Oral History Transcript — Dr. Samuel Katz
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Samuel Katz; May 14, 1997
ABSTRACT: Born February 13, 1923 in Berlin, Germany; discusses life in Germany and Belgium under Hitlerís rule. Recalls his transition to America and his high school and undergraduate education in New York; discusses his transfer to the University of Michigan and being hired at MITís Radiation Lab. Discusses his graduate education at Columbia in physics and his interest in geophysics from Maurice Ewing; Jean Katz discusses her background and how she came to be Ewingís personal secretary. Recalls his first cruise on the Albatross in 1952; describes his interactions with the individuals active at Lamont. Recalls the poor reception of the novelty of his dissertation; being forced to change his new layer theory to accommodate a two layer model. Discusses his decision to leave Lamont for Stanford and later RPI, only to return to Lamont. Contemplates the reasons for Lamontís success; describes his awareness of the Heezen-Ewing controversy and its effect on Lamont.
Levin: Today is the fourteenth of May, 1997 and this is an interview with Samuel Katz. Iím Tanya Levin and also in the room are Ron Doel and Samuel Katz, obviously, and his wife, Jean?
Levin: Jean Katz. Sam, I know you were born February 13th, 1923 in Berlin, Germany, and I donít know anything else about your family or what did they do. Can you tell me a little bit about your parents and your family?
Katz:Well, I was an only child. My father and mother were both born in Eastern Europe. I was born in Berlin in Germany. They had moved from Eastern Europe to Berlin, probably in the 1920s. My father was in the diamond business. Well eventually he was a diamond dealer and a diamond importer. I went to school in Germany the first few years. In nineteen hundred and thirty-three when Hitler came to power in Germany, young people, Jewish kids were forced to go, forced to switch schools from the regular public school to a religious school forced by the German government.
Levin: That happened very quickly?
Levin: Right after Hitler had assumed the chancellorship.
Katz:Right. It was very early on, and my parents realized that big troubles were coming. And so they, sometime in 1934, I guess it was about April, no, the fall of 1933 we went to Antwerp, Belgium and stayed there for a year. And then we came to America.
Levin: Was Antwerp the destination because your father was in the diamond business?
Katz:Probably. Although at that time I didnít know that. But thatís what I suspect.
Levin: What are your parentsí names?
Katz:Herman and Bertha.
Levin: When they came from Eastern Europe, do you know what region?
Katz:It was in Austria, but actually it is now Poland; the eastern part of Poland.
Levin: I imagine that was German-speaking.
Katz:No, it was Polish.
Levin: It was Polish speaking? Interesting. Were they bilingual in both German and Polish?
Katz:German, Polish, Iím sure Yiddish, although they never taught me it.
Jean Katz: And English.
Katz:And English. Well, they learned it, they learned English very quickly when we came over here. So in 1934, in August, they got on a ship and came to America.
Levin: Iím curious what kind of home you had in Berlin when you were growing up.
Katz:You mean physically?
Levin: What it looked like.
Katz:Well it was, the home that we had just before we left was a very nice, modern apartment. I guess it would be considered upscale. We had a maid and I donít know in retrospect how well-off we were, but we must have been reasonably well-off.
Levin: Did you have particular interests as a child, things that you were particularly fond of doing or particular books that you recall having read?
Katz:I think I was a very well-adjusted kid. I was interested in athletics and had a lot of friends, played a lot of games. I donít recall any activities that indicate any sort of precocity. I mean I was very normal, perhaps slightly above average normal kid in terms of intelligence. I was physically well coordinated and enjoyed sports.
Levin: Which ones particularly were you involved in when you were still in Germany?
Katz:At that time whatever the kids were doing. I remember playing soccer a lot. We always went to the beach in the summertime. Spent our vacation on the Baltic or the North Sea, went swimming. I think I was a pretty average youngster. We never — there were no hang ups of any kind that Iím aware of.
Levin: Do you remember reading a lot when you were —?
Katz:I must have read a normal amount. I read a lot of books and had a lot of books read to me. But not, I wasnít greatly out of the normal.
Levin: What books were available at home?
Katz:I remember, we must have been very heavily into fairy tales. I mean this is what kids were reading at the time.
Levin: Did your parents have a library in the house that you remember?
Katz:No, not that I remember. Iím sure we didnít transport any of the books we had with us. My parents had a fairly active cultural life in terms of going to theater and concerts. And I presume plays. In the 1920ís, Berlin was a seat of a lot of cultural activity.
Levin: Did you go with them when they went?
Katz:No. I think thatís what our live-in maid was for. I think it was quite different from America. I donít think the kids had the kind of life that our kids did. We took our kids everywhere when they were growing up. I donít think that was done then.
Levin: You were in a different — That probably is a very strong difference.
Doel: Did either of your parents have an interest in science?
Katz:Oh no, sciences? No. My interest in that really came in America as I was growing up.
Levin: Were there other relatives around when you were in Germany?
Katz:Yes. I had uncle and aunts. Not too many. My two aunts, an uncle and aunt. I guess three cousins, all older, somewhat older. There was only I guess one branch of the family that went to Germany and they were in Berlin. Saw some of them.
Levin: Did they also leave with you when you left Germany?
Katz:No, we were the first to go. And the others all trickled out later, those that made it.
Levin: I realize you were only eleven years old at the time that your parents made the decision and came out —
Levin: Ten, indeed ten. So it was the fall of Ď33 and so you were just ten. Do you have a sense of how difficult it was even by the fall of Ď33 to get out from the country to get to Antwerp?
Katz:I donít know because my parents squirreled me out of the country at night. They didnít tell any of their friends or my friends that we were going. And just one evening right after supper, my mother took me and we got on a train. My father had left a week or two earlier. And I had no of inkling what was going to happen, and my mother just took me on the train. And it was the last I ever saw of Germany.
Levin: You were on a train then for a long time all the way across the continent.
Katz:No, no. We just sent from Berlin to Antwerp which was overnight.
Levin: Was it just overnight then?
Katz:I think it was about two hundred miles. I presume my mother didnít tell me we were leaving because she didnít want me to tell my friends. And I presume also from that that it was by then becoming difficult. The authorities had probably set up some sort of barrier to emigration. And Iím sure that — I suspect my father went on a business trip and just didnít go back to Berlin. He never went back again. And then my mother that evening took me on the train and left me at Antwerp. And she went back to Berlin I presume to extricate what she could. So I think there were barriers early on.
Levin: Thatís an extraordinary experience.
Katz:At that time, I donít know, I think my parents succeeded in shielding me from any pain or any; for me it was a big adventure. I never had a sense of danger or threat or difficulty. It was just a big lark. And in Belgium they put me into a boarding school which was a very good school, a lot of fun.
Levin: How long once you had gotten on the train did you realize that you were going far away and that you were —?
Katz:I had no idea I was going far away. I had no idea I would never go back. To me it was a big lark. I was going to boarding school. Thatís my recollection of it. Now I may be suppressing a lot. And in Belgium the language was French; French and Flemish.
Levin: Had you any exposure to French?
Katz:No. In Belgium there are three languages. And the part adjacent to Holland is Flemish, and the part adjacent to France is French ó and is there a German part — Iím not sure. Maybe itís just two languages. But anyway, our boarding school was all French. And I picked the language up very fast. I mean I was only there nine months but by the end of six months I was winning, I was winning prizes for being the best speller in the school.
Levin: Very interesting.
Katz:So I picked up the language very fast.
Levin: Do you remember what your favorite subject was?
Katz:No. I think I enjoyed everything. Just, I think it was mathematics, actually. I mean if I had to try to recall what was the most fun I think it was the math that was most fun I found it easy. There was no science as I remember.
Levin: Do you remember any teachers that were particularly important to you?
Katz:Itís been long ago of course. But I remember we had communal study hail with a wood stove going. And I remember a lot of outdoor stuff in the winter especially with snow and sleds, skating. I remember the, oh the porridge every morning, cereal every morning, just oatmeal. And fish, fish on Friday which used to drive me up a wall. But it was a good place. I mean I donít have any bad memories of it.
Levin: How often did you see your parents then?
Katz:It couldnít have been too often. Because they eventually, letís see, they eventually both were in Antwerp and they came out to see me. I donít know how often. But it must have been fairly often actually after the first few months.
Levin: And you say it was one year?
Katz:And then we left. Letís see, we got there in late summer and left in late spring.
Levin: And when you left this time, to go to the United States, was it the same experience that you had leaving Germany? Or did you know a little bit more?
Levin: Big adventure?
Levin: Do you know how it was that your parents chose to go the United States as opposed to other potential destinations?
Katz:Well the possible choices that I was told about then were Israel and America. And they chose America.
Levin: Were there relatives over in the United States?
Katz:They had relatives. We only stayed the first few weeks, the first two or three weeks, went to Brighton Beach [Brooklyn]. So I still have vivid recollections of Antwerp; boarding school. We all got to go swimming in Antwerp when the weather warmed up. Big outdoor pools with slides, water slides.
Levin: Were you playing soccer there too?
Katz:We used to go ice skating in Antwerp. And one place was a big hifi and it was kept iced. And weíd skate down the hifi. Something nobodyís dreamed of doing here yet.
Levin: Thatís interesting. So, did you get to a good speed then by the time you —?
Katz:I presume. I donít have any recollection of [Mrs. Katz speaks in the background]
Levin: I suppose it would be very difficult to break if not impossible.
Katz:I donít know. But as far as recollections of scholarship. I think I must have had a very easy time of studying because I became quite fluent in French within a few months.
Levin: Was it the same way when you went to America, was English as easy?
Katz:Yes, it was very easy. They plopped me down in grade 6A. I guess I had had a little English actually in Germany. We started a foreign language. How old was I? Nine? I think I had one semester of English, but no French. And then I came here and was put into regular public school. And I stifi remember the public school teacher Miss Goetz. And she put me next to some kid who spoke German, who was American, you know of a German background. And then she said, if you want to say something and you canít manage it, just ask your friend. I must have picked the language up very fast. Because I donít remember asking very much.
Levin: And where was this that your family eventually settled?
Katz:In the Bronx.
Levin: It was in the Bronx?
Katz:What was then a very nice section of the Bronx. Now itís not so nice. On the Grand Concourse. 780 Grand Concourse. An almost brand new apartment house. Only half-filled with people, with a doorman and chandeliers and mirrors in the lobby with a park across the street. Very nice place.
Levin: Those pre-war buildings, pre-World War II buildings.
Katz:Yes, just two blocks from Yankee Stadium.
Levin: Is that right?
Katz:Not as nice now. It went downhill pretty steadily starting in the middle fifties.
Jean Katz:There was also the county courthouse there.
Katz:County courthouse. It was a good urban setting to grow up in.
Levin: And what did your parents do there? What work did they find?
Katz:My father immediately, almost immediately, was able to make a living at his own profession. He had an office down on Maiden Lane. I was going to get his little card I have in the kitchen. I think it was 9 Maiden Lane or something. And he imported diamonds and had them appropriately processed.
Jean Katz:He was an arbitrator.
Katz:Yes, he was quite an active member of the diamond dealers club of New
York. Then an arbitrator.
Levin: It sounds as if your language facility was shared in the family. He picked up.
Katz:They did immediately. It isnít the way it is now. When folks from overseas try to preserve their culture at the cost of everything. They stuck me in a regular public school, and they immediately went to night school and started learning English. They never quite lost their accent. Itís easy to lose an accent before puberty. But with an older person itís hard. They spoke perfectly good English.
Levin: So was it easy then for you to adjust to life in America?
Katz:I donít remember any trouble. And I started playing baseball. There were some very nice athletic fields — five blocks from where we were: there was a track, running track, tennis, ping pong, lots of ping pong. Very big activity in the public, indoor place. So I had lots of friends. And New York back then was very different from what it is now. It was very non-threatening. You roller skated everywhere. Took the subway. I started riding the subway to high school at age fourteen.
Levin: And that was Townsend Harris High School?
Katz:Townsend Harris High School. Youíre familiar with Townsend Harris High School in New York?
Levin: I found a reference to it, and I knew that you had gone there. Iíve heard of it.
Katz:Well Townsend Harris High School was the Bronx High School of Science before the Bronx High School of Science was formed. You had to take a competitive exam to get in. I took the exam. I had no notion I would possibly get in, but I managed to get in.
Levin: Was this — did that include grade 9 as well or was it —?
Katz:Three-year high school.
Levin: Three-year. So you were taking that sometime during your ninth year, your ninth grade, the exam.
Katz:Letís see I went through grade 8B.
Jean Katz:I think they misunderstand. It was a three-year high school period. It was four years in three.
Levin: I understand now. That does help.
Katz:They squeezed everything in, no frills. And we intentionally did all the regents requirements in three years. And the high school was at CCNY in floors nine through thirteen, downtown CCNY. [Laughter] The high school had originally been at uptown CCNY, but sometime I think in the late 20s, or early 30s, it was moved downtown. And there were a lot of bright kids there. In terms of native intelligence I guess that was a highly selective group.
Levin: In those two years before you took the exam for Townsend, were you developing an interest in science, or did you simply find that as you were saying before that mathematics was coming easy and —?
Katz:I was never exposed to formal science instruction. At that time there were no, it wasnít the way it is now. There was no formal science that I can remember. Right through grade 8B there was no formal science.
Levin: Was there any informal ta]k about any science topics?
Katz:Not that I can remember. Mathematics was stressed. Even back in Belgium at that boarding school, the name of which is Nid díAiglous, which means nest of little eagles, the mathematics was at a high level. I didnít encounter again that same level of mathematics until I was maybe sixteen, maybe seventeen.
Levin: Thatís interesting.
Katz:And we learned geometry. I donít remember Algebra, but geometry I remember very vividly. Learning formulas and how to use them for shapes, for volumes, and areas, and just generally developing geometrical intuition. But there was certainly no biology, and there was no geology, and Iím sure there was no physics, or anything resembling that, or earth science as we have now.
Levin: Or chemistry for instance.
Katz:No chemistry, nothing. And at Townsend Harris the only science available was physics, just physics.
Levin: I was just thinking about for that period of years, the Worldís Fair was held then, wasnít it? Did you get to — 1939 if I remember right.
Katz:I do think we attended.
Levin: I was wondering if you recall going to that because there were quite a few exhibits —
Levin: — about the role of science, what it would play in the world to come.
Katz:It didnít ignite a spark. I think I would remember that. Iíve read biographies of fine men and some of the colorful science personalities, and their, their interest was ignited very young. We went to a lot of outdoor places. Beach and water and sun. But in terms of igniting a spark in how the world works, I donít remember.
Levin: You said you had some geometry before you left Europe and you didnít have it again until you were about sixteen in America.
Katz:Well, no Iím sure we went through the regular math, but the same level wasnít reached until I got to Townsend Harris.
Levin: You think it was taught at about in about the same style?
Katz:It was mostly rote. And I soaked it up.
Levin: It was mostly rote where?
Katz:In Belgium. And I donít really remember here, but the Belgium experience.
Levin: Your school in America, the two years before the test, it didnít have science you say. Did it — where did it list mostly towards, was it mostly concentrated in literature, arts and literature or —?
Katz:I think it was an all-around education. High school weíre talking about?
Levin: High school and the two years before.
Katz:The two years before I donít remember any unusual academic or individual experiences. I think I was a very well-behaved, bright kid. And I enjoyed learning and I enjoyed excelling. And I guess I enjoyed pleasing my parents who seemed to be very happy at how well I was doing.
Levin: Were there any teachers who were particularly memorable for you in high school at Townsend High School?
Katz:I guess a physics teacher, name was Wetzel I think. Salty, older gentleman. Then I think it was just an exciting experience. And an English teacher who made us write interminable compositions and he graded them. I think that was a good experience. But I enjoyed all of high school. Of course I had to take the subway every day. It was a very stimulating activity. But I think I was totally un-self-conscious about what I was doing. That was part of growing up. And it was enjoyable.
Levin: Iím curious if the teacher you mentioned, Wetzel, in physics, was he one of the ones who you were able to talk to about college? How did you get ideas about what you would do after high school? [Long pause] Had it been clear to you for a longtime that you would go to college or was it something that —?
Katz:Oh yes. In high school, ninety-five percent of all, I would say nearly a hundred percent of all Townsend Harris kids went to college.
Katz:Went to college. And I think it was taken for granted that we would all go to CCNY. There seemed to be some people who were trying to go elsewhere. And I remember how I got it into my head maybe I should go to Columbia. And I had a rough time about this. [Laughter]
Levin: I think Iíd like to hear it.
Katz:Okay. I guess unpleasant memories stick in oneís head but Iím not sure they should get published. But they do stick in my head for all these years. So, all right, I was encouraged by my advisor, his name was Pearlman, Sam Pearlman to apply to Columbia and I applied. And I still remember the name of the gentleman who interviewed me, his name was Ireland. So I went up there. And I was accepted. But I graduated in January, thatís the way the school system in New York works. Every six months they had a new class coming out. So I got out in January and I didnít consult Columbia as to what I should do for six months. So I said well Iím not going to waste six months, Iíll start at CCNY, start taking courses, and then go to Columbia and theyíll give me credit. So sometime in the middle of that spring Mr. Ireland calls me up. What have you been doing? Well, Iíve been going to CCNY. What? It turned out that because Iíd been going to CCNY my admission to Columbia was revoked.
Levin: And you hadnít been warned about that?
Katz:Hadnít been warned.
Levin: That was an extraordinarily difficult —
Katz:Thatís a long time ago. So I started CCNY. Actually I started majoring in mathematics. You didnít have to declare a major, but I thought well mathematics was it. But I found very quickly that the abstractness, lack of visual imagination thatís involved in mathematics, I wasnít capable. It didnít please me. And so I found physics much more appealing because of the models one could think of. Quantify more. So I shifted. But it was really too early to make a decision. I still hadnít finished my freshman year. It didnít make any difference what I was going to major in. So I shifted my thinking to physics. And before very long I decided I didnít really want to stay at CCNY. And I applied to a few schools. One of which was the University of Michigan.
Levin: Which of course was [cross talk].
Katz:So I transferred to Michigan, yes.
Levin: What made you think about Michigan as a school?
Katz:I donít know why I. Actually, I only picked two schools and one was Michigan and one was Chicago. And Chicago didnít admit me so I went to Michigan. Why I didnít pick schools closer to home Iím not sure.
Levin: Iím just curious what you —
Katz:At Townsend Harris there was no discussion ever of all the choices that were available. There was no such thing as a guidance counselor. There was a class advisor. And everybody assumed we were all going to go to CCNY. And I donít even know where I got the idea of going to Columbia. Certainly not from anybody at Townsend Harris.
Doel: Did any of your close friends go to schools outside of CCNY?
Katz:Not that I knew of. Everybody went to CCNY. Townsend Harris was known as the preparatory high school for CCNY.
Levin: Was that something that you were able to talk about with your parents?
Katz:No. They were not into the college scene at that time. I think they were happy that they had a child who wanted to get more education.
Doel: Were your parents, were they orthodox Jewish?
Katz:No. I was bar mitzvah. I went to Hebrew School. I didnít speak but I read Hebrew and I could recite in Hebrew. But at the time, at least I had no idea that there were different levels of, whatís the word, orthodoxy. I didnít even know the distinction between reform and conservative and orthodox existed then. Well, the reform must have existed. Well, we were certainly observant to the extent that we, that my father and I went to synagogue on high holy days. And at home we observed holidays. We went visiting to the family. We had a number of cousins here. So does that answer the question? I donít know how much further to take it.
Levin: So when you left home, when you were in Michigan did you continue to observe the holy days?
Katz:I guess it would be fair to say I gradually grew away from orthodox beliefs and practices, and my path in that area of life. I mean I could go into a long story of what happened. But I guess Iíd have to say I didnít replace that orthodoxy with any other. If anything I became increasingly unorthodox, even anti-orthodox as time went on. If you want me to be more specific, ask me. You know, I could probably spend several hours talking about the evolution of my religious beliefs. But I donít think thatís terribly relevant. But if you think so.
Levin: I want to touch on that a little bit later in the interview a little bit closer to the end. One thing Iím really curious about is what your impressions were ]ike when you arrived in Ann Arbor, at Michigan.
Katz:Oh, thatís more exciting. Wow, that was wonderful. I took a train, overnight train, from New York to Ann Arbor. Had a big trunk, black trunk, which now my Lamont daughter has out in the stable for her horse gear. And, oh, I made my way from the railroad station to the student union. You know, Iím trying to recollect how I found a place to live. I went out there without knowing where I was going to live. And somehow I found a room right near campus. It was all very exhilarating. Very different, it was very different from what kids now have, where their parents drive them around and drive them with a trailer full of goodies to their first dormitory room. It was quite different. But Ann Arbor was back then a beautiful place. It was fall and it was just very exhilarating to be there.
Doel: What did you find most exhilarating about Michigan? About the college?
Katz:I donít think there was any one thing. A sense of independence. New challenges, new friends.
Doel: What courses do you particularly recall taking that stand out in your mind as important?
Katz:As important at that time or in retrospect?
Levin: Both are probably pretty important.
Katz:Well, I donít recall any courses I didnít enjoy actually. I found some more burdensome than others and some more challenging than others. I guess the physics and English course, and perhaps a history course was among the most fun the first year. And I think probably because of the instructors involved. There was a sociology professor who made me feel very at home. I guess because he treated me more or less as a family member. He had me out to his home.
Doel: Do you recall his name by any chance?
Katz:Yes. Fuson. Long time to remember his name.
Doel: Obviously he had an impact.
Katz:I remember, most of them I remember. Professor Throop in history and Professor Crane and Cook in physics. Professor Rankin in Mathematics. Uhlenbeck the physicist.
Levin: What courses did you have him?
Katz:Introduction to theoretical physics. Maybe that was the only one.
Levin: I didnít mean to interrupt you a moment ago, you were saying.
Katz:Yes. An English professor who again made us write weekly compositions, thousand words a week, every Friday. That was really something. His name was Morris. Iím sure these people are long gone.
Doel: When you were at the university, were you involved in any groups or clubs?
Katz:I was, letís see what was I? I was a member of the track team until I discovered that I couldnít keep up with those giant Michigan athletes. We had an informal group that centered around the co-op. There was an active group of Quakers, pacifists that I was involved in, informally, but not formally.
Levin: Thatís interesting, given that during that time the war was already broken out.
Katz:I had a fun social life. Not active social life. I had some friends. Certainly an exciting place to go for a New York City kid.
Doel: Were some of your friends, classmates, or people particularly close to you being drafted into war?
Katz:Not at that time. I presume we were all deferred, whether it was because we were physics majors or what, Iím not sure. No there were none. Letís see, 1941. We just got into the war. It was 1941. I got there in the fall of Ď41, Pearl Harbor was in December. I still remember sitting in the student union when the announcement of Pearl Harbor came through. And none of my classmates were being drafted that I recall. I got out in 1943. Very strange. Maybe we were being deferred because we were physics majors. Iím not sure.
Levin: Was the university then on an accelerated schedule after the war broke out?
Katz:I think, well not formally. I mean I had no pressure to take more courses than average. But I did get through. Letís see I got through in two years and transferring from CCNY for a year and a half. Went to Michigan for two years and I graduated. Now I may have taken some overload, but Iím not sure. Itís too long ago.
Levin: How were you supporting yourself when you were out in Michigan?
Katz:My parents. And it was surely very different, well, Michigan is a state school. So Iím sure the tuition was quite modest. And I certainly didnít live high on the hog.
Levin: Iím curious what you were doing during your summers those years?
Katz:Okay. Letís see, I got there in the fall of 1941. You know, the summer of Ď42 I worked for RCA [Radio Corporation of America] in Bloomington, Indiana. They were building radios for tanks. I went home in the spring and waited for them to write, and they didnít get in touch with me. So finally I wrote them a letter, and they said come out immediately. And so I got on a train in New York, went to Bloomington, Indiana and I spent the summer working there. That was a very good summer. And then the following spring I graduated from Michigan. Immediately went to work at MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology], the Radiation Lab. By then the pressure was on. You either got drafted or did something that was essential to the war effort. Deferments werenít that easy, I wasnít trying to escape deferment. But the people from MIT came on campus in physics and said they needed new graduates and they hired several people.
Levin: How much did you know about what was going on in the radiation?
Levin: Was there any inkling at all?
Levin: A very common experience for people at the time. Where did you end up working, what division in radiation?
Katz:The microwave test group, division five, I think. Are you familiar with Radiation Lab?
Levin: Yes. Yes. It was a major development in the history of science during World War II.
Katz:Yes. I think it was division five. Anyway, I remember a lot of details. I donít know how much you want to know.
Levin: Iím curious generally what sort of problems you were working on at the time?
Katz:Our group had the job of designing and building and testing and teaching people how to use microwave test equipment. The idea was to check out the front end of radar to see if all the microwave tubes and all the circuitry involved in that was working.
Levin: So it sounds like it was a lot of hands-on experience with electronics.
Levin: Had you gotten, when you were working at RCA before, were you really becoming familiar with electronics?
Katz:I donít remember. My learning experience at RCA was minimal. I mean I remember nothing about what I did there because I must have been a very low level helper.
Levin: One thing Iím really curious of and this is probably the chance to cover it, is how much exposure you got when you were in Michigan at actually building instruments and electronics. Was that something that you did within the physics department or did you find that you werenít exposed?
Katz:I donít think we built anything, but we had lab courses where we used existing equipment.
Levin: Did those seem to be more cookbook experiments that you were doing or did you get a feeling for what research problems were?
Katz:The idea of discovery never entered my head as a result of those experiences. The idea of scientific discovery. There we had well delineated objectives and we learned to use the equipment to achieve those objectives.
Levin: Do you recall any discussions with anybody? Iím sorry. I didnít mean to interrupt you.
Katz:I think the material back then, the way it got through to me was not one of discovering something new as a result of doing the laboratory experiments.
Levin: Very interesting. I was curious —
Katz:Now maybe that reflects on me, but I think that was the general pattern of the way things were presented.
Levin: Do you remember talking with any professor at Michigan about, and I think probably fair to say here, his own research programs. Did you get a feeling for what it was like to, while at Michigan, to do research in physics?
Katz:Yes, I had a part-time job actually in the optics lab. And my experience there was closer to what I later discovered research was about than anything else at Michigan.
Levin: What were you doing in the lab?
Katz:The lab had a project from Libbey Owens to design new and better glass building blocks. So the idea was to try to figure out how one could design glass surface so as to get the maximum amount of illumination inside the house. And so we had these different blocks, and we had to measure the light transmission as a function of angle of incidence and transmission.
Levin: And that lasted through, was that your senior year that you were doing that or was it earlier?
Katz:It must have been my senior year. And Iím not sure why I did it. I think it must have been for pay. Although I donít think my parents ever said you have to earn some money. I think I must have felt I wanted the experience. Hands-on experience. But thatís in retrospect. I donít have a really good remembrance of what motivated me to get that job.
Levin: What was it like on a day to day basis when you were in the rad [radiation] lab? What sort of things, did it change often during, as the war years went on or did you find that what you were doing stayed pretty much constant?
Katz:No. I think in our group the objectives stayed pretty constant. The nature of the equipment. We worked on more or less the same microwave test equipment all the way through except towards the end, before the war actually ended. And we tried hard to get the equipment into greater use. It was to get it accepted as a standard procedure, to keep the radar equipment working properly. I presume that they found operationally that the people out in the field were not keeping up their equipment very well. And by virtue of using the test equipment that we designed and built, they could have done much better. So towards, I guess sometime late in 1944, I and a few others were sent out in the field to see if we could get that improved. That was in the spring of 1945.
Katz:Yes, in fact while we are on our national tour to get improved use of microwave test equipment was when the nuclear bombs were dropped on Japan. And then we realized in the middle of our trip that our job was going to end within a few months.
Levin: So this was travel within the United States to the different centers?
Levin: Training bases. It sounds as if you were getting strong hands on experience with a lot of different kinds of electronics or did you find that it really was specialized and not that later on you had to expand?
Katz:No, I donít think my exposure was that broad. I had circuit exposure and microwave exposure. And I had a fair amount of hands on experience. I knew how to build things. I built circuits. But compared to others at the lab, mine was probably average or somewhat more than average exposure.
Doel: Your colleagues at the lab, after you finished work, did you see each other often after the lab, did you live by each other?
Katz:Yes. My roommates? Pretty much so. Only that, my professional and my social life was radiation lab.
Doel: Were you constantly talking about your problems?
Katz:Outside of work? No, the work was highly classified. We skied on weekends and we went square dancing during the week. We worked long hours. We worked Saturdays. But it was nothing compared to what some people were exposed to. We actually had a relatively easy life in terms of what people were suffering overseas.
Levin: And as the war was coming to, please go ahead.
Katz:Yes, I was just going to say that there were so many people and such a variety of people there at the Radiation Lab, and my interest at that point you spoke of religion. Religion played a very small part in my life then. And the background of people in the radiation was so cosmopolitan and they all seemed to be highly secular and they all kept busy on weekends with things other than going to places of worship.
Levin: Iím curious about as the war was ending; you mentioned a moment ago, you got midway in the trip you find that the bombs had been dropped. Were you thinking already of the future? [Cross talk] I was curious what you were thinking about your future plans after the war.
Katz:We actually had a time trying to decide what to do when it was ending. I guess that happened very abruptly, but it wasnít clear at all the war would end very quickly. So, it wasnít until the summer of Ď45 when I got home from this trip and discovered the war would surely end soon that I started thinking about what next. I was pretty young still; letís see I was maybe twenty-four. 1945. Maybe twenty-three.
Katz:Letís see. There must be something wrong. Born in —?
Levin: You were born in Ď23, so Ď45 would have been —
Katz: Gee, I was only twenty-two. So I started thinking what do I do next? Well, I really wasnít too keen on going back to New York. But I decided I was the only child, I better not go too far away. So I decided to go back to New York. So Columbia was the only place that — I only gave thought to Columbia as a place to go to. If Iím going to New York and if Columbia would admit me, Iíd go to New York. If Columbia didnít admit me, Iíd start worrying about where else to go. But I really should probably go back to New York. I guess I was never told this by my parents, by my mother especially. They sort of subconsciously transmitted the idea that I shouldnít go too far away. I was the only child.
Levin: Only child, children understand that right away.
Katz:Oh, are you one of those? So I went back to New York. Columbia admitted me along with a huge number of other people. I was totally shocked when I walked into my first graduate class and there were two hundred people there. I donít know if I was discouraged, you know, but I certainly felt challenged. I thought this was not going to be easy.
Levin: Were you thinking to do a masterís or Ph.D. in physics? Was that the plan? How did you first start leaning toward geology and geophysics? What was your contact with?
Katz:Well I saw in the catalogue that Enrico Fermi had taught a geophysics course. And I thought oh my goodness I better look into this geophysics. Whatís this all about? If Enrico Fermi is teaching geophysics, I should find out whatís geophysics. Only by then, heíd left. I got there in Ď46 and he left in Ď45. I would love to have had a geophysics course with Enrico Fermi. But thatís how it first caught my eye. Oh well, I should say that, you didnít ask me about hobbies when I was at MIT. I got in with a bunch of outdoor people and we skied and we hiked and went photographing in Boston and bicycling on Cape Cod. I guess really, it was really at that point, after I was through college, I became an outdoor buff and I really enjoyed it. Summer and winter I was outdoors. A great attraction for me. So I saw Enrico Fermi, offering geophysics, and this was a way of combining the outdoor with the physics. But by then heíd left. And I saw who else was teaching geophysics — [W.] Maurice Ewing. And so I decided to try it. And this was before I switched.
Doel: What was Maurice Ewing like as a professor?
Katz:[Laughter] Would you like to guess what the enrollment was in the first geophysics course compared to the 200 in the first graduate physics course, there were three of us. So, you ask what he was like as a professor. He was just a normal individual, quite unpretentious and unassuming. I had no idea what normal professorial behavior would be in terms of a class with an enrollment of 3. We just sat around and read through a book together. I donít remember but I think we took turns presenting material out of the book.
Levin: Which book was it?
Katz:The first book was Byerlyís Seismology, which now wouldnít be used in a geophysics course because it was a very narrow focus. It was a very good book. But it was just one small field.
Levin: Of course there werenít that many textbooks for geophysics.
Katz:There werenít any general textbooks. There werenít any. At that time I donít think there were any textbooks.
Katz:We had a book on gravity, but we didnít have a book on geophysics.
Levin: As you mentioned off tape a moment ago, Jean Parker Katz had mentioned [Felix A.] Vening-Meinesz and his work. But you had mentioned, just to be make sure that itís on tape, that there wasnít a general textbook.
Katz:That I remember. Certainly not one that Ewing proposed using.
Levin: Who else was in the class with you at that time?
Katz:Paul [C.] Wuensehel, you have heard of him?
Levin: Yes, I have.
Katz:And Renee Brilliant, whoís now Renee Donn. I didnít keep track of her the last few years. [voice fades out] We were the three students. This was in nineteen forty, seven or eight, must have been Ď48.
Doel: He was, was he rather informal with you?
Katz:Extremely informal. I mean, I was so shocked that professors acted that way. Before that, every professor always appeared very formal up there, at his lectern. And here Iím sitting with a professor in the same room, just three of us, just four of us altogether. All sitting in chairs, and as I recall they were.
Doel: Did you often meet with him outside of class?
Katz:Well sure. The office was right there and the classroom was. And I had a desk. And the desk was right next to, right next door to where his office was in the basement of Schermerhorn Hall with windows level on Amsterdam Avenue. I guess Amsterdam slopes there so. It was all quite informal. And I forget what used to happen when Ewing went away. I think we taught each other.
Levin: Iím curious. It sounds as if you were getting to know one another in class fairly well.
Katz:On yes. Paul had an office there. But Renee, did she have an office there?
Jean Katz: No.
Katz:And this, was right next door and in front of Ewingís office.
Levin: And you were working for Ewing at that?
Jean Katz: I was hired as a technician-administrative aide. The technician part didnít come until considerably later. But the administrative aide was secretarial. Trying to screen people away for Ewing was necessary.
Doel: Driving mostly students away or —?
Jean Katz: Oh no, no. He was always interested in the students. But there was an occasional nut wandering in with some kind of crazy idea. And I was supposed to screen people like that.
Levin: I want to make sure that we also cover some of your background. Iím curious if you can tell us when you were born and where you were born.
Jean Katz: San Francisco. September 4, 1921.
Levin: And had you grown up mostly in San Francisco?
Jean Katz: Oh no, no. I donít remember San Francisco from then at all. I was brought back east when I was nine months old, something like that. I grew up mostly in New York City.
Levin: In New York City. Which high school had you attended?
Jean Katz: Hunter College High School which was then female.
Levin: Equivalent of —
Jean Katz: Townsend Harris.
Levin: One of the things that Iím interested in that was mentioned off tape, was the, you had had training in mathematics when you did go on to college. Did you find that mathematics and the sciences came to you very easy as they were in high school?
Jean Katz: Through high school I found that almost anything I studied came easily to me. I always assumed that people who had difficulty just werenít bothering to work. And I guess I wasnít very charitable toward people who learned more slowly.
Doel: What do you remember reading? Do you remember reading a lot?
Jean Katz: I haunted the library. I lived, first across the street from the library and then a couple of blocks away. And I was just always in the library. Miss Blarney was the librarian, childrenís, head librarian in the childrenís section. And I pestered Miss Blarney all the time. I donít know what to read next, tell me something else to read. I read every fairy tale book there was. The red one, the green one, the blue one, Anderson, Grimm. I would grab anything I could get my hands on. She always seemed to know what, not just little girls, but little boys wanted. And I read at home. I read, I was read to first. Whatever kids read at that age. I read Little Women, Little Men, Heidi, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. Now it never occurred to me to read non-fiction. It wasnít until a later age I found that there is such a thing.
Levin: Why donít we pause here for just a moment or two. Weíre resuming after a brief and tasty break. One thing I was curious about when you were telling me about being in high school at Hunter. Was there the same kind of expectation as at Townsend that you were likely to go on to college? Did you expect that when you were in high school?
Jean Katz: From the time I was a very small child, I knew I was going to college. My parents just assumed I was. As far as Hunter High School was concerned, whenever a senior class came up, (at that time you had to be a resident of New York City and a citizen to go to Hunter College) every girl, and it was all girls, every girl who qualified that way was expected to fill out an application for Hunter College and they passed out these in class at the high school. So inertia would have taken most of the kids to Hunter College. A few of them went to Queens College, possibly Brooklyn, but most of them did go on to Hunter College. It was just a given. They never, same as Townsend Harris, they never suggested that there was any possibility of going anywhere else. I was too stupid to know that; that scholarships didnít just drop out of the sky. You had to apply for one. And there was no guidance. There were no guidance counselors then, just wasnít the thing to do.
Levin: You went on to Hunter College?
Jean Katz: I went on to Hunter College.
Levin: Iím curious generally what you saw your plan of study becoming? Did you have a particular theme or a possible career or —?
Jean Katz: I had, I had enjoyed all my English courses. My father was, among other things, a writer. And I sort of tended to think in that direction. I really enjoyed my math courses, which I didnít get from my parents at all. And the high school courses, in physics the lab was kind of fun. Itís nothing like physics now days. But, you know, hooking up bells this way and that way, to see whether they would ring then I discovered that I had finished a couple of the experiments early. And the next experiment I hadnít been instructed on. I managed to get through that all by myself. I really felt very pleased with myself.
Levin: Iím sure.
Doel: Did your teachers recognize your potential or your ability in that area?
Jean Katz: No, no. We could all do that. It was a high school that gathered students from the whole city, all five boroughs. We had blacks; we had Orientals, Asians, excuse me. We had girls from fairly affluent families and we had not quite welfare, but pretty close. Nobody ever made a judgment about any other girl in the school except as to her academic ability. So I had, we had certain things that we had to take, right through to our last year. And then we were given two electives. I figured at the time, women didnít do anything much besides secretarial work or teaching or nursing. That was it. So I thought well, probably I will have to teach. I enjoyed languages but in the high school they only had native French people teaching French and the same for the other languages. Well we had Latin. But I realized, or at least I thought I did, that if I wanted to teach French, which I enjoyed, I would not be able to teach in a place like Hunter because they would want somebody with an entire French background. So I didnít take the elective that I could have taken in French. I didnít take the Latin elective that I might have been interested in because. I would have had to take Cicero first in order to get Virgil. So I eliminated Latin. We were forced to take physics, the same as Sam was. I couldíve taken chemistry. I wanted math. So I figured I would have to teach math or possibly some science once I get to college. So I took a math major and physics minor at Hunter. Most of the people going in took statistics as a minor because they were really into math. I took physics because previously physics had been required with a math major. And I thought, well there must have been some reason, Iíll take it. I didnít do as well in physics as I would have liked. The one problem at that time with Hunter College was it was an all girlsí school. Nobody expected girls to do math. Nobody expected girls to do science of any sort. A girlsí school was a second rate school in the minds of most professors who might have been hired there. So it was mostly female professors. And I think the instruction was far less good than it would have been, say, in CCNY or Michigan or Columbia, anywhere. One thing we did not know at all was what the boys were learning. This was an all-girls college. We knew how we stood with the other girls. When it came to the boys, we did not know that they were getting a lot more stuff than we were. I discovered that afterwards because when we got into war I got into the WAVES [Women Appointed Volunteer Emergency Services]. And I got into radar.
Levin: How did you get into radar? Iím curious how that happened. [laughter]
Jean Katz: Oh that was funny too. I have no brothers. And I thought, well, you know, Iíll be patriotic about this. I ought to get into the service. I had been doing some nurses aid work so I thought well I will see whether I can get into the medical corps in one of the services. The Marines had just begun taking females. So I went and applied for the Marines, thinking possibly I might get a commission. The Marines wanted nothing to do with me. And they got rid of me by sending me next door to the Navy which was right in the next room. The Navy had a medical corps. So I took a battery of tests. On the first test, I finished way before the rest of them did. And I thought what did I leave out? And then I discovered that they were all high school kids. And so, of course, I could do the work faster because I had gone to college. And so they took a couple of others and me, and gave us another test. Well, I had gone to Katharine Gibbs School when I got out of college and studied secretarial work. So I had had a lot of English background along with what I had in school. And then of course, I had been a mathematics major and a physics minor so they gave me another test that was in three parts; math, English and physics. And you know, again, I finished before anybody else. I thought what they did was test you according to your own background, but that was not what they were doing at all. So they gave me a final interview. The captain, for heavenís sake. So he talked to me a little bit about my background, and said, well, how would you like to work in radar? Weíll give you a commission. Well, a commission sounded fine. And I said, sure, that sounds great. What is radar? Thatís how I got into radar.
Levin: What were you actually doing in radar during the war years?
Jean Katz: What I was actually doing, I went to radar school at first at Harvard and then at MIT. Arid discovered that I had not the background that the men did. I was struggling all the time. And I never did quite finish at MIT.
Levin: That must have been a revelation though to you at that point to realize the difference between Ė
Jean Katz: Oh yes, yes. I had always been able to do at least passable work in anything that I tried to do. And all of a sudden to discover that all of these men are able to do all this stuff and I donít begin to know what theyíre talking about. That was hard.
Doel: Was there anyone around there that you, a professor that you could ask advice from or help you a little bit?
Jean Katz: No. No. Or if there was one, it didnít occur to me that there was. And nobody ever said, now, if youíre really having trouble with this, come and see me. No. The way I had gone through high school and college, only the very best students in college ever saw the professor outside of class. [Voice too low to hear] The rest of us felt it was intruding to bother the professor. So that was just the way things were.
Levin: When you were at — then do you end up at MIT when you did the radar?
Jean Katz: No, after I — that wasÖ No. No that was the radar school was the training.
Levin: This was the training?
Jean Katz: Yes. And we had Army, Navy and Marines all there. I was sent to the Naval Air Station at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. And I worked there in Naval Air Experimental Station. Ha, I remembered. It was a lab composed almost entirely of civilian men. We had a lieutenant commander and a commander who were nominally in charge of the lab. Then there were maybe as many as half a dozen WAVES. And most of us were, were just flunkies for the men who were civilian engineers.
Levin: So you did a lot of calculations for them? Was this one of the jobs?
Jean Katz: One of the jobs that I had was to sit in front of the television camera while they tuned the set [words drowned out by laughter] work.
Levin: That didnít exactly take a lot of your mathematics and physics training.
Jean Katz: No. No, that was back when the television was black and green.
Levin: But it was still accomplished.
Jean Katz: Thatís funny I believe I did do any of that. [Laughter] I guess I did some kind of computations. I did some testing. I do remember getting one project to work on. We did a lot of flying to see whether the equipment would go. And so I got one project to handle myself testing a radio. Unfortunately, I got sick and ended up in the hospital for a couple of days in the middle of it, and didnít finish it and somebody else had to finish. We did, we worked with sonobuoys which were a big secret at the time. We flew over the, we flew over the river and dropped the sonobuoys into the river.
Levin: Into the Charles River was this —?
Jean Katz: No, no, no, no, no. This was Philadelphia.
Levin: Iím sorry. Thatís right you were down in Philly [Philadelphia, Pennsylvania]. So it was in the Delaware River?
Jean Katz: Is that the one thatís between Camden and Philadelphia?
Levin: Thatís right.
Jean Katz: We would drop them. And then a boat had to go out and fish them up again. One of them, I donít think I was on this particular flight — one of them didnít land in the river, it landed in Camden. [Laughter] Well this was a big hush, hush thing you know. And so they were all over Camden until they found it. [Laughter]
Levin: How much did you know about the sonabuoy program?
Jean Katz: I, well I understood how the sonobuoys worked and what it was expected to do — as far as making one, no. It had a bar on the bottom of it. When it struck the water, the bar released the hydrophone. And it had a flag so you could find it again when you want it. And, you know, they were looking for submarines. They needed triangulation and thatís what did it.
Levin: Right. Interesting that thatís where some of the testing was going on — on sonobuoys.
Jean Katz: Yes.
Levin: And that continued up until the end of the war, you were in Philadelphia?
Jean Katz: Yes. Yes. And then when I was discharged, I thought well Iím going back to some of the work I had done as a nurseís aide. Maybe Iíd like to go into medicine. Well, this was in the spring and I hadnít had enough background for medicine. I hadnít had any chemistry. So Hunter College was willing to take me although I was already a graduate, take me for some of these courses. I was expecting to start in the fall. In the meantime I had to do something so I went as part-time secretary to whatever jobs I could find. One of them was across the street from the Katharine Gibbs School and so after that job ended, I went down to meet one of the other secretaries for lunch. Got there too early. New York City subways were fairly unreliable, so I said, okay, I wifi go over to Katherine Gibbs just to see what kind of jobs theyíve got. So they fished up this card, and said, ďWell, you know, weíve had this for several months, and I donít know whether itís still open or not. Maurice Ewing is looking for a secretary.Ē Ewing had not had the experience at Columbia to know that he was supposed to go through the Columbia personnel. And so, anyway, they called from Katharine Gibbs and he said, sure, send her around, I havenít gotten one yet.
Levin: This is interesting. This is 1945 that youíre —
Jean Katz: Six.
Jean Katz: And so I went to see him and he was pleased that I had the math and physics as well as the secretarial abilities. So he wanted to give me forty-five dollars a week.
Levin: How did that compare at the time, it sounds?
Jean Katz: I said, I want fifty. [Laughter] So I got it.
Doel: What was your first impression of Ewing coming in in an interview like that?
Jean Katz: The only impression I had was that he was important and was going to hire me. And, you know, I wasnít making any judgments in this way as a person or a scientist. I had no knowledge for that. And he seemed to be a genial person. This was just before he was going to go to Woods Hole for the summer. So he needed somebody at Columbia. What for, Iím sure I donít know, because I sat there the entire summer doing nothing much except amusing myself with whatever graduate students were kicking around the building. They would, they would come, and the graduate students that summer would always come in to talk to me when they were trying to get away from somebody else. Anybody in that office not going to be bothered.
Levin: Thereís a few interesting things that I just heard you say. Iím curious about what Ewing communicated to you about what his goals were. What was he talking about in terms of what he wanted to do?
Jean Katz: Well, he did tell me about some of what he had done. I donít know exactly whether he talked about the underwater camera or he talked about some of the seismology. The only thing, it just sounded, this is just marvelous. Itís something that will use my background and so I just dropped the idea of the medicine altogether, except, of course, that this was during the summer. And I knew that if I didnít like it, I Ė
Levin: You had the option to.
Jean Katz: Iíd have the option. But once I got, once they came back from Woods Hole and there was something to do. [Laughter]
Levin: It really was kind of quiet that first summer that —
Jean Katz: Yes, Bill [William L.] Donn used to come in and collect some maps or something that were sent there. But I didnít see much, much of anybody else; Milton Dobrin maybe.
Doel: Did the graduate students talk to you about what they were working on?
Jean Katz: Yes. There was the psychology department in the same building, and they all thought it would be very nice if I would take whatever tests they had and I didnít think so.
Levin: Who did you come to know best among those who were studying geophysics? A moment ago you just, you just pointed to Sam Katz here.
Jean Katz: Well actually he wasnít there that early. There was Joe [J. Lamar] Worzel, Ivan Tolstoy. Iím not even sure that Frank Press was there.
Levin: Heíd been at Columbia earlier on, Iím curious if you recall if he was there during that summer.
Jean Katz: He was — he wasnít there during that summer. No. None of them were there during that summer. Angelo Ludas.
Levin: Was Angelo already working for Ewing then?
Jean Katz: Yes. He was there and he was making an attempt to set up the shop.
Levin: Did he talk to you about difficulties or challenges in getting the shop set up?
Jean Katz: Angelo? No. No. I donít know, I donít know how much difficulty there was. He was a very, very pleasant person. And sometimes I ate lunch with him and one of the technicians up in psychology. Thereís really nothing much that I can tell you about the lab.
Levin: Iím curious about the first — once Ewing came back, and once some of the other, the other students came back, what were your general impressions of that, that first full year that you were spending at Columbia in the department? And I presume that you were being paid through grant funds?
Jean Katz: Yes.
Levin: That Ewing had generated. Was it unusual for a professor in the department of geology to have access to that amount of funds for an individual secretary?
Jean Katz: I donít know. I think it probably was. But I didnít know anything much about the rest of them. I knew the secretaries in the geology department. I managed to learn the names and faces of some of the other professors around. But I had nothing to do with anyone else.
Levin: Iím curious from the perspective that you had of being Ewingís secretary. How much interaction did you see Ewing have with other members of the department? Were there people that he did seem to be close to?
Jean Katz: He went — there was a faculty club that he usually went to for lunch, and so did all the others. So I assume that most of the interaction he had with him would have taken place there. They, you know, they didnít come down and sit in his office and chat for an hour. And he didnít go anywhere else. So I donít know.
Katz:Is this to interview her?
Levin: In fact, I did want to bring you back to the interview at this point.
Katz:Oh, because I didnít know whether I was supposed to keep quiet or not.
Jean Katz: One of the Christmas parties, the students all ran the Christmas parties and the professors were expected to come. So they made a big deal this Christmas party for Ewing about salt domes and oil deposits. And, they made a, sort of a scientific presentation; they were going to teach pigeons to home on salt domes. And then they would be able to find the oil deposits through these pigeons. So then they gave Ewing a box, which he opened, and they had caught one of the pigeons right outside the building.
Jean Katz: Of course, the pigeon flies all over the place. They have to get him out of the building.
Katz:Speaking of tricks, one of the tricks the students played. You want to memorialize those?
Jean Katz: There are a number of tricks, but Iím sure youíve got better things to listen to.
Levin: Thatís really very interesting because it says a lot about how people were.
Katz:How about the cockroaches?
Jean Katz: Oh the cockroaches.
Levin: This is in Schermerhorn, youíre talking about?
Jean Katz: The cockroaches are about two or three inches, the big ones. They werenít up in the building, but we were down the basement. So they were all over the place. And, some of the graduate students worked a lot at night. There was another secretary there. And one night they caught one of these big cockroaches, put it in a jar, and put it on or in my desk, I donít know. Expecting a big to do about it. Well, my father made me handle snakes when I was five years old. So I wasnít much afraid of a cockroach in a jar. So then okay, who did it? The other secretary hadnít come in yet. So, they immediately put it in her desk. And they got the, the —
Levin: The expected reaction?
Jean Katz: The reaction they wanted. And well, that wasnít the end of it. The next project for them was that they got something like shoe leather and cut out a cockroach shape. It was a lot of work. They put six wire legs on it and fastened a thread to the head of the thing. And they put it into Bettyís desk drawer there, the other secretary, with the thread across the drawer and fastened to the desk behind the drawer. So when she opened the drawer, it looked like a cockroach skittering to the back of the drawer out of the way.
Katz:It was the best bunch of guys — who was that? That was Chuck [Charles L.] Drake.
Jean Katz: Chuck Drake and Walter.
Jean Katz: Beckmann.
Katz:Is Walter Beckmann still around? I really donít know and was he a student?
Levin: I havenít heard.
Jean Katz: But they never did anything further. Betty was somebody they depended upon to type things for them. And they knew when to stop.
Levin: It clearly sounds like many of the people who were in as graduate students at Lamont in those early days were fun loving in that sense. You mentioned Chuck Drake.
Jean Katz: Oh yes. Alma [Smith] collected a whole bunch of green tomatoes at the end of the season one year and put them on the window sill.
Levin: This is now at Lamont Hall.
Jean Katz: This is Lamont.
Levin: And this is Alma Smith that youíre referring to.
Jean Katz: Yes. Alma Smith. And, they had a vegetable garden. So she had all these tomatoes and [words drowned out by cough] to freeze. And she put them on this great big window sill, halfway up the stairs to the second floor. They were to be there to ripen in the sun. And she put them there one day, one evening, and the graduate students, of course, were in the building. The next day one of them had been painted bright red. [Laughter]
Katz:You wonder when we had time to study.
Jean Katz: I came in one morning. I could talk forever about these things. I came in one morning. The room I worked in had one of the bathrooms off it.
Katz:Lamont this is.
Jean Katz: At Lamont. And I came in. One of the students, Iíve forgotten who these were. Could have been Chuck Drake again. He was in my office and obviously trying to get me away from it. And then there was — there had been another student in there. He was in the bathroom. He had filled a balloon with water and was going to put it in Nancy Barnettís desk drawer. But it burst. And so, never mind. Brushing water off him.
Levin: I want to make sure that we cover the Lamont period in depth, but I do want to talk a bit more in the meantime about events that were going on before Lamont.
Doel: Well is this about when you met, while you were in Schermerhorn still, is this when you two met, when you were in Schermerhorn?
Doel: And what was that; how did you get introduced?
Jean Katz: We never got introduced. It was just another student coming in. Whoís that?
Levin: But you werenít married until 1953? As I recall. Was it just around the time that you made the decision to go out to Stanford?
Katz:Thatís when we were married. We were going together pretty much since Ď49, Ď48?
Jean Katz: When did you and I date? I had gone to a girlsí college. Then I was in the WAVES where it was not really possible to have a much of a social life. So when I got to Columbia with all these lovely graduate students around, I dated every last one of them I could. He was only one of a number. [Laughter]. And I was having, I was having a fine time. I was always finding work that I had to do after hours because then weíd go out for pizza, a whole bunch of them. And I was probably the only female there. And that was, that was fun. So it took me a while to narrow it down.
Katz:By the way if you see me looking past you, itís because finally after all the years, thereís some squirrel who just managed to figure out how to get into one of those feeders. And Iím watching him. There, I chased him off.
Jean Katz: Youíre getting off the subject. Youíre getting off the subject here.
Katz:Off the subject. Go ahead.
Levin: I wanted to get back to, particularly; Sam had mentioned a while ago that the course had sounded intriguing because that first course with Ewing. When was it that you felt that you were leaning towards geophysics as the field you were going to pursue? How quickly did that come about?
Katz:Well, I think it took a while. I mean there were so many people in physics there and it overwhelmed me. I mean I just started feeling overwhelmed by the sheer number of fellow students — with two hundred people in an electro-magnetism theory course, although I think I ended up with a good grade. A or B. I felt overwhelmed by the number of people. The competitive nature of the thing. And when there were only three people in my geophysics course and I could see all the research he was doing, that seemed like a more appropriate thing for me to try and do.
Levin: Iím curious which of the physics professors do you remember having taking courses with or?
Katz:Oh, I remember all of them. Lamb.
Katz:L-A-M-B. Willis E. Lamb. Isidor [I. I.] Rabi.
Levin: I was going to ask you if you took Rabiís course.
Katz:Rabi. Webb. A visiting scholar from Holland, a very famous guy named Kramers. Who else? Dunning, nuclear physicist.
Levin: Was Havens teaching then?
Katz:[William] Havens. I am trying to recall. I donít think I took a course.
Maybe I did take one from him. I canít remember.
Levin: But clearly you were exposed to [cross talk]
Katz:Well I remember Havens because we considered him as a dean over at RPI [Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute] for a while.
Levin: And then you were taking courses that were offered in geophysics?
Levin: Iím curious first of all in that first course you had Ewing, what research was he talking about?
Katz:We didnít talk about research at all. We went right through the book.
Levin: And he really never talked about his own work at all.
Katz:He didnít. Very strange.
Katz:We went through —
Levin: Did he talk about the —?
Katz:And I never — did I take another geophysics course — I donít think I took another, I think the rest of the course work that I took was in geology and mathematics courses and a lot of research, years of research. He was the only professor of geophysics at the time.
Levin: Thatís right.
Katz:And the whole curriculum of geophysics hadnít begun to be developed. And he, I donít think he enjoyed teaching in a formal way. And so it was only years later that there was a formal curriculum in geophysics.
Levin: I was just curious if you had taken any other — and itís interesting to hear that you hadnít. What other works in geophysics do you remember reading at the time besides Byerlyís textbook? What others did you get exposed to?
Katz:Thereís [Beno] Gutenberg. All the research papers that Ewing had turned out. And thatís like teaching anyway. You know, someone listening, when you say there werenít any geophysics courses. There werenít any formal courses. Numbered university courses. But research papers, lots of research papers. All the early refraction papers.
Levin: That of course becomes something you continue to study.
Katz:And then when Frank Press started seismology work and the work on surface waves. And Bill Donn was writing some papers.
Levin: Donn was concentrating already on meteorology. Wasnít he or didnít he?
Katz:I think that meteorology predates. Iím not a hundred percent sure. But I think meteorology predates that.
Jean Katz: I think that first summer that I was at Columbia, Bill was coming in to get meteorological charts which were, I donít know why they were coming through Columbia, rather than to him directly. But he was.
Levin: He was already at Brooklyn College at this point.
Levin: We were talking about Bill Donn a moment ago on the other side of the tape. How quickly did you come to know Frank Press?
Katz:Oh, right. He was there when I got there.
Jean Katz: He was there long before you got there.
Katz:He had a desk in the same room. Wasnít that the only room there were desks?
Jean Katz: Yes.
Katz:How many desks were there? There were five desks in there?
Jean Katz: Well there were more like six or eight, but —
Katz:Yes, Joe and Frank and I had a desk and who else?
Jean Katz: [Nelson] Steenland was gone then.
Katz:Steenland was gone. Dobrin was drifting in and out. I think he might have had a desk elsewhere in the building.
Levin: Did Paul Wuenschel have a desk?
Katz:Paul Wuenschel, I donít remember whether he had a desk.
Jean Katz: I think he must have. All of the graduate students who were there did have desks.
Levin: How big was that room, that communal room, that you all shared?
Katz:Not big. Letís see. It wasnít much wider than this dining room. We were — desk here and desk there and another bunch of desks.
Levin: Letís see. Weíre talking about a room that may be fifteen feet, or fourteen feet.
Katz:Yes, maybe, no maybe twelve feet, but much longer, twice as long.
Jean Katz: There were three rooms. The one room was twice the size of the other two. And thatís where the graduate students were. And the other was divided in half. Ewing was in the back end and the secretaries were in the front.
Levin: The front. And you say plural secretaries. By this point he had —
Jean Katz: Two, yes. The one who reacted to cockroaches.
Katz:Her name was Betty something.
Jean Katz: Betty Clark.
Levin: Iím curious how, what amount of work it was that you had to do, and Iím asking this particularly right now to Jean. How did you divide the work between yourself and Betty? What were the sorts of things that you were doing?
Jean Katz: See. Well, before Betty came, any correspondence with Ewing I took. I read through the stuff, put it on his desk, and tried to sort out what he should look at immediately, that kind of thing, what secretaries do. And anything that he wanted to send out, he dictated to me. Then in addition, in addition to that, I did the ordering for whatever was needed and that kind of thing. And I also did typing of any reports, either that Ewing had to do or any papers that the students were doing. When Betty came, I quit working as Ewingís personal secretary altogether. She did that. And I did most of the rest of it.
Levin: How often, Ewing was already going to Washington at that point. Was he absent from the office in that first full year, at least the time you were all at, still in Schermerhorn?
Jean Katz: He was, he was out a lot. I donít know that he went to Washington all the time. Wasnít that when he did the lectures, the Day lectures, Bay lectures, whatever?
Katz:I wouldnít know.
Jean Katz: There was a series of lectures that he went around the country, various places. This was also at a time when MIT was very interested in Ewing. And they had offered him, I donít know what. But he was seriously considering going there. I think at the time Joe Worzel and Frank Press were aware of what was going on. And then he told me. I had to be told because of writing letters for him. He also asked me whether, if he went to MIT, whether I would consider going there. Then of course he used that, I guess, as a lever at Columbia to improve his it at Columbia which is why he got Lamont. Columbia had received a lump sum from Mrs. Thomas Lamont, and to use as it saw fit. And it saw fit to keep Ewing.
Levin: In general was Ewing willing to share that kind of information among the graduate students? Were you aware of the offer of the Heddy Green estate from MIT for instance?
Katz:I think not. I certainly wasnít asked if I would go along.
Jean Katz: I did not. He didnít even tell me what it was that they were offering at MIT. Just. Thatís the first time youíve had interruptions from a squirrel, isnít it?
Levin: To be honest, yes. Thatís — itís interesting hearing from your perspective and seeing what was happening with Ewing. Did Ewing talk to you much about his relationships with other members of the department or others in the university? Was he one to talk about those sorts of things or did he keep his interactions with you fairly about business?
Jean Katz: Yes he did. For one thing, I think he had strict notions of a womanís place in the world. And it wasnít, it wasnít to be privy to what he was doing at all.
Levin: Did your training help when you look back on it at that point in working for Lamont?
Jean Katz: Oh yes. Yes.
Levin: In what way?
Jean Katz: Because I typed a lot of the studentsí papers. With the exception of Sam and Frank, they were lousy writers. And so I had to understand what they were trying to say in order to turn it into acceptable English to put into one of the journals. So, yes I did. And I did do, even back when I was more or less a full-time secretary, I did do some of the computing. So they did hire two other girls to do just computing. Marie, not Marie. Emily and Fay. So they did most of the computing at that time. They did not go out to Lamont. Did Emily? Emily came and worked at Lamont occasionally but not full time.
Katz:One of them moved to Alaska.
Jean Katz: Fay moved to Alaska.
Katz:They didnít, they mostly worked for Joe. They mostly did gravity calculations.
Jean Katz: Emily was working somewhere else. And when they went on strike, she came and worked for a week or two. Iíve forgotten where she worked.
Levin: What sort of hours was Ewing working at the time that you were his?
Katz:Inordinate, ungodly hours.
Jean Katz: Awful, before a cruise went out.
Levin: This is still back in the Columbia years?
Jean Katz: Yes. Back. Before a cruise went out, the place would be strewn with equipment; none of it working. And the graduate students and Ewing would be there until all hours. I went home more or less at a normal time. It was Christmas time once, just before one of these things went out, and I came in with jingle bells on and everything for Christmas. The minute I walked into that office, I took them off.
Levin: You could sense the atmosphere?
Jean Katz: Yes. It was — they never as far as I am aware got off on a cruise with all of the equipment working. They took it along and worked on it.
Katz:Away on board.
Jean Katz: On board. Oh that one.
Levin: Youíre thinking of one in particular.
Jean Katz: The one he went on.
Levin: Which one? Was this your first cruise that you took? When was this that happened? Was it still on the Woods Hole ship?
Katz:This was the Albatross, in 1952. You donít really want to hear the story, Iím sure. Maybe you do?
Levin: I think I do.
Katz:This was an expedition involving the Woods Holeís Atlantis and Woods Holeís Albatross. And the Lamont group joined the cruise in Trinidad. Woods Hole scientists got off. The two boats had come from Africa, across the Atlantic doing work, and were in Trinidad. So we flew down and Woods Hole people went home and we joined the ships. Then there were all kinds of trouble aboard. Technical equipment didnít work and hadnít worked and needed repair and we got it repaired. And the ships started off and before, I donít know, twenty-four hours the Atlantis lost its main shaft. And we had to tow her back. And we had a World War II seaman on the Albatross, who lost his mind, and it was all quite a bloodcurdling experience — he cut some fingers off his hand. We went back to, we went back to — where did we go? We actually went to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where we had to sit around for days while, the main shaft was gotten from the mainland, and then that got repaired. And finally we took off. And we finally got to do some science.
Levin: Was this gravity measurement?
Katz:This was in seismology.
Katz:This ended up being my Ph.D. thesis. But even when, when everything was running, when the ships were working very well, the captain on the Albatross was drinking pretty heavily. And we got into a severe storm and the gyrocompass locked in 180 degrees out of phase and the captain didnít realize it, because he was too drunk. And so we were heading south and he thought we were going north. It was all the adventure to get back to Woods Hole. But we did manage to get a lot of good data. But it was kind of a hair-raising experience for a first cruise.
Jean Katz: I didnít think they had a union crew, did they?
Katz:Oh they never had a union.
Jean Katz: Never had a union crew. So thatís what you get.
Katz:Woods Hole, from what Iíve heard, back then Woods Hole didnít do a good job of screening its applicants for its cruises because they were responsible for manning the crew of the boats.
Levin: Did they fly under other than American registry?
Katz:I donít know.
Jean Katz: Well the ships belonged to Woods Hole.
Katz:Bruce and I were on the Albatross. And Maurice Ewing and John Hennion were on the Atlantis.
Levin: Same John Hennion who later got killed in the explosion.
Katz:I often wonder why there wasnít trouble before because things were very helter- skelter. Many of us were novices. The hydrophone cables often got badly tangled so it would take a huge amount of time to untangle them. Our own daughter now goes out. She works at Lamont, I told you that. And itís much better now. [Cross talk] Iím sure that, if you went around and asked people for their ship board experiences back then, Iím sure a lot of bad stories. Maybe some good ones.
Levin: Iím curious what it was like to work with Bruce [C.] Heezen.
Katz:All right in some ways.
Levin: Was he a difficult individual? Iím curious in general who you came to know relatively well during those.
Katz:Oh, I got to know everybody, especially Bruce.
Levin: Did Bruce talk about his general ideas in geophysics? He was already getting interested in the idea of the expanding earth in the 1950s, wasnít he?
Katz:Not, not on the cruise anyway.
Levin: Iím wondering when you look back, when you get your masterís degree from Columbia in 1947 and then started on your dissertation. Who did you regard as those you were closest to in the Lamont community? Those who were either formal mentors or other grad students who?
Katz:The only ones were fellow graduate students. Frank Press I, Iím sure I got information from him. Paul Wuenschel, I felt pretty close to. And the others actually came later. Well, George Sutton, we havenít mentioned George Sutton. I was reasonably close to George.
Levin: Iím trying to remember. Had he already come back from Africa at that point or?
Katz:Oh this was long before.
Levin: Before he had actually gone over.
Katz:I didnít realize. When was the Africa experience?
Levin: Was in the nineteen — Youíre right, it was the 1950s that he got involved over there.
Jean Katz: Dick, the one who went with [unclear] at Woods Hole?
Levin: And you had mentioned I believe, off-tape, Jack Heacock.
Jean Katz: Pronounced Haycock.
Levin: Haycock — thank you. And Iím looking at a list of some of the early members of the Lamont community who were there. And had Chuck [Charles B.] Officer already arrived.
Katz:He arrived probably the year after I got there. 1947. Must have come in Ď48.
Levin: Gordon Hamilton was.
Levin: You mentioned Nelson Steenland.
Katz:You mentioned who was mentor and I think we all regarded ourselves as co-equal. And the only one who clearly was a mentor was Maurice Ewing and the rest of us were fellow students.
Levin: It had seemed that you were learning quite a bit from one another.
Katz:I think we regarded Frank Press as sort of a — someone more equal than the rest of us.
Jean Katz: Frank was one of the youngest.
Katz:And Joe was the most, the most senior next to Ewing. But Iím not sure.
Jean Katz: But didnít Joe come from Rice [Institute] with Ewing?
Katz:Not from Rice. From —
Levin: From Lehigh [University]
Jean Katz and Sam Katz:Lehigh, Lehigh.
Katz:I think most of the people had far more respect for Frank than for Joe.
Levin: What was it about Frank that gave that kind of respect?
Katz:Well, I think Frank had greater intellectual ability.
Jean Katz: Well Ewing certainly recognized that. He had told me at one time that on travel vouchers, that if people were going to a meeting and they were giving a paper, then we would pay for it. But otherwise they had to pay their own way. And I think he didnít remember that he told me that, but since he told me that, thatís what happened. And I refused to sign a travel voucher for Frank Press one time. I heard from Ewing about that.
Levin: I can imagine you heard.
Jean Katz: Obviously Ewing was well aware what he had in Frank.
Levin: I got the impression that that was a generally shared feeling among the graduate students who were coming. Was Worzel helpful? As you say he had had the longest experience in working with Ewing at Lehigh and Woods Hole?
Jean Katz: No. Because Joe had a, or at least he expressed to others, a peculiar opinion that if you were to hear bad things, you ought to hear them from somebody close. He would, he would say, awful things.
Katz:Yes, Iím not sure you want to put all these on record. There are things I would say off record that I wouldnít say on record.
Levin: Iíve heard some of this.
Katz:Maybe you heard some of this. Maybe weíre more inhibited than other people. But we do have some, still unfortunately intense recollection of experiences from back then.
Levin: Of dealing with Joe. I can appreciate that. I heard some from Billie Press and from others who were living in the same environment.
Katz:Iím surprised that she would talk about it.
Jean Katz: At the same time he had the capability of keeping in his office for years, Annette Trefzer.
Jean Katz: T-R-E-F-Z-E-R, I think. She idolized him. Anything he did was fine. He Ė
Katz:She was secretary and computer. She was very competent. She retired from Lamont only about maybe eight years ago, ten years ago maybe. Lives in New Jersey. Well, she lived in New Jersey.
Levin: But it does seem fair to say that these kinds of social factors certainly made an impression on you and it made things difficult for you.
Katz:No, I donít think they made it difficult, probably not professionally but certainly gave me the feeling of not being, of being fully accepted somewhat uncomfortable at times. And it may just be that he had a gruff way about him, at least towards some people. And maybe Iíve told you that.
Levin: He certainly was very rough edged and in the views of many people and very blunt in his feelings and characterizations. One question that does come to mind though, is given the nature of universities in the United States back in that period of time, the 1940ís, did you feel any religious prejudice within the community at that time?
Katz:Well, no, I had two religiously related experiences regarding religious affiliation. One was from Arthur Strahler.
Levin: He was in the geology department.
Katz:He was very nice. He said to me when I started showing interest in taking geology courses and becoming a professional, he said, you know, people with your name and your religion, have trouble working for oil companies. The oil companies showed a lot of discrimination. And so he just wanted to be sure I was aware of that possible difficulty in finding a job. So that was one.
Levin: Had you known that before?
Katz:Oh yes. Well, even getting into Columbia I was always told there was a quota. This was in the 30ís.
Levin: Princeton certainly had one.
Katz:And I donít know why nobody ever suggested that I apply to Harvard or Yale or Princeton, but I presume at that time there must have been enough of a quota so people just didnít encourage Jewish kids to think about it. I donít even know why I considered Columbia. I think Columbia might have had a quota too. And then, Joe and I were, Joe made some off color remarks. And I donít remember exactly their nature. But they were definitely indicating, maybe not his own preference so much, as preference of some members of his family and other people he knew.
Jean Katz: Joeís father lived in some community in New Jersey that excluded Jews. One time when Billie Press offered to take Joeís two children from Woods Hole to his fatherís place, where Joe was at that time. Now Billie Press is a blue eyed blonde. And he told me at that time that he couldnít have Billie going in there, she was too Jewish.
Levin: That must have been extraordinarily tough to hear.
Katz:But maybe he didnít say it to Billie.
Jean Katz: No, he didnít say it to Billie. No.
Levin: No, but still to be Ė
Katz:I think it was much more common. I see youíre somewhat shocked, but I think it was extremely common.
Levin: No, it was common, but yet much of that had gone unspoken. Did it ever make you wonder whether you would stay in geophysics whether you might have a place?
Katz:No because Milt Dobrin, there was Milt Dobrin. And I had a very good experience at Michigan and at MIT. I essentially went from a very sheltered cultural and religiously sheltered environment in New York, growing up, to one that was totally open. At least my perception was it was totally open and cosmopolitan. And I experienced no prejudice at Michigan, even the opposite. Iím sure my sociology professor valued my friendship because I was unusual. I was a New York Jew here in Michigan.
Jean Katz: Thatís part of the answer. If you had gone to an eastern college, youíd have found far more discrimination. Out there you were interesting because you were different.
Katz:There were Jewish kids in Michigan. You know, I didnít sense any discrimination. Take my girlfriend, she wasnít Jewish. I had some, I had plenty of Jewish friends, but she wasnít. And then at the radiation lab that was totally cosmopolitan. So, when I got to Columbia, I guess I didnít feel any until, started having the feeling in geophysics. And I didnít feel any with Ewing either except possibly for Joe, and Joe never made any bad comments to me. It just drifted into me later really. And I didnít feel any, anything at Schermerhorn Hall. Maybe Iíve repressed it. I donít think so. I mean Frank Press was Jewish and [Bernard] Bernie Luskin. I donít know if you heard of Bernie Luskin.
Levin: I know of him.
Katz:And, of course, Bill Donn and Renee. It all seemed quite open to me.
Levin: And equally so within the geology department and inside the Ė
Katz:Yes. I never, I never had. Walter Bucher and Strahler, and who else do I remember? Marshall Kay. I never felt any. And the other graduate students, I never felt anything, anybody looking askance at me because of my name.
Levin: Were there any professors in the geology department you came to know particularly well?
Katz:Strahler a little bit. Walter Bucher as professor, but Strahler once came down to ask me some technical problem. Managed to come up with a nice solution which he published in one of his books giving me credit. And I always appreciated that. I had a pretty easy relationship with Strahler. Marshall Kay was not, not, you know, not friends but as professor/student. Trying to think. I never had a course with Ralph Holmes. Bucher, Kay, Strahler, I had courses with.
Levin: Paul Kerr was there.
Katz:Kerr was there. I never had a course with him.
Jean Katz: He was head of department when I came there.
Levin: What was the planning like in transferring the geophysics group out to Lamont? How much were you involved during, this is probably a good question for both of you, in that?
Katz:I went out quite late. You went out right away.
Jean Katz: I went out right away. But, you know, as far as the scientific equipment and everything like that was concerned, I didnít have to worry about that. The only thing I had to worry about was the file cabinets.
Katz:You started commuting out there right away. Early, almost as soon as they set the place up. I still was taking courses.
Doel: What impressed you most of all about the new building? I assume there were no cockroaches there.
Jean Katz: No cockroaches. It was a beautiful, beautiful place. They had a dedication, I guess about a year after weíd been out there. Because the Lamonts had removed all their things before the dedication, Mrs. Lamont came out. And she looked at the living room and said ďitís ridiculous.Ē This has to be nicely furnished. So she got an interior decorator to come in. I donít know where she got this interior decorator, but she should have fired her. She put basically green things in there. I donít particularly care for green, but that isnít the point. The point is she had pea green, she had dark green, she had light green — she had every possible shade of green. And it was awful. But it was ready for the dedication. Had these Chinese lamps and things that had, you know, white with a lot of greenery in them?
Levin: Where were you working in Lamont Hall when you were there? Was it on the second floor or were you —?
Jean Katz: I was —
Katz:First door on the right as you came up the stairs.
Jean Katz: I started off working on the ground floor, right by the front door. They had a switchboard and then a couple of the clerical help there. And so I was down there until I got them started. Because I was more or less in charge of seeing that they knew what was in the files and that sort of thing. So I was down there for a while. I even worked the switchboard one lunch time when the operator was out and I cut Joe off. Somebody in Washington, and that was the last time I was worked. [Laughter] Then I was up on the second floor, to the right, the first door on the right. And Ewing was all the way in the back.
Levin: He had the large suite.
Jean Katz: Yes.
Katz:And Bruce and Marie were in the second door on the left. Frank was right across the hail from us.
Jean Katz: Frank was right across the hall from the first door.
Levin: When you say us, this is after the time that you come out to Lamont? And when was that that you regularly —?
Katz:Pretty much when I got done with my courses. It would have been about 1950. You must have gone out in Ď48 or earlier.
Jean Katz: Whenever they moved out there I went.
Levin: So 1950 you had done your course work. The masterís that you got in Ď47 was that —
Levin: That was in physics. And then it was after —
Katz:And it was very easy back then. You did it by examination, no thesis.
Levin: And how comprehensive was the exam?
Katz:Well, pretty comprehensive.
Levin: So the courses that weíve been talking about that youíve taken primarily.
Katz:One geophysics course.
Levin: One geophysics and —
Katz:And a bunch of math courses and geology courses. Ewing didnít give, there was only one geophysics course to take. And I donít think that changed until Frank got to be a faculty member which didnít happen until — I think it was after we left. Maybe. I donít know.
Jean Katz: He was not a faculty member.
Katz:No he wasnít a faculty I think in Ď53. It must have been a year or two later.
Doel: And this one geophysics class you took, you concentrated on seismology because thatís the book you read out of. Every time.
Katz:Right. We didnít learn any geodesy. We didnít learn any of the other fields in geophysics.
Doel: And every time that Ewing taught this course did he switch books and topics?
Katz:That I donít know. You know, he didnít. Apparently a big class went through a couple of years before I took it. Arid the year before I took it, I donít know.
Jean Katz: Paul was in that group?
Katz:No, Paul was with me. Paul and Renee. And I donít know what they did. They probably read Byerlyís book too, but I donít know.
Levin: One thing I was interested in, there was an earlier paper.
Katz:There wasnít much developed geophysics back then. I think even if Maurice Ewing had wanted to give a course, he — I mean the course that the thing he knew most about really was the seismology. And there wasnít a book on geodesy. I think. No, I donít think so. And he would have had a very hard time. Geodesy can be a very complicated — you have to be pretty much be a full-time geodesist to give a course. A lot involved in that. So seismology was his field along with physics. That was the book to use.
Levin: Before I ask you about your early publications, Iím curious how much you already by then knew of other, other facilities? Had you?
Katz:Oh, nothing essentially.
Levin: Had youÖhad you visited Woods Hole by that point? So these were —
Katz:I was still a dedicated New Yorker. I mean I couldnít leave my mother and my family. So it wasnít a matter of my choosing Scripps or Woods Hole or — I didnít know what there was back then. Where else could you go for? You could go to St. Louis.
Levin: Yes. I was just curious how much you were hearing about them as well? The kind of work that was being done out? [Cross talk]
Katz:I think we were hearing mostly marine geophysics, marine seismology. We were hearing what the competition was doing. Russell Raitt at Scripps. At Woods Hole I donít think there was —
Jean Katz: Columbus Iselin.
Katz:Yes, thatís true but —
Jean Katz: Linehan was he atÖ or was he —?
Katz:No, Linehan was at Fordham. But that really wasnít geophysics. I donít think he had a program. You couldnít go there and get a Ph.D.
Levin: This was — [cross talk]
Katz:Fordham was one of the network of Jesuit seismograph stations.
Levin: The Jesuits.
Katz:Jesuits seismologists, seismological network. Arid we got a lot of — he was very cooperative. We got a lot of records from him.
Jean Katz: And we got some from —
Katz:Weston Mass. Yes, Weston was. Who was there, I canít remember.
Levin: Of course, [Father James B.] Macelwane was?
Jean Katz and Sam
Katz:Macelwane, Macelwane. No, he was at St. Louis.
Levin: Were you living at home during those years?
Katz:I first lived at home, and then I moved into International House which was a very fun place to be.
Levin: What was that like back then?
Katz:Oh it was, I had a room up on the seventh floor and we — people from all over the world, students all over the world. And it was a very stimulating place to be. And it was right near campus.
Levin: Back in those —
Katz:Then I got an apartment on Riverside Drive up on a hundred.
Jean Katz: Fifty-seventh.
Katz:Fifty-seventh, fifty-eighth street. Very nice apartment, nice view. But it was like new. Other places had sort of gone downhill, but it was on Riverside Drive.
Jean Katz: Oh it was nice then.
Levin: And was this, when was this that you had that apartment? Was that in the early 1950s?
Katz:Fifty, fifty-two, fifty-one maybe.
Levin: So you would commute from there up to —?
Katz:Yes. First I went down to Columbia, but then I started going out to Lamont. It was very easy.
Jean Katz: It was easy.
Katz:Get on the bridge.
Jean Katz: George Washington Bridge.
Levin: One thing I wanted to ask you about was the early paper that you wrote that you published in 1949, the Study of Microseismic [cross talk].
Levin: How did you get going on that particular research project?
Katz:Letís see what happened. Iím trying to think. There was a fellow named
Leet at Harvard.
Levin: Yes. [Lewis Donald] Leet.
Jean Katz: Don Leet.
Katz:About whom you may have heard from other people. Heís not unknown.
Doel: How much involved with him were you? How did you come to know him?
Katz:Only through Ewing, but I didnít know him. But he and — I donít know all the details, but he and Ewing had some sort of a faffing out. None of the details of which I know. Maybe they arenít worth knowing.
Jean Katz: I think it may have had to do with Ewingís first wife. I donít know anything about the — Squirrel again. [This refers to an agile squirrel who kept distracting us with his antics on the bird feeder.]
Katz:I should draw the drapes. No, this time he gave up. Excuse me. Go ahead.
Levin: We may have an attribute for the end of this interview. [laughter].
Katz:So, letís see. I donít have a very clear recollection how I got started on it, but I think Professor Ewing came in one day and said, Sam. Leet had published a paper. Thatís what it was. Published a paper in which he described the microseismic storm, have you got it there?
Levin: In New England. In fact, Iíve got the paper here. This was in the Bulletin of the [Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America].
Katz:Seismology. So he [Ewing] said, Sam, thereís something fishy about this. Apparently there was a cold front that moved across the continental margin and Leet related the microseismic storm to the cold front. I think thatís what it was.
Levin: Thatís right.
Katz:And then so Ewing says, thereís something fishy about this. Could you really look into this? It turned out a very strong low pressure was also going up the coast. I donít remember in detail. And I decided thatís a better explanation for — So I think thatís what the paper was about.
Levin: Indeed. Iím wondering how much meteorology it took for you to make this.
Katz:Only spatial correlations. Studying maps and studying the way the microseismic storm grew on the seismic records.
Levin: And then somebody correlated that to the weather charts to actually see.
Katz:It wasnít until quite a bit later that anybody dreamed up a mechanism for how the storms generate the microseisms. If Professor Ewing had said to me see if you can figure out how this could happen, I might have, I donít know if Iíd have been able to. But he didnít say that. You know, he probably couldnít, didnít know either. So this was purely minor correlating, with weather maps, with seismograms, and time correlation too. And as I recall there was even some question about which was the right explanation after I wrote my paper. I think Leet wrote a rejoinder of some kind. And I donít know who had the final say. [Cross talk]. But it was part of a long running feud. And I think I was between the two principals. And I think I was sort of, in retrospect, years later I realized that this was just an ongoing feud between Leet and Ewing and I was a —
Levin: You were a pawn?
Katz:I was a pawn in the game. Thatís what I think. I donít know.
Levin: Thatís an interesting observation.
Katz:I donít want to speculate on this. There are enough things to have hard feelings about. Why have hard feelings about people who are long gone? I had a run-in with Leet many years later when I was a professor at RPI already. I was involved in — I was a technical witness in a proceeding up in Buffalo where Leet was on the other side. This time he won. There was a lot of money involved and the jury didnít believe me, they believed him although technically his presentation was a lot of garbage really. I say that dispassionately. It involved Kimberly Clark paper people and when they started building some of the construction around Niagara Falls, they made a lot of deep excavations. And very sensitive equipment responded to the excavations. He said it couldnít be due to the excavations. There was so much evidence on the time correlation, that whatever you wanted to believe about the mechanisms, it was clearly excavation work at fault.
Levin: Thatís interesting. Because that sounds a little about like the major controversy he gets involved in with the nuclear test ban issue back in 1962.
Katz:What was he arguing?
Levin: He was arguing that the composition of the official U.S. panel included too many Lamont-trained people.
Katz:Oh he kept that up. He kept that controversy up. Just terrible. He was such a — I had independent ó I didnít feel so bad about the whole thing because a very great physicist [P. W. Bridgman] was visiting us when I worked at Stanford and he was telling me about Leet and confirmed my very negative views. So I just decided I wasnít [voice fades]
Doel: I was wondering when you were talking about the graduate community at Columbia and some of these students were working on controversial topics, such as sea floor spreading and other ideas. How were they received by the professors?
Katz:The sea floor spreading came afterwards. Letís see, I had left in Ď53. The discovery of sea floor spreading didnít really start until a number of years later. Maybe five years. Maybe even more definitive evidence didnít really come until early sixties.
Doel: Were there other issues that the graduates were looking at?
Katz:Well, when I was actually at Columbia working, the impression that drifted down from the meetings that Professor Ewing used to go to was a lot of, whatís the right word? It seemed as though there was a great deal of competition between Russell Raitt and Ewing on the seismic work. I donít know how Iím going to describe this. Ask me the question again.
Doel: No problem.
Katz:Youíre touching sore spots. [Laughter]
Doel: When ideas came up that werenít fully accepted by the scientific community, that perhaps were very debatable, did professors or other graduates, like Worzel, perhaps, he was a little more conservative. How were they received?
Katz:A strong tendency not to go too far out beyond what the accepted thoughts were. In other words, back in about nineteen forties, I guess it must have been about 1949 or Ď50 the discovery was made that the ocean floor essentially was a two-layer structure. Sediments directly under laid by mafic rocks with a kilometer of sediments and perhaps three or four kilometers of mafic rocks. And there was a strong tendency for that simple pattern to stay accepted, even though evidence was accumulating that maybe it wasnít quite so simple. And when somebody came up with evidence that suggested that things were more complicated the evidence wasnít quickly accepted.
Levin: If I recall correctly, that was an issue that emerged from your own dissertation research wasnít it? That you were finding evidence that indeed the structure —
Katz:How did you find that out?
Levin: The structure was — [Laughter]
Katz:How did you find that out?
Levin: The story of work.
Katz:But how did any —? Oh thatís interesting.
Levin: There were some letters that I happened to see in the Frank Press collection that suggested that what you were finding was a much more complicated structure in the mafic rocks and that the velocities were different.
Katz:So Frank wrote about that.
Levin: And that the Ė
Katz:Good, Iím glad Iím not the first one to say it. No, and essentially what happened, and I really shouldnít carp about it so belatedly. In 1953, Jean and I got married and went out to California to SRI [Stanford Research Institute]. I finished my dissertation by working at night after work. Arid even when I finished my dissertation, there was some objection expressed that I shouldnít do this that I should stay at Lamont. We did it anyway. I mean there were reasons for going away. So I worked pretty hard for quite a long while on my dissertation. I turned it in, and I just couldnít get away from finding that the simple two layer ocean sea floor picture somewhat more complicated. I found an additional layer essentially. Well, eventually I had to rewrite my thesis to take the additional layer out.
Levin: And was this Joe Worzelís criticisms of that or was it —?
Katz:No, actually it didnít come directly from Joe. It came from somebody else. You know I donít think you want to mention or memorialize all this. This was so long ago. But, I saw the same pattern reluctance to accept new [ideas] repeated later on. And I think great discoveries were being made, but they were sort of being made reluctantly.
Levin: But I think youíre touching on a really important point that as a graduate student —
Katz:I know. You accepted a paradigm and people donít want to change the paradigm. And in the process it takes a while. There are people who have written about this in all of science.
Jean Katz: Well, you wanted to get your degree.
Katz:Although my little extra layer didnít really make a great deal of difference. It wasnít a world shaking discovery, but I had a bunch of refraction lines which clearly indicated an additional layer. Essentially I had to ignore the points and redraw the line. To ignore the points was in order. Well it didnít, in terms of total things, it didnít make much difference. It just stuck another layer in. Much later, it was confirmed. And essentially an additional volcanic layer of sediments, volcanic layer and mafic rocks. So who — did Frank write letters about this or did somebody write a letter to Frank?
Levin: It was included, as I recall, in something Frank had himself written on the issue.
Katz:Well, I never knew that. I knew it had been done because I was on the receiving end of this. I had to redo my thesis, redo all the diagrams and all this other stuff. Later on in papers I read, I realized that there were people who had discovered the same layer several years after I had using a somewhat different technique who confirmed exactly what my first thesis was. It wasnít until many years later, when I was a professor at RPI already, when, who was it who came? Letís see, somebody from Rhode Island, who was a Lamont alumnus.
Levin: Not John Imbrie?
Katz:No, I canít remember his name. He gave — I invited him for a colloquium, I was chairman of the department at the time, I invited him from Rhode Island. And I didnít, I didnít know what he was going to talk about. And he talked about the layering of the ocean floor. And he had this layer which I had had in my original draft. So I went up to him afterwards. You know, you know the story of my original thesis: ďI know all about it; I heard it all from Bruce.Ē
Levin: Bruce Heezen?
Katz:Yes. And this was years later. This was fifteen years later.
Doel: So when you had to- -
Katz:But, you know, I think its all water over the dam.
Doel: But when you thought you had to take it out? Was this something that was expressed to you words or was it something that you just that assumed that in order to get this degree, that you would have to take it out?
Katz:Well, I didnít. You know, well — Iím not a very fighting kind of person. And with me out in California making long distance phone calls. And there are people at Lamont who are telling me I have to redraw the lines. So I redrew the line to get through which maybe I shouldnít have done.
Levin: How big was the community of people who were doing enough, who were doing the seismic refraction study who really were authoritative or could discuss with you the structure at that point?
Katz:Well, I was in touch with Russell Raitt but only, not formally. I mean I never, I never went to him. He didnít have my data and I wouldnít have dreamed of asking him to look at the data. He would be the only one really. Well the British were doing it. But thatís so far away, and I had no connection.
Levin: This is the large group.
Katz:Yes — Cambridge and Scripps and Lamont. Nobody else was doing refraction seismology.
Levin: And who at Lamont had by that point specialized in that? Joe Worzel was.
Katz:Everybody. I mean I was the last. I think I was the last Ph.D. thesis in marine refraction seismology. Besides, Chuck, well Chuck Drake. I was the last. Oh mine was the last Ph.D. thesis. Chuck Drake did a lot later on but not as part of a dissertation.
Jean Katz: Paul Wuenschel?
Katz:No, his was on gravity. He did a trans-South America gravity program. But letís see, it started off with Worzel/Ewing papers, and then Worzel/Ewing/Press paper. And mine was the next one. So that additional third layer in retrospect. I didnít know it at the time. But essentially, that third layer, made the picture a little more complicated in terms of, oh, the four authored paper that preceded it, Ewing/Press/Hamilton — who else? Worzel? Yes it was Officer. Officer was, yes he was on. Well that first, that simple structure paper.
Levin: Was there a physical model that you felt may have made the others beholden to the simplified two layer model would influence their views?
Katz:Well actually, I can sympathize with what they decided because. I think if the tables had been turned and I had been a senior faculty member at Lamont at the time and I had a graduate student who came up with something that differed from the accepted paradigm, I would have said, well maybe so, maybe no. Letís go out to sea and try it once more. But by then, I was out in California. Had a great range of data. And I think the simplest thing that Joe or somebody there or maybe even Ewing decided was, well, letís just reinterpret it and make two layers out of it. I donít know.
Levin: Iím curious. You were about to say something.
Jean Katz: Well, I was about to say that whenever there is a simplest explanation, sometimes it makes sense to go with the simplest explanation. [Cross talk] You put circles on circles on circles.
Levin: Not exactly. Occamís [Middle English scientific philosopher] razor works quite well.
Katz:And it is true that — and I donít know if youíre familiar with seismic refraction diagrams, but essentially they consist of a bunch of straight lines. So if you get in a bunch of points close in, it doesnít require a great stretch of imagination to draw a single line through, you know, through points which really should have two separate lines. So you draw an average slope between the lines. Thatís what I ended up doing. And it didnít change the depth of the mantle discontinuity which one of the important things to search for. It didnít change the depth of that appreciably or much. But it certainly changed the idea of what kind of volcanic layer it is. In retrospect, why should there be just sediments on top of mantle because itís constantly being extruded as volcanic material? So just geologically it makes more sense to think of sediments as some superficial volcanic material and then the mantle discontinuity.
Levin: Were you thinking of it in that way at that time? Were you putting those thoughts and explanations on to the different velocities?
Katz:Well, I was looking at all the velocities in terms of the published velocities from comparable rocks. And the group of velocities for the layer under the sediments was exactly what had been found on land for typical volcanic rock. [voice fades] So that just matched perfectly with the slopes I was finding.
Levin: And you were, as you say, you were already away from Lamont at the time that you were actually writing the final draft. Did you have these data before you left? Were you already interpreting it in terms of —
Katz:Yes. I think I had all the slopes. I had all the lines drawn.
Levin: Prior to this thesis?
Katz:But Iím not sure I had them all assembled in tables and said, here, look, this is whatís going on. So, you know, I can sympathize with them. They hadnít looked at my travel times. Although I must have shipped those back with my thesis. I donít know.
Levin: I was just wondering if there was anyone within the Lamont community that you were able to talk to about the physical interpretation that you wanted to give.
Katz:Not that I remember. All I remember is being told reinterpret it to make one layer out of it. So I just drew an average slope, recalculated the depths, and there it was. But a huge amount of drafting involved. It looks like. Is that the paper there?
Levin: I was going to say. I believe that this is. Itís the one thatís joint authored. [Cross talk].
Katz:Yes thatís it. Take it away. [Laughter]
Levin: Itís away. Iím curious too, a lot of papers clearly from this time had Ewingís name connected. How did you feel about the practice?
Katz:I felt good about Ewingís name. There was. Yes, I felt good about it. A third author was proposed, but I expressed my opinion to Professor Ewing that it should just be the two of us.
Doel: How much were graduate students, how much were they allowed or pushed to publish, under their own name?
Katz:My impression was that it was doing things together. For which early on I think there was ample justification. He got the money for the research. He worked very hard to get the data. And he was on the other ship, the Atlantis. This kind of data requires two ships. So he and Hennion were on one ship. And they worked very hard; intimately involved in getting the data. Even got a student cranking, you know, cranking out the results using the theory that you developed. I mean we were all using the linear refraction theory that Ewing and Worzel wrote. I think thatís usual although, Iím not sure. Yes, I think it was. Iím sure there comes a point where — I think the criterion should be or should have been that if the student could have done sixty or seventy percent on his own, the name should be on it. But this was certainly not the case.
Jean Katz: Well on the other hand, a student is just a name. And if you get Ewing and Katz, that makes —
Katz:Or Katz and Ewing.
Jean Katz: Or Katz and Ewing. But if youíve got Ewing on there, it helps.
Katz:Iím sure the young student is helped by having a meaningful second author. Even though everybody, I mean, everybody must have known that I turned the crank on all of this, most of it. I mean Ewing organized the expeditions, got the money, and did a lot of the work.
Levin: Provided the infrastructure and the means in order to —
Katz:Yes. [Cross talk] They also give you advice on writing the thing up.
Doel: How is it that you found the journals to be published? Did Ewing help with that? Which journals?
Katz:Yes. I think. I donít know if I was told. I think all the other papers in that series appeared in the GSA so I just assumed thatís the place to go. And Iím sure I must have asked him is that a good place to send it.
Levin: What journals were you particularly reading?
Katz:Mostly, I wasnít reading the GSA bulletin much unless somebody told me thereís a paper there I should read. Geophysics, the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America and what else?
Levin: JGR [Journal of Geophysical Research].
Katz:Yes. JGR. Back then there was just one JGR. There werenít a lot of the disciplines. Of course, JGR and Geophysics. And there was a Society of European geophysicists had a journal, I donít remember the name. I used to look at that. And there might have been a Japanese one.
Levin: And the Bulletin from the Seismology society.
Katz:Yes, the Bull SSA [Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America]. Yes.
Levin: You know I was curious too about an earlier paper that you had worked on with Albert Crary and Jack Oliver and Press. Refracture waves.
Katz:Oh yes. I had a slide from that expedition — Sent it to Frank. He wrote me a nice letter back.
Levin: How did that come about, did you get involved in?
Katz:Oh well, Ewing had. Well Albert Crary was a good friend of Ewingís. In fact, he was related to Joeís wife.
Jean Katz: Dot is a Crary.
Levin: Thatís right.
Katz:So anyway, he had a contract with [cough drowns out words]. Was it Crary? Or was it Peoples, Jim Peoples? Anyway, we had a contract from the Air Force. We, I mean, Ewing had a contract from the Air Force.
Levin: Right. That was the geophysical research directive from Cambridge.
Katz:I donít know if I was fully informed about it. I was pretty low on the totem pole. My recollection and understanding was, the ostensible reason for the contract was to find ways to measure the thickness of Arctic ice in terms of safety for landing airplanes on the arctic ice. So the question was how do you determine the thickness without going down and drilling a hole? And so one method proposed was to parachute seismometers onto the ice and then parachute or drop charges so that the seismic waves were generated on the ice sheet. And by measuring, something about the waves that come through determines the thickness. So thatís how we ended up, we ended up on Lake Superior. We could go up there and it had a pretty good thickness of ice and measure what you could. And see if thereíd be any correlation. It turned out you could.
Levin: Did all four of you go up to Lake Superior?
Katz:We all went up. Oh yes. And we all drove up. It was quite a drive — Middle of winter; Frank and Jack Oliver and me and Crary.
Jean Katz: Crary.
Katz:But Iím not sure Crary drove out. Anyway, yes, we went up to Cornucopia, Wisconsin.
Katz:Cornucopia. We found ourselves some rooms there and did our work for most of the week. It was pretty exciting. Some kind of adventure.
Levin: What was the most adventuresome part of it? Besides just the trip up and —?
Katz:Well, just working out on the ice and driving the truck on the ice which seemed rather scary to me, never having tried that game. I guess occasionally ice breaks loose and the wind shifts. I could see myself being out there on an ice floe, but it didnít happen so.
Jean Katz: Wasnít there an icebreaker?
Katz:Well we went up the straits of Mackinac and itís kept open all winter through icebreakers. So that was exciting.
Levin: So you were actually on the ship then going up that way.
Katz:Yes, well we drove through Michigan and the northern end of Michigan. I donít know, somewhere in the straits of Mackinac, I donít remember the exact connection, to get to Cornucopia. Seven miles.
Levin: And then once you were out on the ice each day; be laying out the geophones and setting off charges.
Katz:Yes. We just did that all day long and got the records home.
Levin: And then worked them up in the evenings?
Katz:Then worked them up. We worked up enough records as I recall to be sure we had a depth defendence. It turned out the depth dependence was on the dispersion pattern in the flexural waves. I think Frank was the one who analyzed that and was essentially responsible for Ė
Levin: Again, weíre holding a copy of this one article and Iím showing it to you.
Katz:I think that was mostly his. I think the rest of us facilitated the work. I think thatís really Frankís. Frankís name is first.
Levin: What was Jack Oliver like?
Jean Katz: He was a football star at college.
Katz:I donít think he was that different from the rest of us graduate students. I think his discoveries. I mean discoveries came later. He hadnít even begun this global tectonics work that he did. He hadnít even begun that.
Katz:There wasnít nearly enough data to even think about that.
Levin: As you say, that comes later in 1960.
Katz:That comes later. And back then we were all busy taking courses. I forget what research he was doing. It must have been surface wave research of some kind. But we were all; I mean it was so early. We were all first or second year graduate students.
Levin: Either back at Columbia or out at Lamont, were there any colloquia that you remember being particularly memorable?
Katz:We did not have an active colloquium program. I donít remember. Was it ever a visitor we had who gave a talk? Certainly not when we were downtown; at Lamont. If there was, there wasnít more than once in every three months. There wasnít even that. Occasional visitor, but there was nothing on a weekly organized program.
Doel: You did mention that you were at one time living in International House. And so there were people coming in from abroad. Where were these people mostly coming from? Were they—?
Katz:Many from India. Some from other universities in the United States — quite a few from other places in the states. Many from Europe. None from the eastern bloc. I guess because we were in the Cold War. Africa, many from Africa. There must have been some from the Pacific. Some from Turkey. I donít remember South America. There must have been South Americans. Very few in science. They were mostly in social studies and history and music.
Jean Katz: Near Juilliard.
Katz:Yes, right near Juilliard. Right near, yes, right near Juilliard. I donít know if Juilliard is still there now.
Doel: Do you recall any particular foreigner working in science?
Doel: At Lamont.
Jean Katz: Goesta?
Katz:Yes, Goesta Woffin, but he was really American. He was Swedish-American. And [Wenceslas S.] Jardetsky who [voice fades]
Jean Katz: And the fellow?
Katz:Yes, much later. Inge Lehman. Except I think she came to Lamont after we were there. We had her. We visited.
Jean Katz: She visited us in California.
Katz:She visited us in California. But at Lamont, I think. Was she there when we were there?
Jean Katz: How come she visited us in California if she hadnít known us before?
Katz:Thatís right. We must have known her at Lamont. So sheís a famous Danish seismologist. Who died not so long ago. There may have been visitors. No they would have been later. [Sir Edward C.] Bullard and all these people. That came later.
Levin: Probably just after the time that you had left that Teddy Bullard came over.
Jean Katz: There was one Indian graduate student when I was first at Schermerhorn. I canít remember his name. I donít know that he — I think he probably took a couple of courses, but he didnít take a degree. Bannerjee.
Jean Katz: Spelled with an E-E on the end of it.
Doel: Was there collaboration with these foreign scientists? Were there any
miscommunications or did it —?
Katz:I donít remember any language problems at Lamont.
Doel: Any cultural differences or obstacles? Youíre shaking your head no.
Katz:Yes. I mean, I donít think there were enough foreign folks there to create anything like that. Lamont was not a very cosmopolitan place early in its history. Wouldnít you say thatís true? I mean, except, I mean that was always my impression from early on. Dobrin, Steenland, and all these guys. And Chuck Officer.
Jean Katz: They were all white males.
Katz:Yes, theyíre all white males. Very white males and many of them went to Ivy League schools. There were a few others like Bill Donn and me.
Levin: How well did you come to know Bill Donn?
Katz:Quite well. Very well.
Levin: Did you talk to you about his meteorological interest or what he was, his climate ideas being developed?
Katz:Yes. We were there at that point. We nursed those things along. The ice age for example.
Levin: The ice wrap of boulders and other things.
Katz:No that I donít remember. But I remember the cause of the ice age. I guess the mechanism later on got modified in greater detail. But early on that was a pretty exciting development. The idea of the lowering of the sea level and the sifi depths in the Atlantic determining whether there would be water in the Arctic Ocean. [Cross talk] And at that time that seemed to be the right mechanism, but I donít know what happened. Somebody, maybe it was Ewing or Donn discovered that maybe this wasnít true after they had published the paper. And I think they modified the mechanism. And I donít know what the status of it is. I think the status of it now has to do with Wally [Wallace S.] Broeckerís discovery of the deep circulation of the Atlantic Ocean which came a long way.
Levin: I was wondering if that was something that was widely discussed at Lamont. Iím blocking on the name of the individual out at Scripps who had argued that there was evidence for substantial lowering of the ocean depth. But that wasnít supported generally amongst the Lamont folks.
Katz:I donít know. I wasnít part of that work. I donít remember that. It may have come after.
Levin: How did you —? This was informally that you heard those ideas on climate?
Or were they presented?
Katz:No. They were never formally presented, you know at seminars. Ewing and Bill were working on it. And they would tell me about it. But I donít think any of the people ever got up and presented their thesis before the other graduate students. Do you remember anything like that? There was never anything, nothing like that. I donít know why that is. Never had a formal program. Then in 1953, there were definitely no formal programs.
Levin: I realize you were getting married right about then too. Was there a lot of socializing that you recall amongst the graduate students at first?
Katz:At our wedding I guess we had everybody out, didnít we? The whole crew.
Jean Katz: We had a lot of them.
Katz:There was quite a social interaction.
Levin: Had you thought that Lamont might be a longer term home for you? Or, at what point at least did you begin looking for other opportunities besides Lamont?
Katz:Well, towards the end of my graduate career, I decided I had to go somewhere. I didnít really want to stay for a number of reasons. I guess I sort of started having the feeling that maybe Iíll never finish my thesis if I stay here because Ewing was always dreaming of something else for me to do.
Levin: I was wondering if that was part of the general pattern, because he did have a lot of his students —
Katz:So Iím not sure I want that on the record. But since you asked me, Iíll answer. I decided well, Iíll take my chances. And where else could I go? And I applied to a few places, and I got some offers. I remember Professor Ewing even expressing some displeasure at my decision as to where to go. He wanted me to go to work for a California oil company which was also involved in research. But I decided Stanford Research Institute would be more challenging. So thatís where I went.
Jean Katz: Well, you have to make your own decision. Not keep on being low man on the totem pole and so Ewing says go somewhere.
Katz:I was trying to answer your question specifically. Oh, how did I come to go? And also I decided for personal reasons, which, you know, to be ready to start a new life somewhere else for a while and possibly come back. So we went out to Stanford and my father got very ill after two years. I had gone to a Gordon conference to give a paper on the work that I was doing at SRI and came back. I came back east alone to New Hampshire in the middle of the summer. And thereís this beautiful green landscape. And California was beautiful golden landscape, only after two years the golden didnít look so beautiful anymore. And I decided well, itís time, since my father was quite sick, terminally sick, if Iím ever going to make a move. In all this beautiful green landscape that I wouldnít mind looking at again and I decided to come back. And I wrote to Professor Ewing and he offered me a job. At the same time I had — Oh, at the same time, I told Frank Press I wanted to come back. And he said, well thereís an opening at RPI [Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute] , why donít you write? So it really was Frank who helped me find the RPI job. I applied, and I donít even think they had me back for a seminar. I donít know, they offered me a one year appointment with the assurance that if I didnít misbehave myself morally, Iíd probably get tenure. But it was Frank who told me about the RPI. Iím not sure quite why I didnít go to Lamont. Oh, I guess the RPI situation seemed better. I could continue doing what Iíd been doing at SRI. And I had misgivings about coming back to Lamont for a number of reasons.
Levin: Iím curious what those reasons are.
Katz:Well, I think it was partly the inevitable need to search for funding. Not for just part of your salary, but your whole salary. And then actually Iím not sure Iíd gotten over by then having to rewrite my thesis when it wasnít clear why I should.
Levin: Perfectly understandable.
Katz:As it turned out later that I shouldnít have. And I didnít have the strength of character then or professional ó oh, whatís the right word — assurance. I wasnít that secure professionally.
Levin: Thatís an extraordinarily difficult position to be in.
Katz:Of course. I mean Iím sure if some people would have had the personality to fight it out, but I didnít. And I donít think. I think, again, if the tails had been turned and I were Professor Ewing and he was me, and I would have said, well come back and go on another cruise and get some more data and make sure this is right. But, and it was probably not sensible, to just make me redraw those lines. I guess, you know, they probably figured that I wasnít about to do that anyway.
Levin: What sort of things were you doing out at Stanford Research Institute?
Katz:It was high pressure. High pressures. Using explosives to generate the high pressures. Equations of state. In other words, trying to determine pressure volume
relationships at very high pressures generated by explosives. Essentially I had in mind doing a kind of thing that one of my Ph.D. students has now gotten a great deal of recognition for, Tom Ahrens. I donít know if youíve heard the name.
Levin: I sure have.
Katz:But he went out to Cal Tech and essentially did the kind of work I sort of had hoped maybe might be possible using explosives.
Levin: That was a rather different field than you had been in before?
Katz:Oh yes. Well I figure that if Tom Poulter, whoís running the Poulter labs, had enough faith in me to think I could do it then I would give it a try. Another adventure.
Levin: Indeed. Indeed. Had you had exposure to others who were doing high pressure work —
Katz:No, nobody at Lamont.
Levin: At UCLA or —?
Katz:Not when I was at Lamont. But Tom Poulter had been, had done very significant geophysics work. And I figured in his lab, why I had the option, you know, in geophysics or whatever else he had in mind. And of course the Stanford Research Institute was also a contracting institution. Nobody was on permanent salary. Also Stanford, Menlo Park was a nice place.
Levin: Indeed. Did you have much interaction with the Geological Survey? They did have an office there.
Katz:At that time.
Levin: Or was that prior to the time?
Katz:That came later. There was interaction with Stanford. In fact, I got to know the Stanford geology people. In fact, they had me teach a course when I was there.
Levin: Is that right?
Katz:I taught geophysics. Exploration geophysics when somebody went on sabbatical. So that was a pretty close relationship. At that time they did not have anything resembling Lamont. This was in 1954 or 5. Geophysics was, it was all right, but it wasnít anything on the scale of Lamont.
Levin: In fact, Stanford was much more focused on exploration geophysics as I recall.
Katz:Stanford? Yes, but even — Yes, I guess Josh Soske. But he wasnít there when I was. He must have come earlier. Iím trying to think of who was there. George. George [Thompson]. I canít put a last name on it.
Levin: We can always add that to the transcript later. And then you had, as you mention, the offer to go out to RPI. One of the things that Iím really interested in is your perceptions of Lamont as Lamont continued to develop in the 1960s from the point of view of — by the 1960s you were chair of the department at RPI.
Katz:Well as years went by, I got more and more jealous of the wonderful work they were doing and it was obvious I couldnít do it where I was. On the other hand, I also didnít want to have some of the social and professional interactions.
Levin: By being within that community.
Katz:Yes. But the work was just, I mean, it was so fascinating.
Levin: Particularly what are you thinking about now?
Katz:Well, the discoveries of the magnetic symmetry, the magnetic anomalies across ocean ridges.
Levin: What [Neil] Opdyke and Hennion were doing?
Katz:No, I was thinking first of the British people. Bullard and some other people. People at Cambridge.
Levin: Later Cox and Duell.
Katz:And then the Lamont magnetic discoveries. And then Oliverís paper. He had some nice work. [Referring to squirrel outside.] He did it again. He jumped up. He jumped right over. He grabbed onto the big pipe and up he went. That doesnít happen very often. What am I going to do? I guess I have to put in a bigger pipe.
Levin: Before the wayward squirrel had managed to get up the — that rather tall thing that you still have out there —
Katz:Itís going to be an interesting transcript. [crosstalk]
Levin: Yes it will. You were talking about Jack Oliver and his work on the global tectonics. Vis-a-vis Lynn Sykes and Brian Isacks.
Katz:You couldnít help but be envious, I donít mean envious in a bad way, just wishing that youíd done that. I mean aside from having to be a very good scientist, you have to have a lot of data. I donít see how a person in a small institution could be doing it.
Levin: How many people were in your department at?
Katz:At RPI? Letís see, seven or eight of us; counting adjuncts, seven or eight — one in each field. No, we had no specialization which wasnít very good, but itís just the way things evolved. And I essentially moved into the chairmanship when the chairman died although I didnít seek the chairmanship out. I was in the middle of a lot of active research. But there really was no choice. I mean endless administrative problems took over my mind. So we had one faculty member in each of many different disciplines. And there wasnít much interaction that results in fruitful research.
Doel: Did you still retain your ties with Columbia? Were you hearing things from people of what was being done, what they were working on?
Katz:Not formally. Not formally.
Katz:Only through Bill Donn. Bill was the only one that, only Lamonter that we kept track of through the years. In fact, through all the years till he died. We havenít kept up with Renee after Bill died. I donít know what sheís up to. She was a physician up there at Sparkill [NY]. He was the main one. Marie? No, we didnít keep up with Marie. We didnít get — We got together with Marie again when my daughter went to Lamont.
Doel: So most of your information concerning Lamont was through —
Katz:Well I would go to AGU [American Geophysical Union] and I would talk to people.
Doel: And at RPI, most so there wasnít that much social interaction after work was out?
Doel: At RPI.
Katz:No, we were all reasonably good acquaintances, friends. Thereís another Lamonter, I donít know whether heís on your list to be. Don Miller. He must be — he wasnít a contemporary of Wally Broecker. Two or three years ahead of that group. And we were both Lamonters so we had something in common to talk about.
Levin: When you look down as chair of the department at RPI, how did Lamont by the 1960s compare to Woods Hole or to Scripps or even to the MIT earth sciences group that had been established?
Katz:Well, Iím trying to recall. You know, at that time I had to essentially answer that question for surveys for the quality of graduate schools. I think for a beginning graduate student, Iím not sure Lamont would have been the best place. Iím not sure. I always wondered. I never knew who was doing any teaching at Lamont. And thatís of some importance. I know the research atmosphere is of great importance. But still. I think Iím not sure I would have recommended beginning Lamont for graduate students. But in terms of post-doc, Lamont certainly, it has always been among the best places.
Levin: One other thing, please go ahead.
Katz:Well, Iím not sure. I really donít have a good opinion of that. I mean so many generations went through there after me who were great scientists. I guess I would have to say in retrospect that Lamont certainly is one of the top places to have gone to. But you know I might have had people at the beginning graduate level, they might have been as well off going elsewhere.
Doel: What was it about Lamont that made it so successful? Why is it such a successful research school?
Katz:Well, early on undoubtedly it was Ewing. He was certainly responsible in terms of ideas, funding. After I left, Iím not sure. I mean there were certainly plenty of people who were extremely productive and carried that tradition on. Frank and Oliver: the magnetic people. Opdyke. I mean the tradition certainly continued and I see my daughter down there now. My daughterís not a graduate student. Sheís on staff. But I see what theyíre doing recently is very impressive. So if I had to judge right now, I would say Lamont is probably the best place for a graduate student to go.
Doel: What was it about Ewing that was his spark?
Katz:I guess the dedication and zeal and the example he set in terms of working harder than anybody else. He certainly set an example that Iíd never seen before in terms of how hard somebody could work and how dedicated they could be. Iím not sure that some of it wasnít overdone. And Iím not sure that the results that were achieved couldnít have been achieved with a somewhat lower level of work intensity and — I think here you know what Iím saying. I have a few other things I could say, but, you know.
Levin: Iím wondering, following up on Tanyaís question, if you were aware in the 1960s of what became known as the Heezen affair when the controversy between Ewing and Heezen was so strong that it really became a rift in the Lamont community. Was that something that you knew of?
Katz:I didnít know it intimately. And I think I put it out of my mind. Oh I remember now. Yes, I remember the story. I think Bruce was telling me about this. There was a lot of data that came off a cruise. And I donít know the details. I think I put it out of my mind as being too unpleasant to think about.
Levin: I heard that it seemed to affect the quality of Lamont in the 1960s as it was at its peak.
Katz:I donít know.
Doel: About this time Marie moved out of Lamont and she was in her house essentially? Did you go out to visit her?
Katz:Only when my daughter moved to Lamont. We arranged it. I called Marie up and said how are you? Can you come out to lunch? Iíd like you to meet my daughter. So we all went out to lunch. And she took us to her house and showed us all through. I guess we corresponded with her a little bit since then. But I remember some unpleasant things going on between Ewing and Bruce. Bruce being involved in that. But I donít remember the details. And I remember vaguely something about some data that he wouldnít let go of or whatever. It was taken away from him or something. I donít know what he and Doc argued about that caused the break. Do you know?
Levin: There are a number, actually quite a few.
Katz:Did they still both work at Lamont? Did they just not talk to each other?
Levin: Heezen remained at Lamont until his death.
Katz:Okay. You know Bill Donn told me about Bruce dying in a submersible. But I didnít know, know about the bad blood. It must be terrible to work together in the same outfit and not talk to each other.
Levin: There were two powerful principals. One last question and I want to leave open for any questions you have. One that I always like to ask. We already touched on parts of this, I think, but were there any personal, religious convictions you found to have been very important, very influential throughout?
Katz:I guess the only one would be — I think the humanist tradition of Judaism is the one that I unconsciously have accepted most. It took me quite a while to become used to the idea that maybe all of the ritual wasnít for me. There are other traditions that are also humanist in orientation. So Iíve gotten pretty far away from normal standards of orthodox, religious outlooks. And even the humanism, gotten modified to encompass more of nature than just mankind. Mankind maybe is turning into something of a scourge upon the natural scene. There are too many of us. But Iím not about to do away with myself. So, I donít know if thatís the sort of answer youíre looking for. I certainly havenít gotten more religious as the years went by.
Doel: Thatís interesting. Talking to Jean about the new setup, she mentioned particularly the greenness of the new building. When you transferred over and you were more involved in the scientific site, what did you notice about the new building? What impressed you about it?
Katz:You mean Lamont Hall; the building that we first worked in, in terms of Schermerhorn Hall. Well, I just was very impressed being able to work out in the country in a very bucolic environment. Quiet. Go out for lunch and go down and look at the Hudson River and see all the flowers and it was just an extremely physically congenial environment. And I certainly enjoyed working in a nice airy room on the second floor at Lamont. It was a fairly pleasant place to work. Itís quite different now. Well, it really isnít that different. My daughter has the same kind of a setup. Sheís in the core lab. And a nice office. Greenery on the outside. There are just so many more people.
Doel: Did the labs and the facilities — did they facilitate the work that you were doing? Did they enhance it?
Katz:Well, all there was really was Lamont Hall. And we had all these rooms to stretch our records out in. The instrumentation I think was actually still being done downtown to some extent. It was certainly a nice place to work. And there were very few of us. Kitty, do you want to go out? [Referring to cat.] You want to shut the recorder off? Compared to Amsterdam Avenue and 119th Street.
Levin: We caught all that. You say it was certainly a nice place to work.
Katz:And, in terms of people, a very nice place to work too. I guess there was some tension among the geophysics people, but not that much. They got along pretty well. The geochemists were a very friendly group. A very nice bunch of people. They mostly were downstairs.
Doel: So was there a lot of connection with the geochemists because of the —?
Katz:Social. Social connection. We would ride out from New York. I was commuting from Riverside Drive to Lamont.
Doel: Did you talk to them about what they were working on?
Katz:Yes. Bruno Giletti and Herb [Herbert W.J Feely and Herb [Herbert L.] Voichok. And we talked about our work. Yes, Barbara.
Jean Katz: And the two brothers.
Katz:Are you talking of the geochemists also. Oh okay. There were two brothers who worked for Kulp.
Jean Katz: And Barbara was one.
Jean and Sam Katz:Eckelmann.
Katz:The Eckelmanns, yes. I actually found Larry very pleasant to talk to at that time. I donít know what heís become at a high level. Does he still work for Weyerhauser?
Levin: Heís retired from —
Katz:Heís retired. Okay. I didnít realize that he got involved in extremely conservative political attitude. Not really in tune with what I grew to believe. But at that time, he was very pleasant to talk to.
Levin: Were you aware of his religious views?
Katz:Oh yes. Thereís a whole bunch of them that were involved. With Wheaton College?
Levin: Thatís right.
Katz:Herb Feely, his wife had polio. They were all very religious. At that time that didnít bother me at all.
Doel: You were talking to him about their work. Do you think any of their ideas bouncing them off each other in cross-disciplines; do you think that is, it spurred new ideas, fresh ways of thinking about your own research or otherís peoples?
Katz:I donít think there was much interaction. I tried to understand what they were doing. And Iím not sure. Each knew of the others of our work, but the work was so unrelated at that time that there would have been no interaction. Marine seismology was, at that time was static, and you were interested in finding the structure of the ocean floor. And the idea of the evolution of the sea floor in terms of sea floor spreading was ten years away. And thatís where the geochemistry would have come in, or did come in eventually. At that time we were essentially separate disciplines working under the same roof. The idea of a mobile earth, mobile down to the greatest depths is something that didnít really gain currency, until the 60s. Back then the earth was static. Thanks to Mr. [Sir Harold C.] Jeffreys, people couldnít conceive of how continental platforms could move around.
Levin: And here youíre referring to Harold Jeffreys and his volume.
Katz:Well, the whole tradition. The South Africans were much more accepting of continental drift. But here in America, it was highly unacceptable.
Doel: You said, you mentioned that the geophysicists were a much harder group. Theyíre a much harder people to connect with?
Katz:No. I think we saw more of the geochemists because of the commuting. We were going in and out of New York all of the time. No I think there were plenty of genuine geophysicists socializing. I mean people had individual preferences as to friendliness or who you were friends with. And I was quite friendly with Bruce and George Sutton, and some other people but not with all the other geophysicists, but some of them.
If you had a particularly v what kind of connection did you have with Bruce? What kind of a relationship was it? Were you particularly close?
Katz:Purely social. We talked to each other freely. Maybe too freely, but freely.
Doel: So were you very close?
Katz:Iím not sure what you mean by very close. I mean, I knew something about his family life. I donít think I knew very much about the love life, but I knew a little bit. And this was, this was before Marie. That hadnít started. When thd the thing with Marie start? Was it after we left? Or about the time we left? When were we at Columbia? When were we downtown?
Jean Katz: Marie was married when we were downtown.
Katz:Thatís right Marie was married. Tharp was her maiden name.
Jean Katz: Flanagan.
Katz:Flanagan was her married name.
Jean Katz: And her husband was a violinist. They didnít divorce until Marie was out at Lamont. So it was more than a year.
Katz:Iím sure that he and Marie didnít really start going together until a year after that. [Cross talk]
Jean Katz: They were working together.
Katz:I knew where he was from. Something about his parents and his background.
Jean Katz: On a turkey farm in Iowa.
Levin: I think weíre coming right up on lunch. This might be a good time to bring these questions to a close. But let me thank both of you on behalf of both of us very, very much for this long session. And you will be getting the tape, the transcript from Columbia University once itís been completed. Thank you very much.