happened, maybe never, if I hadnít had a directorís contingency fund. You couldnít count on the federal government to support it because it wasnít orthodox. And as the money gets tighter and tighter, orthodoxy becomes more and more important. You have a kind of a Catch 22 situation here.
Droessler:As the number of scientists increases —
Revelle:— you need more and more money. And the money just isnít there. So what are you going to do? I donít understand how thatís going to work out. In some ways, it would work out OK if there was just a fountain of gold somewhere, a fountain of money somewhere, but there isnít. I must say, I take a very dim view of this peer review project system. I think in ONR we did a very much better job than these people do now.
Droessler:Are you concerned about the restoration, restoring of new facilities, modernizing of facilities, research facilities?
Revelle:Thatís an important thing to do, of course.
Droessler:And the money thatís needed for that.
Revelle:You put the money into that, you take it away from the young researchers. Itís a very difficult problem. And I donít have any good ideas how to solve it, either. I donít think the way to solve it is the way that the National Science Foundation seems to be going, namely, to get in bed with industry. More and more applied research, engineering research. That way lies, I think that way lies failure in the long run.
Droessler:That can be very short term.
Droessler:And that can be chaotic, depending just upon the whims of today.
Revelle:Thatís right. Itís part of the so-called ďReagan Revolution,Ē I guess, but itís a part of the revolution thatís even worse than many of the other parts. Itís the direction that NSF seems to be going, though. And ONR is going in an even worse direction, in some sense, namely, more and more military applications. I think that it is really quite a critical phenomenon in this country, is the enormous expenditures, military expenditures, the enormous concentration of research, research dollars into military research, let alone the enormous military expenditures overall. If we could just take half those military research dollars and put them into genuine scientific research, all the problems, all our problems would go away.
Droessler:Where is the voice that must bring this about? Is it the Academy?
Revelle:The trouble is, you have to get a voice thatís not self-seeking. I think Frank Press has really made some progress here, with his emphasis on priorities. Donít you think so? Not — not anywhere near as much as is needed. Whatís needed is just a resolute will to cut down on military research by a factor of ten. What we do need is some eloquent spokesmen for science. And by eloquent, I mean people that create a sense of understanding and urgency on the part of the public. Public opinion is enormously important, and public opinion is really kind of against science at the present time. Not for it. You see that in many ways. The rise of Fundamentalism, all these ďCreation Sciences.Ē You see it in emphasis on screwy ideas like the SDI, what do they call it, —
Droessler:And an emphasis on applied research.
Droessler:Roger, what are your areas of expertise and work in geophysics? And which of your publications do you regard as most significant?
Revelle:Well, my areas of expertise are basically in — Iím sort of a generalist oceanographer. I know a little bit about most parts of oceanography, but not enough, so that I guess the papers that I regard as most significant are those, some of those which have dealt with the carbon dioxide, the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, like the first one with Hans Seuss in 1957. Also the paper that I wrote with Teddy Bullard and Art Maxwell on the heat flow through the sea floor, in 1954, I think that was. Let me see the dates in this bibliography here. ďDeep Sea Floor,Ē 1956. I wrote a paper in 1954 called ďThe Earth Beneath the Sea, Geophysical Explorations Under the Ocean.Ē That —
Droessler:Where is the voice that must bring this about? Is it the Academy?
Revelle:The trouble is, you have to get a voice thatís not self-seeking. I think Frank Press has really made some progress here, with his emphasis on priorities. Donít you think so? Not — not anywhere near as much as is needed. Whatís needed is just a resolute will to cut down on military research by a factor of ten. What we do need is some eloquent spokesmen for science. And by eloquent, I mean people that create a sense of understanding and urgency on the part of the public. Public opinion is enormously important, and public opinion is really kind of against science at the present time. Not for it. You see that in many ways. The rise of Fundamentalism, all these ďCreation Sciences.Ē You see it in emphasis on screwy ideas like the SDI, what do they call it, —
Droessler:And an emphasis on applied research.
Droessler:Roger, what are your areas of expertise and work in geophysics? And which of your publications do you regard as most significant?
Revelle:Well, my areas of expertise are basically in — Iím sort of a generalist oceanographer. I know a little bit about most parts of oceanography, but not enough, so that I guess the papers that I regard as most significant are those, some of those which have dealt with the carbon dioxide, the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, like the first one with Hans Seuss in 1957. Also the paper that I wrote with Teddy Bullard and Art Maxwell on the heat flow through the sea floor, in 1954, I think that was. Let me see the dates in this bibliography here. ďDeep Sea Floor,Ē 1956. I wrote a paper in 1954 called ďThe Earth Beneath the Sea, Geophysical Explorations Under the Ocean.Ē That was about the Mid-Pacific Expedition. That was quite an important paper. And I wrote a paper a long time ago on the buffer mechanism in sea water, with Moberg, Greenberg and Allen, which was the basis of that paper that Hans Seuss and I wrote in 1957. This was 1934 or thereabouts.
Droessler:That was an early one.
Revelle:Yes, both at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Then I wrote a series of papers, a few papers which were important, on bottom sediments, sediments in the Pacific Ocean, one with Branlet and Goldberg. I guess thatís not here. And Iíve written a series of papers on various aspects of the Greenhouse Effect, including a book published by the National Academy in 1977 called ENERGY AND CLIMATE. I was the editor of that book, and that was really the beginning of the modern attack on CO2. I donít know whether remember that or not. It was about seven years before this one, 1977, called ENERGY AND CLIMATE, by a committee of the National Research Council. Don Shapiro was the staff officer in charge of that. And of course this one on changing climate. Iíve written a series of papers on the CO2 problem. Not really on the climate change problem, because I donít know enough about it.
Droessler:And these were written in 1982, ďA Report of the AcademyĒ —
Revelle:1983, I think.
Droessler:Yes. Called CHANGING CLIMATE.
Revelle:So the two areas that Iíve done I think some useful work in are the sediments and the structure and processes on the sea floor, and the carbon dioxide problem. Very long story. Iíve done all kinds of things there.
Droessler:You might just mention some of the things you feel were significant.
Before World War II, I was an instructor on the faculty of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. After I got my degree in 1936. And the principal thing we did before the war was to have two expeditions to the Gulf of California, one of which Sverdup was on and the other Fran Shepherd and Charles Anderson and I were the leaders of, and during the war, I went on active duty as a naval reserve officer in the summer of 1941, about six months before Pearl Harbor, and I stayed in the Navy until 1948, doing a variety of things, but in the long run, what I was was essentially the oceanographer of the Navy. Not in the modern sense, but in the sense that I was the guy who organized the research projects and found the money and found the people and got the results, tried to get the results used. I was particularly involved with underwater sound, in the Bureau of Ships underwater sound, design division of the Bureau of Ships. And my most important accomplishment during that naval service was that I was the oceanographer on the Crossroads Operation, the test of atomic weapons against naval vessels. And this was tremendous.
We had every oceanographer in the country involved with that for about four or five months. We had all kinds of things to do — measure the height of the waves, take pictures of the waves, measure the diffusion of the radioactive material that was released by the bomb, find out what happened to the animals and the plants in the lagoon. We had even naturalists, fisheries people, physical oceanographers. Bill van Arks and Bill Ford, and I guess Alan Vine was there too, and Walter Munk and Giff Ewing, about everybody you ever heard of was in that Bikini expedition. The other thing I did which was probably of more lasting usefulness was, I was head of the geophysics branch of the Office of Naval Research, of which you and Gordon Lill and Beauregard Perkins were members, and we organized — well, I guess it would be better to say, we supported geophysical research in the United States all by ourselves. Nobody else was doing anything. We did it all, for three years, until finally the National Science Foundation was established in 1950. But between 1945 and 1950, it was the geophysics branch of the Office of Naval Research, which consisted of you and Dan Rex and Gordon Lill and Beauregard Perkins and me, as I remember it. And I think we created a pattern of support of basic research which still persists, and which I thought of support of institutions, like Woods Hole and Scripps and the Chesapeake Bay Institute and the University of Washington and other institutions that sprang up later.
All of them got supported by ONR in a very generous and far-sighted way, I think. And then the other thing I did was organize a re-survey of Bikini in 1947, where we had another large task force out there to see what had happened, not to the ships but to the environment. And one of the things that came out of that was drilling into the atoll. We drilled down several thousand feet into the coral reef, and showed that it was limestone coral of different ages and different kinds, but always limestone, and dated it back to the Eocene, 50 million years ago, for successive layers of limestone of which the total was made over the last 50 million years. It was a very old place. And this was the first definitive conclusive demonstration that Charles Darwinís theory of the origin of atolls was correct, that they are, that they formed on volcanoes, and as the volcanoes sank, and didnít sink too fast, the coral reef rose to the surface and kept up at the — stayed at the surface for literally tens of millions of years. Very interesting business. And then after the war, I thought of staying in the Navy, but eventually I decided to come back to Scripps, and I came back. Iíd left as an instructor. I came back as an associate professor and they very quickly promoted me to professor in 1948. I was also the associate, Carl Eckhart was the director and I was associate director.
The reason he was director was that there were quite a few people on the staff of the Scripps Institution who took a dim view of me, for several reasons, probably all good ones, although I didnít agree with them. And Carl Eckhart and Harald Sverdup very much wanted me to be director, and they thought if I came back and hung around for a while, I would become director, and this was OK, in some senses, but the trouble was that Carl was very unhappy as director. He just couldnít take it. So he resigned in 1950, and I was appointed acting director, and then the summer of 1951, I was appointed director. I stayed as director at Scripps until 1964. And this was of course a period of great expansion of oceanography, both as a science and as a government-supported enterprise. We had at one time a dozen ships. The ships went all over the world, particularly what they called blue water oceanography, deep sea oceanography, as opposed to shallow water in-shore oceanography which we never did very much of, and there were many many kinds of scientists here. Iíve mentioned some of the geophysicists. Lots of biologists. Lots of chemists, physical oceanographers and geologists, and they all — all these groups got bigger and did more during the whole period of the 1950ís, particularly after Sputnik in 1957, which gave a big boost to science in the United States, including particularly a big boost to oceanography. I remember Manny Piore was on PSAC at the time, and he strongly urged the greatest support for oceanography, and it happened. We got a lot of money out of the NSF and the federal government.
Droessler:So Scripps really expanded. Scripps expanded considerably under your direction.
By about a factor of ten. From a hundred people to well over a thousand people. It was an order of magnitude change. But toward the end of that time, I got interested in something else, namely, the development of the university itself, and I was particularly concerned with developing a graduate school of science and engineering here in San Diego. The reason I thought this was important was that we had a lot of graduate students who never had anything beyond their undergraduate training in science, except in oceanography. Oceanography is a very small specialized kind of science, and we had — when they came up for a doctorís examination, we had a couple of guys from UCLA on the committee always. The reason we did was that we were part of the UCLA division of the academic senate, and our people did very poorly against these UCLA faculty members. They didnít know much physics. They didnít know much chemistry. They didnít know much biology. They knew a lot about how to handle a ship, how to take observations at sea and what they meant. So I decided that what we ought to do, what we had to do was to develop a graduate teaching program in basic science, and I proposed to do this by starting a graduate school of science and engineering here in La Jolla, and the people in San Diego got very enthusiastic about this.
There were lots of new high technology companies here, all of them looking for people, and none of their people were very well educated, and they needed more education, every one of them. So the city manager, the Chamber of Commerce and all the big industries were enthusiastically in support of this idea of a graduate school of science and engineering, and the regents actually established it, and they made me dean of it. But it never existed. It was always an imaginary institution. The reason it was imaginary was that at just about that time, the state of California had a Commission on Higher Education which strong recommended that the University of California start three new campuses. At that time, they had Davis, which is an agricultural college, San Francisco, the medical school, UCLA and Berkeley, the big campuses, Santa Barbara, which had been a teachersí college, and Riverside, which they thought of as a sort of a publicly-supported Pomona, a small liberal arts college. But they decided all of a sudden to create three general campuses of the university, like Berkeley and UCLA, and one of them was in San Diego County. So I leaped on that with a bang. I thought that was a wonderful idea, much better than this graduate school of science and engineering, and I wanted to have it where it is, right next to the Scripps Institution, and thatís where it is, of course. And I was pretty much responsible for recruiting the first faculty and starting the place. But unfortunately I got on the wrong side of a regent named Pauley, Ed Pauley, whoís a big oil man in California.
He didnít want to have a campus here at all. And so the way he fought having a campus here was to suggest that it be in Balboa Park, which is the main part of San Diego right in the center of the city, and the people of San Diego werenít quite sure whether they wanted a university or not, but they knew God damned well they didnít want to have a university in Balboa Park. So that would have killed the whole idea. But fortunately we managed to beat him down and get it where it is now. But in the process, I made him mad at me. He became an enemy of mine. And so I was never appointed chancellor. Herb York was appointed chancellor. And we worked together for a couple of years, but I left in about a year, less than a year, and went into Washington as science advisor to Stuart Udall in 1963, and I was there — Iím sorry, Ď61-Ď63, because the election was in 1960, when Jerry Wiesner became — President Kennedy came in and Wiesner came in as Science Advisor, and I went in to be the science advisor to Stuart Udall in Ď61, or maybe even the summer of 1960 but I think it was Ď61. And there I got involved with less developed countries. Stuart Udall didnít really know what to do with a science advisor. It was Jerry Wiesnerís idea from beginning to end.
So I was really working for him, and he, one of the things that happened was that (?) Khan, the president of Pakistan, great big bluff Sandhurst type general, came to Washington and tried to persuade Kennedy to give arms to Pakistan. And John Kenneth Galbraith was Kennedyís ambassador to India, and he took an extremely dim view of giving arms to Pakistan, said, ďThose bastards will use it to start a war and try to get Kashmir back.Ē So Kennedy said he couldnít give him any arms but heíd be glad to help him out in any other way, besides, which way did you come in? And Abdul Salam, Khanís science advisor, and Jerry Wiesner had been conspiring about this, and their conspiracy was that there was something else that they could do, namely, to help with the problem called waterlogging and salinity, a problem essentially of irrigation water which is rising to the surface and depositing salt on the surface. This is applied geophysics with a vengeance. Jerry Wiesner said, ďWell, Roger knows about salt. Heís an oceanographer. Weíll ask him to take charge of this problem.Ē And so we did. We organized a task force of about twenty people, and we went to Pakistan. In Pakistan we travelled across the Punjab several times, and also went down to the Sinn, and Jerry came out too for a while on that first trip, and we went back half a dozen times after that. And the man that we worked at is a man named ???? Khan. He is now president of Pakistan. At that time he was chairman of the water and power development authority of west Pakistan. Heís the brightest man Iíve ever known in my life. All of our huge collection of geniuses sat on one side of the table, and (?) sat on the other, and he handled the whole thing all by himself. He was just wonderful, an incredible man.
He was educated as a botanist, but heís essentially the worldís most talented bureaucrat, fantastically good bureaucrat, and not in the perjorative sense of the term but the best sense of the term. He answered all our questions and knew more about the problem than anybody. However, we had some ideas that he didnít have. I had some ideas that he didnít have. And Harold Thomas and I worked together on these, that I had. Many of the other panel members never caught onto this — was that waterlogging and salinity was a non-problem, the real problem was poor agricultural production. The real problem was very poor technology, no Ö (off tape) Ö a man named Cass who was from not Brookline but Belmont, was among the members of the panel. They thought, they had dozens of ideas about how to get the salt out of the soil. That wasnít the problem. The problem was to get more water, because the farmers werenít using enough water. It wasnít that it was too much water, there wasnít enough water. But the trouble was that they were using it in the wrong way. They were using it in such a way that the water table stood right at the surface and drowned out the crops. What they needed to do was to dig wells, pump the water out, spread it on the fields through irrigation, let it evaporate but let some of it wash back down into the soil carrying the salt with it. And we did this, or we recommended this, we wrote a big paper on it, a big report on it, which is usually called the Revelle Report, but nobodyís ever read it, itís like all great books, everybody talks about it and nobodyís read it. But they knew what the message is, and the message is use more water, and particularly use the water that seeps into the ground, irrigation from the canals.
They lost about 40 percent of the water that they carried by seeping into the aquifer. You could pump that water out of the aquifer, get a hell of a lot more agricultural production, and in fact in the next ten years, agricultural production in Pakistan doubled. It was a tremendous change. I wouldnít claim that we did it, but we helped a lot. We helped a lot by telling the Pakistanis that this place could be a garden, it could be an Imperial Valley, if they just did it right. And they did it more or less right and it did make a big difference. Not as big as it should have or could have. The real problem with all irrigation systems is that they never build drainage into the system. The result is that sooner or later you get waterlogging, from the lack of drainage. We can postpone the evil day by pumping the water out from underground, but eventually the aquifer is going to get salty. Youíve just got to build drainage sooner or later. But God knows whether they will or not. Poor Benezar Bhuto has got lots of problems, but waterlogging and salinity is probably the least of it. She is, by the way, one of my students. She was — at Harvard she was called ďPinkyĒ Bhuto. She was a little red-headed girl, very nice but quite shy and only moderately bright. She was a good B student. Now, of course, sheís Prime Minister of Pakistan, and my friend ??? is the President of Pakistan. So Iím in some way still involved with the country, although not very directly. In any case, as a result of this experience in Pakistan, I became very much interested in less developed countries in general, and the problems of poverty and rapidly growing populations. So I went back here to —after being a year or so with Udall, I went back here. I was still director of Scripps, and I was also university dean of research, which was a job in Berkeley. But this was a non-job.
Deans of the University of California are the lowest of the low, and university deans are right at the bottom, theyíre the worst kind of dean of all. I remember one time at Berkeley Stuart Udall came there, and he asked me to introduce him, because he was a little bit scared talking to all those professors, wanted me to sit up there and hold his hand while he talked. This was clearly the wrong thing for me to do. My place was back in the back of the room, back of the assistant professors, as a university dean. Literally, Iím not kidding. This was just a non-job. And so I found it an impossible job to be here on La Jolla half the time and in Berkeley half the time, so Harvard offered me a job as head of the new center that they were establishing, the Center for Population Studies, and it was clear that I was not going to be appointed chancellor, even though Herb York had turned out to be a failure at the job. So I took the job at Harvard as director of the Center for Population Studies. And I always looked at that subject from a standpoint of resources, fitting populations where there is agriculture and water and land and mineral resources. And basically taking the point of view that populations can be supported if you just are careful about the resources and use them properly. I donít think there is such a thing as over-population at the present time, except in a few places, possibly in Bangladesh, maybe some places in Africa.
Droessler:When did you leave Harvard?
Revelle:I left Harvard — well, Harvard had a rule that you had to retire at 65, and that was in 1976. However, I could stay on for a while as a kind of an adjunct. Iíve forgotten what the word was, but I could stay on as an emeritus professor, I guess, and I did until 1978. Then I came back here and Iíve been here ever since, full time. And I havenít had any administrative jobs since I came back. But when I was in my prime, in the fifties and early sixties, I was very much involved with all sorts of international cooperative programs. I was a delegate to the UNESCO General Conference, several General Conferences. I organized the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, organized SCOR, and in general played a large role in international scientific cooperation. At least in geophysics, particularly oceanography. My career as a geophysicist is certainly in the 1950ís up until, well, I guess the Pakistan business was applied geophysics, 1950 to 1963, I guess, although Iím not sure how many people would think of it as geophysics, but itís the problem of water resources. And Iím still much interested in water resources. Weíre just about to come out with a book, the AAAS, edited by Paul Wagner, which — I was chairman of a thing called the Committee on Climate of the AAAS, and this is one of our projects of this Committee on Climate. Itís a book on CHANGING CLIMATE AND WATER RESOURCES IN THE UNITED STATES. Thereís not much you can say about it but there are some things you can say about it, even though our GCM models arenít very good. Itís quite clear-cut that the time of the great new age of exploration was the time when I was pushing things pretty hard. Most everybody in the oceanographic business thought of me and Columbus Islam and Morris Ewing as the three sort of senior oceanographers at that time, in this country if not in the world.
Droessler:Let me get into my final subject here, and ask who is Roger Revelle, your mother, your father, where you were born?
Well, Iíll tell you a little bit about my parents. My father was born on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, in Somerset County, which is the southernmost county on the Eastern Shore, at a place called Fairmont. His ancestor, Randall Revelle, my middle name is Randall, one of them, settled there about 1640, maybe 1620, somewhere between 1620 and 1640, about the same time as the Pilgrims came to New England. For some reason the Pilgrims get all the credit. But Randall Revelle was there about the same time. He was an agent of the Calverts. The Calverts were a Catholic family, the Lords Baltimore, who were given a grant by King Charles I. I donít know how they managed to do that because Catholics were very badly treated in England, but somehow Charles I treated them well enough so that they got this large land grant. And the Calverts became the Lords Baltimore. Randall Revelle was the commissioner appointed by the Calverts, one of the three commissioners appointed by the Calverts to settle Somerset County. And they all went down there and they all built big houses, two of which are still surviving including my Randall Revelleís house.
He had a brotheróinólaw named Colonel Scarborough who was a Virginian, and the Virginians were moving up from the southern tip of the Eastern Shore, the Calverts were moving down from the northern part of the Eastern Shore, and the Calverts began to think that Randall Revelle was a fifth columnist for the Virginians, because his brother-in-law was this Colonel Scarborough. So they fired him as a commissioner. He stayed there anyhow, and pretty much built the town of Princess Anne, which is the county seat of Somerset County. The Revelle family then went downhill steadily for 250 years until, my grandfather was a fisherman and a farmer. They had I guess 160 acres of land around Fairmont. And he also was an oyster fisherman. Youíve probably seen them, the Chesapeake Bay Bug-eyes, these very great mast quiver-bound ships, and with this he caught a lot of oysters, dredged a lot of oysters, and he got so much for his oysters that he sent five of his children to college. He had 18 children altogether, out of two wives. My father never really knew his half-brothers and sisters. But out of the second wife, there were 11 children, about seven of whom survived, and five of them went to Western Maryland College. As soon as possible thereafter they all moved as far away from the Eastern Shore as they could get, to Seattle, Washington, and my father and two of his brothers went to the University of Washington and took law degrees, and became lawyers in Seattle.
They had a firm called Revelle, Revelle and Revelle. I remember them very well when I was a little boy. But my mother was also a University of Washington graduate. Her father was a guy named James Dugan, who was an Irishman, immigrated from County Down in Ireland. She was an ardent Orangewoman, although she never quite understood what the difference between Orange and Green was, but she was down on Catholics. She said, ďSome of my best friends are Catholics, but you canít trust them,Ē which was a typical Orange Irish misstatement. And she and my father got married. She was a student at the University of Washington, so was he, although he was a graduate student in the law school, and then they had two children. But she got tuberculosis, and she couldnít live in Seattle, it was too damp for her, the doctors thought, so she came down here to California. And after a while, when I was about seven, my father and my sister came down also, all four of us came down, first to Hermosa Beach on the Coast and then eventually to Pasadena, and I grew up in Pasadena. My father was about 50 when we moved down here. That was in 1917. Ď16 or 17, Ď16 I guess. Heíd been about 30 when he went through law school, about 1900.
Droessler:But you were born in?
Droessler:Seattle, March ?
Revelle:March 7, 1909. Long time ago. And so my father really never got started very well when we moved down here. He eventually became a school teacher in Pasadena, teaching first at John Muir Junior High School, then at John Marshall, teaching social science, what they used to call civics in those days. And he was a kindly gentle person, a wonderful man. My mother was an invalid. All I remember of her is that she was an invalid. She had very bad asthma after she got over the tuberculosis. I remember I used to have to get up in the middle of the night and rub her back, to help calm the asthma. I did that many nights.
Droessler:Did you have a brother or a sister?
I had one sister. And she died about 15 years ago of cancer, uterine cancer. My mother died of typhoid fever about 1938. Nobody gets typhoid fever any more, but she did. And my father died about 15, 20 years ago. He got married for a second time. My step-mother was a very gentle kindly woman. And then I went to — I was always a procrastinator and a poor performer, but I was also quite bright. There was a man named Terman at Stanford, Lewis Terman who was the inventor of the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Test, and he believed in intelligence tests, and he tested all the school children of my generation in California, and picked out a thousand of them. These were called Termanís Geniuses. He then followed them all the rest of their lives. Theyíre still following me, for example, after all this time. But also he took a fatherly interest in all of them. I did so poorly in high school that I didnít even apply for college, but my friend Carl Rodie right at the very last minute, after Pomona College had opened in the fall of 1925, said, ďWhy donít you go out and apply anyhow?Ē So my mother and I drove out there, and she came armed with a letter from Dr. Terman, so they let me in. Thatís how my academic career began. And then I met Ellen. Ellen was in the first class at Scripps College, which was a sort of companion college to Pomona College.
Itís an organization called the Clairmont Colleges, five colleges, now plus a graduate school, and Scripps is one of them. Itís a womanís college, and was founded by Ellenís aunt, Ellen Browning Scripps. I met her there. We both grew up in Pasadena but we didnít know each other in Pasadena, but we met while she was a freshman and I was a junior. She was a freshman at Scripps and I was a junior at Pomona. And the result was that I went to Berkeley. I spent an extra year at Pomona as a graduate student, basically to court Ellen, and then I went to Berkeley for a year as a teaching assistant. I tell about that in this little paper here, and about my Professor Alfred Whitford. Ellen had an aunt here in La Jolla, Ellen Browning Scripps, whoíd founded the college, and she had spent — she was actually born in La Jolla, Ellen was, and spent much of her time in the summer here. So we decided, the first year of our married life weíd spend in La Jolla. Dr. Vaughn, the director of Scripps, offered me a job looking at some mud from the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, collected by the yacht ďCarnegie,Ē which was a yacht owned by Merle Tuveís department, the department of terrestrial magnetism. It was a non-magnetic yacht and they had great plans for an expedition all over the world, but it blew up in the harbor of Tutuela (?) in Samoa and killed the captain and the cabin boy, and that was the end of the expedition. But theyíd sent back all their muds, and they all ended up at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and Dr. Vaughn wanted somebody to study them, so I volunteered as a graduate student at Berkeley to come down and spend the year doing this. I never got away. Iíve been here ever since.