Oral History Transcript — Marie Tharp
This transcript may not be quoted, reproduced or redistributed in whole or in part by any means except with the written permission of the American Institute of Physics.
This transcript is based on a tape-recorded interview deposited at the Center for History of Physics of the American Institute of Physics. The AIP's interviews have generally been transcribed from tape, edited by the interviewer for clarity, and then further edited by the interviewee. If this interview is important to you, you should consult earlier versions of the transcript or listen to the original tape. For many interviews, the AIP retains substantial files with further information about the interviewee and the interview itself. Please contact us for information about accessing these materials.
Please bear in mind that: 1) This material is a transcript of the spoken word rather than a literary product; 2) An interview must be read with the awareness that different people's memories about an event will often differ, and that memories can change with time for many reasons including subsequent experiences, interactions with others, and one's feelings about an event. Disclaimer: This transcript was scanned from a typescript, introducing occasional spelling errors. The original typescript is available.
See the catalog record for this interview and search for other interviews in our collection
Marie Tharp; September 14, 1994
ABSTRACT: Discusses her childhood and Tharp family history; her work in seismology and cartography with Lamont Doherty Observatory, National Geographic, and Wood Hole Oceanographic Institute; plotting the Mid-Atlantic Ridge; research vessles including the ATLANTIS and the VEMA. Prominently mentioned are: Maurice Ewing, Walter Bucher, Bruce Heezen, Helen Foster, J. L. Worzel. Interview contains appendices 1-20 and inserts that are available at the repository.
Doel:If you can just say a few words I'll verify whether things are being picked up.
Tharp:Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the country.
Doel:Country or party? [laughter] Okay. Right now it sounds like that's working just fine. This is Ron Doel, and this is an interview with Marie Tharp. Today is September 14, 1994, and we are making this interview in South Nyack, New York. I know that you were born in Ypsilanti, in Michigan, but I don't know about your parents or your early home life. And I wonder if you could tell me who your parents were, and what they did?
Tharp:How far back do you want to go, Sir? [laughter] I don't want to take up time on something you don't want to know about.
Doel:This is something I'd like to hear about.
Tharp:Well, let me see. Well quite by chance, I met somebody in a filling station in Washington, PA. I had just stopped to ask where somebody was that I was going to visit, and he says, "Oh yes, you're my fifth cousin once removed." I had never met the man before at all, and it turns out that this man, Thomas Tharp, has made a career of studying the Tharps as a hobby. He exhausted the genealogy of the Thorps in this country, and a couple of summers ago, he went back to England and got as far as the 13th century, because they keep good books over there in their churches, you know.
So they got back to this castle something or other, a Bacon castle or something, but he didn't do as thorough a job as he could in England. Or, maybe he could have gone back further, but one of the interesting things is that Thorp is a very common name in England. Actually, the first Thorps that came over to this country were Thorp, but after they beat up the British, in 1776, they were so proud that they thought they would proclaim their independence by changing the spelling from Thorp to Tharp. So that explains the difference between the two. I always sort of wondered what the difference was, but according to Tom Tharp, that is the reason for the difference. There are still some Thorps common in this country, you know: Jay Thorp, Oglethorp, and all those others. They just were not the revolutionary type who changed their name. I was asking Tom about this new book The Tharps Since the Civil War. He said that was no good, because they just got those names out of telephone books.
But Tom, he did the research like you do— [Insert A: This I need to check out by going down to the New York Biographical and Genealogical Library on 58th Street. The one reference I found was that there was St. Peter's Church in Woodbridge, New Jersey. The pastor there wrote up a history of each of his parishioners that were buried in the church's cemetery; some of them happened to be Tharps.] — got to cemeteries and court houses and got back to some place down here in Woodbridge, New Jersey which I should investigate. There was a preacher there who decided one day, to write up all the history of his parishioners, and one of them was a Tharp. And then some of these after the war of 1812, went westward, or after 1776 they went westward. Rhenben Tharp was one of them, and he stopped in Pennsylvania in Fayette County. He bought 100 acres as a soldier in the Revolution, and then ran a pub and had his own distillery. He's also been written up, but I've never gotten a hold of that book either, and I didn't get to see his cemetery where he got buried, lots of snow that day.
I understand the DAR put up a nice granite monument to him. To Job and his wife Hanna Lobdale. It's hard to find women names in history, no one ever knows which of 38 families of Lobdales he married. But the Tharps are easy to trace. They came further westward. Some of them landed in Perry County, Ohio. They were farmers and stuff. My grandfather was a shoemaker, and he had three children. They kept going westward, and my father was born in LaHarpe, Illinois, and then he grew up in Stuart, 100 miles west of where the family settled. That's where he grew up. [See Appendix 1: Genealogy of Marie Tharp - Tharps of Woodbridge, New Jersey, 1630, compiled by Marie Tharp, 1996]
Doel:How did he come to be in Ypsilanti?
Doel:That was where you were born, am I correct?
Uh huh. Well, the thing is that he went out — actually my mother was his second wife. [Insert B: Major Israel Newton. The Newton Family goes back about as far as the Tharps. My great grandfather sixth removed was Major Israel Newton (1694-1745). I always thought that this particular episode of the French-English was so little known because the Americans lost. On March 29, 1744, King George II of Britain declared war on France and Spain. Louisbourg on Cape Breton was so strongly fortified it was knows as the American Gibraltar and served as a haven for French Privateers that preyed on American fisherman and colonists. After this decree from England, the Americans decided to capture Louisbourg.
This was deemed a hazardous expedition by Benjamin Franklin and the Governor of Massachusetts looked with disfavor upon it. But, they finally agreed to it. The Governor of Rhode Island and the Governor of Connecticut were eager to cooperate. At that time, Israel Newton was a member of the General Assembly of Connecticut. On February 6, Israel was appointed Major of the Forces ordered to be raised and sent from this government in an expedition against Cape Breton. On March 14, 1745, Major Israel was granted funds, material and 500 men for the expedition to Cape Breton. The Connecticut forces were to be brought back to New London. General Walcott arrived April 1 with Colonel Andrew Burr and Lieutenant Colonel Simon Lathrup on the sloop DEFENSE. So the troops from Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts were carried to Cape Breton on the colonial Sloops CONNECTICUT, RHODE ISLAND and DEFENSE plus four other sloops and two brigs and one schooner.
About 1500 men left April 14 and after a stormy voyage, landed at Gabarus Bay, April 30. Israel was with Burr's division on the west side. He was with Pepperell who had command of the entire land forces. Vaughn was in command of the Naval forces. Pepperell captured the Grand Battery and the thirty heavy cannons. So the Americans turned the cannon on their enemy at Louisbourg. Pepperell had 200 men attached to each cannon to drag them through a deep swamp about two miles long. The men had no tents or blankets and slept on the damp ground at night. There were about 1500 men that were sick at once from exposure and 150 died. Major Israel was among those who died. He died on May 24, 1745. He was buried near the old town of Louisbourg. On June 15, 1745, the French commander declared that hostilities ceased and so Cape Breton and Nova Scotia remained in French hands. A memorial to Major Israel and the several hundred men who died there has now been restored along with a museum an the old fort. I have flown over it and seen the tall column from the air but I have never visited Nova Scotia on land. Major Israel had sailed from New London at Groton.
Nearby was the best preserved Revolutionary fort in America. It was here that Benedict Arnold, the traitor, who massacred the American troops after their surrender. Major Israel had hoped to return to New London and greet his family but then he never returned. Bruce Heezen also sailed out of New London on June 15, 1977 on the NR-1. He died at sea on June 21, 1997 and also never returned.] Papa was in Des Moines — I mean he grew up, went to school in Stuart, Iowa. It's in western Iowa. He went to school there, and as a kid he — in those days they didn't have motels or hotels, and it was a common if a man appeared at your dwelling, you were bound to feed and sleep him. You know, that was just common practice in those days. And so that's right after the Civil War, a lot of guys were passing through. Papa would always ask them questions about the Civil War, and it was quite entertaining. Then he went to high school and graduated, and then he taught school, and it was the most awful experience. He never went back teaching after one year. He had nightmares about it for years afterward. So then, he chose to work in a nursery for ten years, because he did know how to plant. One day he saw an ad for a Civil Service job. One was in the Weather Bureau. He took it, flunked it, he said he didn't know what a polar band was.
Doel:A polar band, right.
Tharp:He'd missed it. Then a year or so later, another Civil Service exam came along and he took it and passed it. That was with the US Bureau of Chemistry and Soils. Civil service in the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Doel:Had he had a particular interest in science? Was that something that he was teaching during that year that he taught? Or was it a general interest?
Tharp:I don't know. He was interested in the outdoors and plants and farming. Yeah, he was, though they had very few books and very poor — they were very poor, because his father, well, he was a cobbler, just made shoes. I was in Stuart once, and I drove around trying to locate where they might have lived, but I didn't have a picture of their house. It's still a very tiny town, but there's a huge Catholic Church there. I thought, how does this town support that huge Catholic Church, four times as big as the one up here, made out of cinder blocks, or cement blocks, I think, just huge, and a dome. And it turned out that it was a Catholic center for four or five counties. Very pleasing design even though it was out of a humble material. Papa was always friendly toward the Catholic Church, but he was quite liberal. Actually, he became a Unitarian, he was interested in religion in history. But I thought that it must have been that if he grew up with that big church in his back yard, you know, and then. Let's see, oh, well, then he passed the Civil Service exam, and he got a job for a thousand dollars a year, which was a lot of money.
Doel:That was big money back —
Tharp:In 1900 and so.
Tharp:And so he went off to survey soils, and the pattern there was you worked down South in the summer, and up North in the winter, because one cannot survey soils when snow covers up the soils.
Tharp:Do one county at a time. Make a map of a county, write a report. If you don't finish you come back the next season.
Tharp:And there was either two men to a party, one state man and one government man. Sometimes some of the parties would have four or six, but never more. Usually it was just two guys. Sometimes they had a base map and sometimes they didn't, then he had to pace off his own base map, and then map the soils. He wrote the report on rainy days. And then sent report and completed soil map to Washington. Soil samples were sent to the chemists. It took about a year to get drafted, printed and published. Then it was distributed to farmers, insurance companies, extension services of colleges, libraries, etc.
Doel:And he was still in this work when you were born?
Doel:I'm also curious whether your mother had an interest in science? Was that something that you talked to either your father or your mother about?
Tharp:She died when I was young. That's an interesting fact, because I don't remember, you know? I don't remember if she was interested in science. She had been a German teacher, and she was a German-Latin teacher in high school. But I don't remember science being a particularly interest to her. But the outdoors was important to my father.
Tharp:Because that's where he made his living.
Tharp:I'll tell you, about the soil survey just for a minute. The U.S. Congress — I don't know whether it was the idea of the U.S. Congress or Professor Marbut's idea, but Marbut was a professor of pedology at the University of Missouri in Rolla. He taught soil science. He also knew the Russian language. I don't know whether it was his proposal, or Congress' proposal, one or the other. Professor Marbut got himself sent over to Russia. He lived over there for several years studying their system of soil classification. He mastered that, then he came back here, and then reported in. Then Congress established the Bureau of Chemistry and Soils and made him the chief. He was chief for many years. So he stopped being professor in Missouri, and worked in Washington. There were about 50 or so men — field men. It was a good sized group. Their job was to survey the soils of the United States. I don't think that included the Rocky Mountains because they didn't have soil there. I don't know. But they did aim to survey the soils of the United States. So Papa worked for the government. And that's the reason so many soil names have Russian names.
Doel:Right. Certainly they were very advanced in soil science by the end of the 19th century.
Tharp:They were way ahead of us.
Tharp:And I thought it was so amusing, when a couple of years ago — well, several years ago, they, Russia, had to send somebody from over there to see how we were so good at growing corn, when they could not grow the corn. But even though they had established the science of soils, but their collective farms were not very productive. I forget who it was that came over here that went out to some farm in the mid-west to observe how they grew corn, fed it to the hogs, had lots to eat. They , the Russians, were so dictatorial by then, they couldn't even raise wheat that would grow. They got mixed up with trying to enforce there laws on nature, and it didn't work for some reason. I don't remember the details now, but you know, you couldn't tell Mendel what to do.
Papa, he married Ethyl Griffin from his home town, a nice girl, who had six brothers, and they had one child. They moved around because the Soil Survey job demanded it and when the little boy was six or so, or seven, his mother had asthma and died. And the neighbors brought the kid in to watch his mother choke to death. And then it was a week or two before they could find the father because he was in a horse and buggy out the other end somewhere of the county, surveying. It took a while to get him located, and then for him to get back, in the horse and buggy. Then he had to take the kid back home for his Grandma Griffin to bring him up, because he couldn't handle that while he was a soil surveyor. I don't have a record of what county it was but it might have been Piney Woods, Mississippi.
So, the kid was taken home — my brother, and he was brought up in Stuart, Iowa. And it was quite a few years later when my father re-married. He married my mom. She was older; she was a school teacher, had been teaching school for 12 or 15 years. I don't know how, they just met at the boarding house and she taught German and Latin. She was married in her own home in Ypsilanti by her own father who was a Methodist minister. I don't know how she put up with married life in Alabama. I had pictures of her in Alabama, washing clothes in an iron pot over a fire in the back yard. And that's the way she had to cope because they lived rather primitively. As a kid, I liked it. I liked Alabama. Boy, I'd much rather been brought up in Alabama like I was, than up here in suburbia, it was so interesting.
Doel:Because it was more in nature?
Tharp:Yes. Yes. It was — I liked it when I was a small kid, and all the schools I went to were super. I always get mad, when they'd say something derogatory about southern schools. I don't know now, but all the schools I went to, they were super. All over the United States, they were good discipline, and, you know, just reading, writing, arithmetic, phonetics, then history, that's another problem. I never went to any school in the U.S. that had a discipline problem. Very orderly.
Doel:So much of your growing up, then, actually took place in the South?
Tharp:Oh no. Half in the South, half in the North, half in the East and half in the Midwest.
Doel:Because of your father's work?
Tharp:I went to 24 schools before I graduated from high school.
Doel:Goodness. And that was in part because your father was moving about in the soil survey?
Oh yeah, we all stuck together. And so I went to all these schools and they were sort of similar, they were good. Well, there was the Raymond Elementary, then Powell Junior High, then Central High. Every four years we were in Washington. [Insert C: It seemed to be the policy of the soil survey, at least for us, that every four years for the winter season, the field men were brought into the head office in Washington, DC. I think now it was for a mutual "looking over" by management and field men. Ostensibly it was for the field men to see the transformation of the hand drawn manuscript county soil maps into the printing stage at the Government Printing Office. Mr. McKericher had been the single draftsmen for the bureau for many years. He was a tall white haired man and very cordial. The written reports followed t he standard outline for government reports. Papa was actually a very good writer. He had never been to college but he was a fairly wide reader.
I thought in later years his prose bordered on poetry. Actually he did write poems from time to time, usually descriptive of local themes and events. Sometimes he sent home the paper in his home town, letters to the editor which were published in the local hometown papers called the Stuart Herald. I have enclosed his account of the Memorial Park in Vicksburg, Mississippi. There is much of current interest in the Civil War, traveling from North to South as we did every year. Papa was always vitally interested in the Civil War. I don't remember much of Washington when we lived there. I was then four years old. By the time I was eight and in the fourth grade at the Raymond Elementary School, I began to notice and remember things. We had one teacher, all day in the same room. In addition to standard subjects, there was an effort to teach music and sight reading. There was also a science class and we went outdoors to identify trees. In those days, everybody went home for lunch, no problem of school lunch programs back then. I always ran home. In those days, I ran everywhere. For her time, my mother was a rather advanced food freak. I had balanced meals three times a day. I even fed my doll antiacrobutan. No eating between meals, especially no candy. There was coco malt for breakfast, which was the predecessor of Ovaltine. Papa was strictly a meat and potatoes type and it was always a family joke that he would not eat his vegetables.
We went to the Unitarian church. On Sundays, we walked f rom 13th Street over to 16th Street to the circle where there were several other churches. I must admit that to my fourth grade level, the sermons by the Reverend Dr. Pierce where somewhat beyond me. As we sat in the balcony, I counted the heads - bald heads, full heads, red heads, black heads, etc. Sunday afternoon we took in the art galleries and the Museum of Natural History. It was fun to show Papa where the things were that Mom and I had found. I remember him exclaiming over the statue of Sarah Bernhart's wring her hands as Lady Macbeth. There was one Saturday when Mom and I were visiting the Capital building and somehow I found myself up on the top balcony. I stayed up there for sometime checking out those radiating avenues from the Capital. On the way down, I met a guard who seemed to have been looking for me. He asked where by mother was? I said she was down here and over there waiting for me. It must have been four years later during our next assignment in Washington that I rode up the Washington monument and then walked all the way down. One evening Papa had invited the chief, Dr. Marbut to come over and see us. He brought us pictures of Russia. I remember when Bruce Heezen received the Cullum medal from the American Geographical Society and he was looking up who had previously received it. Lo and behold, Dr. Marbut had also received the Cullum medal. I guess that is why of the several medals that Bruce received, the Cullum was always my favorite. [See Appendix 2: Articles written by the father of Marie Tharp.] And the other times we were, you know, around, here and there.
There was some problem of down South, when I went back and forth, because I was a Yankee down South, and I wasn't accepted. But it was a minor irritation, but nothing overwhelming, to be instantly hated as a Damn Yankee down South. Then when I read about how we beat up the people in Selma in the Civil War and destroyed the whole town, especially the cannonball factory, they were still mad at the Yankees when I was going to school there. Seventy years later. And I remember in Selma the kids all disliked me, and the only other friend I had to play with was a Jewish girl, and she was ostracized because she was Jewish, and I was ostracized because I was a Damn Yankee, but I had fun playing with this Jewish girl. She was taking gymnastics. We used to practice back hands and handsprings together. Well, that was in Selma, and I never expected Selma to hit the headlines with that march either. But that's the way it — the South was a lot different. And then the next year we came back — he had to finish Dallas County, and we lived in Orrville, the same county. It was a storybook town. So tiny and so friendly. They had the fifth and sixth grade in the same room, because there weren't that many kids.
Tharp:There was one general store, one post office, one church, one big mansion with columns, and this guy who worked at the mansion used to come over and see us, a black man, and Papa would call him Lord Chesterfield, he was so polite, you know, we liked the black people. They're is so different, but that was the same county, but everything varied, you know, unpredictable.
Tharp:Up North - well, up North, the small towns are all about the same with a very rigid social structure. Really in a small mid-western town the social structure is quite ridged, because most of them are Northern European Germans and of course the English. I remember once in Washington D.C. I didn't have anyone to play with either except the janitors son, who was black just my size. We played together and had fun, and we got in a fight over something one time and he threw something at me, and I ran screaming into the house, because I was dripping with blood, and I ran into the janitor, who was my friend too, but my mother had to put with that, but it was a problem, you know. I just never had anyone to play with.
Doel:Yes. Did you do a lot of reading when you were growing up?
Doel:Do you remember the sorts of things that you were reading? Do you remember reading science books of any sort when you were in junior high school, or high school?
Tharp:Oh, I remember Papa took a picture of me once and got it put in Nature Magazine, I was pointing to a big tumor on a tree. He was more impressed with the tumor on the tree and needed me for a yardstick than anything about me, but at least — let's see, I think that probably we did have magazines which focused like the National Geographic, Nature, Childhood, those magazines.
Tharp:We focused on those so much I think my mother was concerned, that she started taking McCall's magazine so I'd get introduced to the world of women.
Doel:So you'd have something else?
Tharp:To the world of women.
Tharp:I'm sure that was what went through her mind.
Doel:Do you think she regarded you as something of a tomboy, or just intellectual?
Tharp:She must have, she said some of the neighbors weren't sure whether she had two kids or one kid, because one was a boy and one was a girl. But I always liked to play outside, with outdoor things, and then you'd have to clean up and be inside, and it must have been a problem for her, because, you know, to have a family problems living on the outside of an accepted community. We were so close knit, we didn't care, but I can see now it must have been a problem if she'd expected to have community relationships, because she had been a preacher's daughter, and they were very much —
Doel:They were very used to that social circle?
Tharp:Especially the Methodist. Very socially minded.
Tharp:Very. Papa didn't like the Methodists. They were so active. Papa thought he should come to church in his overalls. And I don't know how she — she must — but she died when I was 15, so I never had a chance to ask her those questions that arose in my mind later. She was just always there if I needed her. But she helped me be able to cope with the schools if they were ahead of me or behind me, or whatever. But she couldn't handle the social things for me, if she herself were not accepted. You know, she'd loose face when she did her own washing down South. There was this one article I read in the Saturday Evening Post, years ago, by some girl who wrote about Rockford, Illinois, a small town. Between Illinois and Iowa.
Doel:Right, it's right on the river.
Tharp:It's on the river. And she wrote up this article about it. She identified six classes in that small town, and I remembered later that I could identify every one of those six classes in most every town I lived in. You know, let's see, doctors in every small town are at the top of the heap, because they're good people, help sick people get well and they have a lot of money. But the businessmen, no matter how wealthy, aren't held in as high esteem as the M.D.s. Bruce and I were so shocked when we came to New York. The doctors — the M.D.s — in New York are not held in near as high esteem as they deserve to be. We both felt that. And when we were at Lamont, we always went to Dr. Haagensen, who lived down the hill. He worked at Columbia Presbyterian, and so true to small town people, you always go to one community doctor, to ask him where to go.
Tharp:We all went down to Columbia Presbyterian, on the basis of this one man, who was held in high esteem, like all the other doctors were. Well, let's see, then a small town has the second class rich people. Third class, they have the intellectuals, who I would say would be third, because they're smart, but they didn't have much money, like the school teachers who make a hundred dollars a month, that's good pay. And the preachers, and the lawyers, they all sort of lump together. Then below those would be the fourth class store owners, independent owners, and then factory workers were fifth if there was one, and then below that would be the ne'er-do-wells, the ditch diggers. I don't know who fed them.
Doel:Was this is an article your mother had written?
Tharp:No, this was an article that was in The Saturday Evening Post.
Doel:Had she commented on it?
Tharp:No, I read it after she died.
Doel:I see. I wanted to make sure of that. Okay.
Tharp:It was in The Saturday Evening Post before it went under. She had long since been dead, but that article was so perceptive.
Tharp:Because, you see, Bruce came from a mid-western town too. And same sort of social stratification, except he was so much further westward that it was only Northern Germans, mostly Northern Germans. Lutherans. Because the Scandinavians were up North. And there was only one Chinese family, one laundry, and there was no Italians. There was only one black family, and there was only family of each of the other of the ethnic groups. And that was true everywhere. One Jewish family. Of course in my town, one Jewish family, the Wolfheims, ran the local clothing store for six generations, and then the other Jewish guy had a horse and buggy and collected junk, and so these two extremes, old Mr. Silverstein and Wolfheims, but when Old Mr. Silverstein died he had seven farms, and they couldn't figure out how to collect taxes for them, because he'd bought all of them with cash. But he was one of the local characters.
Tharp:So when we came to New York, us guys coming to New York by different routes.
Doel:Yes, but the change is enormous from the Midwest to the East coast.
Tharp:Can you imagine, all these highly educated and prosperous Jewish people, we'd never seen as a whole class? And blacks were treated so well in the city in those days. They held good jobs. This is before the urban decay.
Doel:Back in the mid-40s and the 1950s?
Tharp:Yes, in the mid-40s and '50s.
Tharp:New York was quite a good town. You know, we — us outsiders would comment on it, but then Ewing was a physicist from Rice, and I presume you know all about Ewing; he must have been a member of the group you're studying.
Doel:Certainly he came from a small town background.
Tharp:In northeastern Texas — small poor farm — big family — Doc was the oldest.
Tharp:Equally, but much poorer than us.
Tharp:The Midwest for Bruce was prosperous and affluent. His father was one of the local farmers who was so affluent they went to Florida every year. They have a bunch of those all throughout the Midwest because of the good black soil. They're so affluent, nothing to do during the winter, they go to Florida. And we were always sort of distinct because we worked for the government. We didn't fit in with any class. We were separate from the communities. Even after we retired. After Papa retired, bought a farm. And then my mother died quite soon, which was sad, but she died and so Papa was twice a widower.
Tharp:And then my brother came home.
Doel:Did your brother have an interest in science at all?
Tharp:He's a strictly outdoor type. Big guy, and — hum — well, he was at home in Stuart being brought up by his Grandma Griffin the local matriarch, and then my father got married again, you know, five or seven years later, those things about age were always kept discrete. I have no idea how to get them. Anyway, and so then Papa now had a home and a wife, and he thought he'd pick up his son, and take him around too. So Papa and my mother went to Stuart to claim his son from a former marriage, but I really don't know if it was my half brother's decision to still continue to grow up in Stuart, Iowa, or it was Grandma Griffin, who put her foot down, because even though my mother was a preacher's daughter and a high school teacher, she was completely unacceptable as a second wife. In those days most second wives were unacceptable, they were the evil step-mothers.
Tharp:So there was a big confrontation between the matriarch and my mother, and my mother stormed out of the room and said, "The Newtons are as good as the Griffins any day." And she never set foot in that place again, and that kid stayed in Stuart, my half brother, and he never came around with his father, who was sort of disappointed because he could only come and see him once or twice a year, and pay for his schooling and all. But my mother was so hot tempered, she was furious at the Griffins, and even when we would live in Iowa, you know, surveying some county, she'd never go over there, she never set foot in Stuart again. If Papa wanted to see the place, he had to go by himself. Once he took me to see it, because I had cousins there, which was nice. So Jim was brought up by his Grandmother Griffin. His Grandfather was a local butcher, and Jim was very happy. He had cousins, kids his own age, uncles, uncles, very happy. He developed an interest in guns, and when he was a kid, he had a toy cannon. Maybe my father gave it to him for Christmas, I don't know, and it shot real projectiles, and one of them went backwards and hit him in the eye, and took out his eye. So he had that to cope with. And disfiguration is hard on a teenager. Now people are more open to it, because there's so many guys been in the war, you know.
Tharp:They're accepted, and they don't allow it —
Doel:It's discussed much more in public as well.
Tharp:And they hold real jobs.
And they overlook their disabilities. It wasn't that way with just a kid that had lost an eye. So from being a friendly bombastic outgoing kid, he became quite introspective and a loner. But it didn't dissuade his interest in guns. So he learned to shoot. He learned all about guns. He be came a gun nut. He read all history and he always knew what kind of guns were used. And when he died, he had such a big collection of guns. I had to find people to buy them. I couldn't bring them to New York with the Sullivan Law. [Insert D: Since Jim was such a thorough outdoor type, some consideration has to be given to his schooling and future life work. He certainly was not a sit at the desk type. In high school, he had done well in woodworking, metal working. He not only knew all about guns, but also about wildlife and the identification, habitat and flight patterns etc. Somewhere along the way, the decision was made to send him to a school of Forestry at Ames, Iowa. He seemed to have done well in college. Jim's only complaint was the ROTC had parades on Saturday afternoons when he would rather have been hunting on the rare free day from classes. Bruce's freshman days in the ROTC resulted in his being kicked out of the ROTC. On one of the Saturday parades the order came out, "Company left" and Bruce took his platoon right. So the whole parade was disrupted and Bruce was kicked out of the ROTC. Back to my brother Jim. In the summer they sent the budding young foresters out to camp in Colorado. Here they learned about mountain trails, horses, trees, etc. I suspect that the city kids learned more abut the outdoors than the kids who had previously spent time in the outdoors. Upon graduation, Jim got a job with the U.S. Forestry Service. He was assigned to the national forests in Washington State and Oregon, and did the usual things required of Forest Rangers — fight fires in the summer time, rescue lost tourists, teach firearms in winter. In a later time, he was living in a lumber camp measuring trees so that the lumber companies would not cheat the U.S. Government who owned the trees.
Jim was very good at keeping accounts which I later discovered on the home place which is what we called our farm. He had been in the Forest Service for twelve years when Papa bought the farm. He seemed to be happy to come home and accepted the challenge of running a business. We all pitched in and for thirty years brought this old rundown farm into shape. One year we got first prize in the State of Ohio for having the best run farm under 100 acres. My father knew about soils. Jim had the muscle and I tackled this fifteen room brick house, circa 1865. Jim and I were shattered when about a week after Papa died, the headlines in the local paper read: "The Board of Education wants the Tharp Farm for the new high school." It took seven years for the town to get enough votes and money to take the place under the law of eminent domain. Jim bought another farm further from town. Jim sold off livestock, rented fields out of the new place and spent his retired years hunting, fishing and consorting his Fish and Game Farm buddies. He accepted losing the home place better than I did.
I had nightmares for years. The homeplace had an eight foot multi flora rose all about the boundaries. This kept out the city dogs from the sheep. Jim had put in fourteen dams along Blue Jacket creek which made tiny little ponds for fish. Papa designed and built a barn, small but pretty. He then planted fir and poplar trees as a wind break for the barn yard. This is a common practice in Iowa where the wind never stops blowing. As a poplar tree grows fast and high, by the time they have matured, the fir trees are grown and ready to take over and then you cut down the poplar trees. The Dutch Elm disease gradually disseminated the front yard grove and only a few non-elm trees survived. Jim used to cut up the elm trees for fire wood and he heated the house for a number of years with wood instead of coal in the furnace. The school board tore down all the buildings except the house which they kept for an administrative building. In the crop fields where Jim used to pick up arrow points, they made into a football field where the Chieftains, the local football team, plays.]
Tharp:But it didn't dissuade his interest in guns. So he learned to shoot, he learned all about guns, he became a gun nut. He read all history and he always knew what kind of guns were used. And when he died he had such a big collection of guns I had to find people to buy them. Because I couldn't bring them to New York with the Sullivan Law. And sell them here.
Tharp:Can you imagine. I'd have been put in jail.
Doel:You would have been a gun dealer.
Tharp:I wish he was still alive. He'd gotten such a kick out of all this recent flub-dub with the NRA, because in our part of the world the NRA is a very respected institution.
Doel:Yes. [Insert E: One of the first things Jim did when he returned home was to get together with some of his gun toting buddies. They bought a farm out from town and preceded over the years to convert it to a gun club. They had a rifle range, traps shooting area and later they added a clubhouse, a Girl Scout camp area complete with wooden shelter. The club also took part in the conversation program of getting baby pheasants and baby ducks. They raised these animals in cages until more sizable and then farmed them out to farmers who kept them awhile before letting them loose for the hunting season. Jim used his tractor to scoop out a pond in the club house. They added a kitchen and a dining room where on Saturday night, they would have fresh fish fries. Saturday morning was reserved for teaching high school boys how to handle, clean and shoot a rifle, shotgun, and/or handgun. They discouraged outsiders and were very strict about "No Drinking". This was the ideal locale for the 4th of July fireworks as they were outlawed in town. Jim was a life long member of the National Rifle Association. I have written about him because in our part of the community, the NRA is a respected institution and contributor to community values.]
Tharp:It still is, and all the time that he was home, you know, that's what they do. They shoot animals (game in season), and they teach kids how to handle a gun, and they'd have Saturday morning classes to teach them how to load the rifles and the shotguns, and he practice Monday night with the cops on the handguns, and they were quite proud that — Jim always said that's the reason they never had any bank robberies in our particular town, because they all had their Monday night practice shootouts in the basements of one of the bank buildings. Not only the cops, but anyone else who was interested in target practice with handguns. He was a good shot for someone with just one eye.
Doel:One eye, right. Without stereo vision.
Tharp:I don't know how he did it.
Doel:I remember you saying that you had moved about in your high school years, and earlier, but were any teachers particularly influential for you? Do you remember any having been particularly important?
Tharp:Well, I remember down in Alabama — we lived in Marion, Alabama, when I was a second semester first grader, and somehow we went to school from eight until one. It was so hot, I presume that's why they only had school from eight to one. And this lovely teacher taught us everything we should know, how to add and subtract and everything. But my mother was disturbed that there was nothing to do in the afternoon. She thought I should do something besides sit on the wall and watch people go by, which I loved to do. We lived next door to the Methodist Church and the church had a wall around it which I loved to sit on. So she put me in an art class with a private art teacher so I would have something to do in the afternoon. Being a school teacher, she thought I should be in school all day. So I went to take art lessons, and learned to sketch, and paint. I wasn't very good, but at least she tried. [Insert F: Actually, my mother was somewhat motivated by our landlady. This dear lady, a Mrs. Bates, had given me a book for Christmas, a book for coloring in pictures. This book was the standard procedure of numbered blocks to be colored in by numbered colors. My mother was so offended by this pedologically unsound approach to art that she found a private art teacher for me. That is where I spent my afternoons instead of sitting on the wall — watching the people go by. This all happened in Marion, Alabama. I heard about this town later when one of the black civil rights enthusiasts went to Marion and got himself shot. This precipitated the march from Selma to Montgomery. I was about as surprised as anybody to see Selma, where I almost flunked out of the fifth grade, hit the headlines as well the peaceful little town of Marion where the second half of the first grade was actually quite good.]
Doel:Did this continued from year to year, or was just there?
Tharp:That was only in Marion. Oh, actually, my mother's mother.
Doel:We're looking at portraits now that are hanging on the back wall.
Tharp:That is my — my little girl is my mother at eight years old painted by her mother, and her mother painted her little girl, and that's a self portrait of her.
Doel:On the left.
Tharp:Yes. She's a forbidding individual.
Doel:Very austere looking.
Tharp:Yes. Preacher's wife.
Doel:Yes. But they're quite good images. There certainly is talent.
Tharp:Yeah, she was very talented, and those are — you can't see them very well, but those are my grandmother, she painted, but she had to paint to help support the family as a preacher's wife. So she sold most of her paintings. She went to school somewhere. I don't know where. She started to go to the University of Michigan and study medicine, but she couldn't stand the sight of blood. I thought the most interesting thing is that they let women in there in those days. I didn't know they did.
Tharp:At Michigan, to study medicine.
Doel:Yes. The state schools were —
Tharp:Isn't that amazing?
Doel:Yes, it really is.
Tharp:But she couldn't — and so then she went somewhere to art school, and then she did flowers.
Doel:Most of these are still-life, or nature scenes.
Tharp:Oh, she'd go out and gather flowers and keep in practice, but her main thrust was portraits, which she could sell, and china. And I remember when I was born she wondered, "well, maybe she'll like church work". Well, talking about me, I guess I didn't fulfill anyone's ambitions, but that was just in the first grade, my mother trying to get me to be an artist. Then we went up to Ypsilanti, where she'd gone to school to the State Teacher's College — she wanted to be a teacher there, at the State Normal, which is just — which she thought was better than the University of Michigan. I don't know whether it was or not, but that's where she went to school. And I got to go to the school. What do you call it, the training school? Every state teachers school has an associated school where they send their students to practice teaching on the kids.
Doel:Yes. I know what you mean, but that term escapes me right now. We can always add this to the transcript later. Actually they are called Normal Schools. At Ypsilanti, Mom came home to help take care of her mother who was ill in bed. She was in her eighties.
Tharp:Yeah, training school or something. [Insert G: I was put in the second grade, second semester out of Peru, Indiana second grade. Then they put me in front of the class and asked a lot of dumb questions. I presume they didn't think there was much use for keeping me so they put me in the third grade. I remember that day, trying on my skates so I could skate home wondering: "Now what is Mommy going to think about this?" She did not seem too displeased and life went on as usual in the third grade.]
Tharp:And so, I had one — I remember her, the critic teacher, Miss McCricket. And she was quite an impressive woman. Very large, and the third grade, and you know, we did all sorts of interesting things. She was great. She was really great. And, you know, they had a little bit of math, and a little bit of planting flowers, like they do in Austria. They taught you that in school. The kids all learned how to plant those window boxes in school. But Ypsilanti is the only place in America I ever saw it, which was interesting. And then, let's see, after — no that's Ypsilanti, that's where my mother's home town after her father retired as a minister for 36 years and bought a home in Ypsilanti. And it's still called the Newton Family Homestead. She was up there for a few months just before her mother died, and then we went back to Indiana. I went to school in Indiana, and one of — actually it's before then. Then went to school in Alabama. [See Appendix 3: Genealogy of Marie Tharp - Newtons of Colchester, Connecticut, 1639, compiled by Marie Tharp]
Doel:Did you have formal training in art at any schools? Did you continue at all with lessons?
Tharp:Just in art?
Doel:Yes. It's very interesting since your later scientific work had a lot to do with graphic representations, that you had this kind of experience while growing up.
Tharp:It was - Mm-hum. Well, most schools make you take drawing of some sort.
Doel:But it sounds like you had more than what most students would have been exposed to, having had art lessons.
Tharp:Well, listen, I went to public schools. In Iowa, let's see, there we had art work that had to do with using paper. You know, construction paper. And I remember I made a design of a ship, or something, and another of a skyscraper, and how did I know — I thought of it the other day — was I psychic, that what I would learn? But that was just kid stuff. But we had it there, very elemental. We had an art teacher in high school and a Miss Knowlton . And then when we lived in Washington, every four years, we always spent the weekends at those fabulous art galleries. I presume you're familiar with them.
Tharp:Aren't they something? I like the East Wing. That wasn't there when I was growing up though.
Doel:Right. All of that is quite new.
Tharp:Isn't that a fabulous spot?
Tharp:And I like the National Gallery. We always spent Saturday at the Museum of Natural History, and I liked that.
Doel:So seeing the exhibits also had a strong impression on you then in growing up?
Tharp:Mm-hum. Oh, it was just great. It was.
Doel:How much schooling in the sciences did you have in your high school years? For example, what level of mathematics was taught? Do you remember how far it went?
Tharp:Oh, that's so funny because I went to Cooperstown High School, that was up in Otsego County. Papa surveyed Otsego County.
Doel:Right, in New York state.
Tharp:And so I got to go there for a whole year because Papa was sent down to Florida, and they wouldn't let him take his kids because he went to Madison and Suwanee Counties, and there weren't no schools. What I think is there weren't no schools for white kids. There might have been some for black kids. But that winter he was down there. We got left up here, which was very unusual a whole year in Cooperstown. And of all the schools I went to, the New York high schools are super, — for the one reason, they have the Regents. I was sorry that the other schools don't have the Regents, because you learn very early to take tests. You learn it when it's painless. And so there we had standard stuff, English, Algebra, History, Latin, Regents. I guess in all of them, and for six weeks, before the tests, you get an hour after school to review for the god damn test. Did they do that other places in New York, besides Cooperstown?
Doel:The Regents exams, I understand, are now state-wide.
Tharp:Well, the reason you pass it, is that you get stuck with having to learn how to pass an exam. And when I went further West in Bellofontaine, Ohio, a very good school, just as good or even better, but not the Regents, to make you study and review the whole year. For the whole course. You know, you only take four courses.
Doel:But clearly you were exposed to high standards?
Tharp:Cooperstown was high, and Ohio was high in those years, during the height of the Depression, they had good teachers. Most of them were men with M.A.s, who couldn't get a job at college level. A lot of those guys went on — and women too — went on — to get college level jobs, when things picked up after World War II.
Tharp:And so it was a very good school. But, as I say, so by the time I went to college, I didn't know how to take tests, and tests are so important. It's so important to know how to take tests. And to study for them without dropping everything here, and study for this. And panicking, and getting the test and forgetting it anyhow. And another thing. College was different than high school because, in high school you go to 45 minute classes. You go once a day, to every class for 45 minutes, five days a week.
Tharp:None of this Monday, Wednesday, and Friday class, or Tuesday and Wednesday or Tuesday and Thursday class. None of that nonsense. When you get to college, that's — you don't have classes five days a week, they string them out. And I thought that — well, I might have been an 'A' student high school, but I was probably a 'C' student in college. Because I figured out that my learning cycle was interrupted, that's the way I rationalized my bad grades, I don't know. [laughter] I don't know, but I was not very good.
Doel:How do you mean that it was interrupted?
Tharp:Well, I mean a standard college schedule.
Doel:Oh just the ......
Tharp:You go Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. For English for example. High school's on a daily structure. And you go home and you study whatever has to be studied. We weren't overly burdened with homework. Not overly.
Doel:Right. So that when you went to Ohio University, it was a major change, and in some ways a shock for you? The difference in standards?
Doel:I'm very curious, since not everyone could think to go to college at that point, and particularly women were not offered to go.
Tharp:Oh, it was always assumed that I would go to college.
Tharp:Because of my mother and father, I always assumed that I'd go to college, and I always took the college preparatory classes in high school.
Doel:Did you think in high school that you might be heading towards a science career? Had you taken geology, for example, given your father's work in soil? Had that been an interest of yours?
Doel:As a subject?
Tharp:Not in high school. I had chemistry and physics, biology. I wasn't really very good in biology, but I was good in chemistry. And I had the same teacher for chemistry and physics. He was a gem. He left later and taught in some college, but he was great. And he liked our class, because, you know, it was a small class and all eager beavers. And we liked him, and liked the biology teacher, you know, liked him. Oh, let me see. Oh, I had a science teacher in Alabama once in the seventh grade. That was in Florence, Alabama.
Tharp:I went to one school for a whole year. And it was also with the State Normal School in Florence, and had a good home room teacher, Miss Richardson, but there again, they had a different teacher for every subject, and the teachers changed schedules. The whole batch changed three times a year. So, you can't win.
Doel:You were getting uprooted one way or another.
Tharp:You can't win. And that was — I remember going to school — to Sunday School, and they would teach us about Genesis, and then I was going to science class, and they were teaching us the history of the earth, and evolution, and all that stuff. They didn't agree with what was being taught in Sunday School, and that was very confusing. So I asked my father, what do I do now, the teacher says this, and the church says that, and so he says, "Well, the guys that wrote the Bible didn't know as much as we know now." And that just satisfied, me, that's all I needed to know. I did get elected President of the Science Club the third time around.
Tharp:He just calmly just told me that was alright, that they had written down what they thought, it took more than seven days to create the world, you know, and he just — because, you see, he was a Unitarian. But when you're traveling all around the United States, there are not many Unitarian churches, so we always had to ferret out the most liberal church, the least objectionable. We went on field trips which was fun. Once I collected a whole bag of snake skeleton for my mother. So he would go to different churches, depending on the outlook of that particular minister.
Doel:Right. Did you have any particularly strong religious feelings as a child, or through high school and growing up?
Tharp:With Papa being a Unitarian? We had a lot of discussions at the table about religion. And why some people took it so seriously, because, you know, the Unitarian is so similar to the Jewish religion.
Tharp:It's very similar. You know, Christ is another guy, another prophet, the son of man, not the Son of God, so that's the way I was brought up. Then there was my mother who had been a Methodist preacher's daughter, and I imagine quite conservative, but he must have gotten her, because she went to church with him too. So she must have also just assimilated that Unitarian atmosphere, too, and one of the reasons Papa said there are not many Unitarian churches in the mid-west is because so many there are so many liberal Unitarians in the other denominations. But I always thought religion was interesting. If I were young, I think I'd study biblical archeology now, to see when it really started. Well, I got hooked on Joseph Campbell after he died. But I would have liked to have studied that. I liked his attitude, that it's all one, and — but those are all those interesting things that you couldn't — you'd think about them, but wonder how would you make a living at that?
Doel:How did you come to choose Ohio University as where you would go to school?
Tharp:Oh, that's — let's see, the state of Ohio has 52 universities. And I looked into that, and then they were all church-oriented. And I looked into that. And there were five state universities. Bowling Green, Miami, Kent, Ohio State, and Ohio University. I did visit Ohio State, but it was just too big. I couldn't cope with it campus-wise, or living quarters. I thought, this is no place for me. So then I went to another — I investigated Miami, which is also in Southern Ohio. And then I finally opted for Ohio University, which had only three thousand students. And I thought, "Goody, there are no one going to force their religion down on me." But then the most ironical thing of it was, that among — no, I had wanted to go to Saint Johns in Maryland, but that was just for boys, and I wanted to take the Great Books Course.
Doel:That had attracted you, that kind of curriculum?
Tharp:Uh-huh, but they didn't let girls in, and it never occurred to me to go to the University of Chicago, because I didn't know then that's where that thing got started. And I couldn't have coped with living in a big city on my own, I don't think. No, I couldn't have done that. But, so then I took the next best thing, went to Ohio University, and it was cheap, and was non-religious oriented, and then the most ironical thing of it all, is that looking back, of all the professors there that made impression on me, they were the ones in the philosophy department. Religion was really very interesting history. And it was really very interesting, and since it wasn't Saint Johns — I pretended — actually, what I did looking back, I pretended I was at Saint Johns, and I went around picking and choosing.
Doel:You put together your own program?
Tharp:And I changed my major every semester, much to the despair of everyone who saw me coming through the line. They must have hated me. [laughter] The guy who ran a journalism department, Mr. Lasher, George Lasher. And it was a good — my roommate took a course in writing, and she thought I should take a course and learn, you know. I didn't know a dangling participle from a hole in the head, and all that stuff. But she could really write. She took this course, and I was going to, and somehow I didn't. I wish I had, but I missed that.
Doel:Did you have much of an interest in the sciences at Ohio?
Tharp:I thought I might, and so I thought I'd take German, because I thought maybe I'll be a vertebrate paleontologist. I thought I'd like to do that because Papa had this nice collection of skulls, and we'd always collected skulls.
Doel:He had this in the house, the skull collection?
Tharp:Mm-Hum. Yeah, I helped him collect them. [laughter]
Doel:So you had quite a bit of experience out in the field with him then at times?
Doel:You would go out on the survey trips?
Tharp:Yes, I got to go on Saturday and ride in the back of the pickup. [laughter] Make mud pies and be a general nuisance, but at least it was some sort of adventure. But I can't imagine I was much help on the map that he was making.
Doel:I have a feeling he would have enjoyed it anyway.
Tharp:And I remember once up in Otsego County New York, it was so beautiful up there. I was out there with him one Saturday, and I brought along James Fenimore Cooper. Since we were living in his hometown. I thought I would get up on this guy and my father was very disdainful. He says, "Why are you reading that when there's all this nature to look at and read? So I never brought a book out in to the field again.
Doel:That's an interesting turn of phrase, to 'read' nature, and understand it.
Tharp:Yes. Such subtly influences, you don't know what they are at the time.
Doel:You were mentioning that you had thought to be a vertebrate paleontologist for a time.
Tharp:That's why I was taking German, but I didn't do very good in German. My mother had been a German teacher, and she probably was turning over in her grave because I was such a bad student. As I say before, I rationalized it because the classes met Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and they should have met everyday of the week, because I got good grades in Latin. I just never learned to cope with the college schedule. And so I went around picking and choosing, and once in a while I got a good course. I got some good philosophy courses. If it hadn't been for this overhanging threat of having to find a job, my father said I would have to take courses and get a job, and I got a strong message he wasn't educating me for nothing. [Insert H: I had lots of education courses and thought I'd take a course in teaching English. What a blast that was. The last day the teachers handed back the exams and said there were mostly A's and some B's. I got a B. One of the questions was to analyze Burns' poem that goes: "Our pleasures are like poppies spread You see the bloom the flower is shed". After all the evenings my father and I spent reading Robert Burns and I couldn't get an A in my teaching English. I was very discouraged and thought what am I going to do? So the next semester, I thought I would try a course in Geology. This offered up another road for me.] So I took all these education courses, which I hated, but I thought, "Well, I'll be able to teach, and you can't teach philosophy." So then I thought, "Well, I'll teach English, that wasn't hard." But I took other courses, and I still liked philosophy, but you couldn't do anything with that. And, actually, during the war, one of the philosophy professors became chief of the draft board. You know, it was a tough job.
Tharp:And then another professor, Dr. Gamertsfelder, became president of the university during the war. He'd written our text book for Intro. Then there was another guy, Dr. Martin, who left Ohio University and taught at Rhode Island. And what a whiz bang of a teacher. Dr. Oliver Martin was with this text. Our text was the "Making of the Modern Mind" by John Herman Randall of Columbus. You know, it was during the war, and someone had brought to his attention, you know, we were losing it. I forget what he said, but if he had known that the Russians were in the East learning how to ski, he would have predicted that the Russians would win the war. He was very knowledgeable about the war, which surprised me; we were mostly studying 19th century stuff. And as a student, I never had time to keep up on current events. My brother did. He had a short wave radio, he knew everything there was to know. Kaltenborg came down to speak, and he — my brother followed the war very closely. But I didn't. Never did. Had to study. I think I'm typical of my generation.
Doel:You got your B.A. in 1943?
Doel:What was the B.A. in?
Tharp:That's when I changed my major every semester.
Doel:Right. What did it turn out to be?
Tharp:Well, I had music, I had English, and I had education and philosophy minors. I almost had a degree in education, I just lacked three credit hours..
Doel:You were telling me what your bachelors degree actually became at Ohio.
Tharp:Well, I had a big fight with the Dean of the School of Education one afternoon. I had all these courses in education, I was slated to become a teacher, but I just didn't want to be. And he spent two or three hours with me trying to talk it — I don't know why — because I was just one kid, why was he trying to save me? I must have said some awful things about education. So, anyhow, I switched from getting a B.S. in Ed to getting an A.B. They just added up the courses and I had enough to graduate. So I had an English major, and music major, and of course, I almost had an education major. And then I had philosophy, and I had some art, and oh, I had zoology. I even took paleo-botany because they took us out to dig out fossils in the creek. They had a teacher there who was studying paleo-botany which is very prolific in Southern Ohio because of coal measures, and you can just go out and dig up ferns.
Doel:You had the exposures as well.
Tharp:Mm-Hum. You could go out and dig up these fossil plants. That was quite a bit of fun, working outside. But that was about all the science I had. I didn't take chemistry or physics or any more math; I don't know why. And then — well, let's see, I was a Junior, and that's what happened on December 7th 1941.
Tharp:I was writing a term paper on the concept of God as expressed in different philosophies, and my roommate came down the back steps and she had been listening to the radio which was against the rules on Sunday, and says, "The Japs have just bombed Pearl Harbor." That really hit us like a bomb too, because we knew that our guys were the ones that would be gone within three weeks, so they picked them all up and shipped them all out by busloads and trainloads. And then it makes a difference. You realize you've got to be careful what you study, or you're going to be stuck with it all your life. You know, it changes your attitude, overnight.
Tharp:You know, being something of a dilettante. So she came down and told me that, and then everything changed, we had to go to class at eight o'clock in the morning in the dark. They set up a trimester schedule and you went to summer school. Everyone was serious, you wanted to finish up, get over it, either get out and get a job, or go in Army or something, but it changed it over night. For a lot kids, everything was very serious and worrisome. And then I thought, I'll experiment around. Then I took a course in Geology, and I thought, "Oh, this is a great course great teacher in Geology."
Doel:This was still when you were at Ohio that you took Geology?
Tharp:Uh-Huh. It was just great. I took historical geology before physical geology, but it was just great. And I thought, "Gee, I'd like to do this." But of course during the war you couldn't, so then I was taking other courses and stuff, and then when I saw, about a year later, a notice — it was about a year after Pearl Harbor. There was a flyer that the geology professor showed me, that the University of Michigan was going to open it's doors to women. A girl could go there and they'd guarantee women a job in petroleum geology. And the University of Michigan had a pretty good geology department. So I discussed that with my father, and then I went and discussed it with the Dean of the College, and I said I'd like to graduate and go up to Michigan to study geology. I never saw Professor Gamertsfelder look so shocked in my life, but they got together my points, 131 points, all I needed was 121, and so I left in three weeks. It took me three weeks to collect my degree, pack up, leave, and get to Michigan with my roommate murmuring "But, my dear, people spend years preparing for their graduate work".
Doel:That's very interesting.
Tharp:But Papa was concerned. You know, actually, I had to borrow money to go, because I guess he figured he'd paid my undergraduate college education, so I had to borrow $400 to go. Michigan was cheap too.
Tharp:It was reasonable.
Doel:Yes. And this was a two year degree program? You'd received your M.A. from Michigan in 1945 as I recall.
Tharp:Oh, I was there five semesters. I have included letters from Helen Foster who was at Michigan. I knew about her origin of the petroleum geology program. Helen Fosters letter of January 7, 1995 is a very good discussion of the origin of the Petroleum Geology Program at the University of Michigan in the World War II years. [See Appendix 4: Letter from Helen Foster, Jan. 7, 1995]
Tharp:And being that there was war, some companies agreed, so they sent out the flyer.
Doel:Mm. How big was the class when you went there?
Tharp:Oh, there were 10 or 12 of us that appeared from all over the United States, girls. With a sense of adventure.
Tharp:I was the only graduate student, but I was not a very good graduate student because I had been taking seven hours of poetry, painting, philosophy, all basic courses for geology. [laughter] So I was not a very good student, but we all studied hard. We studied. And I had to take physics and I had to take math, and I had a real good physics course.
Doel:Did any of them teach something akin to geophysics, or was anything called even geophysics then?
Tharp:Oh that guy, his name was Wilson too, was in Michigan at that time. But he was on sabbatical, so there was no geophysics in that. But we had Ramsdell for petrology, Hunt for mineralogy. Some guy for sedimentation — Kellum for sedimentation, Landes for petroleum, Eardley for structural geology. I had Eardley for three semesters, and they were good teachers. And they'd all written their own text books. And the only geology professor I didn't have was Krause, and he was into gems. But we could always look at the gems in their collection. Oh they were beautiful. None of us took gemology. The only available job opening would have been in a jewelry store selling jewelry.
Tharp:But it was — I had to study because it was all so strange. And then we had field camp, at Camp David in the summer, we had six weeks in the Jackson Hole country at their field camp.
Doel:And that's where Michigan's students would go?
Doel:That was their camp?
Tharp:And actually but that year they took us and they also had a bunch of girl students from Vassar, and Scot Warthin, who was a geology professor at Vassar because they didn't have any guys. There was one or two 4-Fs with us. But we were basically a bunch of girls.
Doel:Mm. How many other schools were doing these kinds of women in geology programs?
Tharp:I don't think anybody.
Doel:There were just a few people in from Vassar, you say?
Tharp:Uh. In their academic year they spent back East.
Tharp:I don't know anyone else who did that, we used up the whole camp season. Snow comes in September.
Doel:Yes, you're right.
Tharp:And I don't know any other school that opened up their doors, maybe Michigan. Maybe Columbia did, but they didn't have a camp. And I only knew one girl at Columbia — she was lucky during the war, she got to study mineralogy. But her boyfriend, Art Gilkie was climbing K-2 with that group. He's the one that slid down the mountain one night and was killed. I heard once that she was in London at some university studying mineralogy.
Tharp:He was a good geology student, that was too bad that happened to him. And I don't know any other girl geologists that went to any other school, if there were, I don't know. I wouldn't know.
Doel:How quantitative were the classes you were taking? Was there a strong emphasis on mathematics and physics in the geology courses?
Tharp:There certainly was in physics. They had a tremendous physics department, I guess Professor Rich, and then another guy, I forget his name, and they had written their own book. And I had to have my own book rebound, and then I lost it, because, you know, I beat it up, a new subject to me. It lasts a year and it was a very good class. You know, big lecture hall, and then individual classrooms. And so I took all the geology courses, and then I thought, "I got to take chemistry, and I got to take math." And I think I only had general physics, for a year.
Doel:And these were all the required classes in that program? In the masters program?
Tharp:Well, they're the ones that I should have taken as an undergraduate, which I hadn't, so I was taking them afterwards. That's why it took me five semesters.
Doel:It makes sense. Okay.
Tharp:And the best physics teacher I had, he was interested - we had the big lecture course. You know, falling bodies, inclines, planes, all sorts of goodies. And then we had this lab teacher, you know, small group, questions, answers, tests. And he was good. He was interested in astrophysics, and he was a graduate student teaching assistant. But I remember that, here I was in my last class, last day, chewing the fat with him one day about something, and then he starts listing all the sciences in their order. And here I'd taken a little bit of everything, mostly geology, and at the top he ends up putting mathematics.
Doel:Mathematics, then physics, and perhaps astronomy before chemistry? And then so on?
Tharp:Uh-huh, the exact sciences. And then the natural science, and here's — I'm about to graduate. Got a job in Oklahoma, he says, "It's mathematics." So I never forgot that.
Doel:Do you remember who that was, by chance?
Tharp:Yeah. Mm-Hum. His name was Ahonen, Charles Ahonen. And when he left Michigan he went to teach at Boston College. I think I wrote to him once or twice, but I don't know. His name was Charles Ahonen, Finnish. Do you know him?
Doel:I don't. No, the name's unfamiliar to me, but that's all very interesting.
Tharp:But see here I get introduced to the top of the world.
Doel:At the last moment.
Tharp:And so then guess what I did when I went to Tulsa? Bored as hell, not too challenging, no friends, nothing to do, hot. Family's back in Ohio. When I first went there during the war, we worked six days a week, and when August 5th came, they cut back to five days a week. And we all through lots of paper. They had a big parade from the tenth floor of the Stanolind building.
Doel:I bet you did.
Tharp:It was a snow storm. And all those horses. What a parade, and right afterwards they'd clean up after the horses. It was a great parade on that day.
Doel:I want to talk to you about the job in Oklahoma. Did you have a sense, while you were in the program, what you might be doing, what kind of job in the petroleum companies you would get?
Tharp:Yes. It was mostly something the same attitude I had in college. I was always good at saying no to things that I didn't think I could cope with. So, I guess my life is a history of saying no. And all the other girls were headed toward micro paleo because they got a lot of guarantees of jobs in micro paleo where you looked through a microscope at oil cuttings. That's the way you do the stratigraphy to locate the oil bearing sounds. And then there's the other thing you study sedimentology and that's a study of mud, and we used the Emery Tube, the Emery Settling Tube. I never expected to meet Dr. Emery, but we did. Bruce and I did.
Doel:This was later at Lamont?
Tharp:Up here. Actually KO was up a WHOI. He had left California.
Tharp:But that we used the Emery Tube, and I thought, "My God I don't want to do this." I didn't want to do paleo and I had sort of lost contact with my former vertebrate paleontology even though they had a good lab there.
Tharp:Oh they have a great lab there. For vertebrate paleontology, but all we had to take was invertebrate. Which is interesting, it's not bad. It's pretty interesting, but there's no field for that money-wise, like in micro paleo. And paleo's taught on the job anyhow. So they didn't teach that there anyhow. I liked mapping at camp. That was great.
Doel:I was going to ask you about that.
Tharp:We got to do mapping, and to measure sections. And to learn about the geology of thrusts and outcrops. They had a complete section there, and you know, you could see it. It was so obvious. Doing geology in the mountains.
Doel:Were there discussions about the relationship between mapping and geology when you had the field camp? Or was that something that was never considered an issue to talk about?
Tharp:We had to produce a geology map, rather primitive, and draw up a section. Some of the girls wrote very good reports on the geology of the area. There were other reports in the literature of other professionals from USGS. We'd read them and write them up, and then you write up your own stuff. Some of the girls did very good, and some of the girls there, when they got a job, they got sent to the oil company division offices. Some of them made out real good, within the company, getting real challenging jobs.
Doel:People coming out of the Michigan program?
Mm-Hum. And some of them got — and one girl got a professor — one professorship came through. She went down to Lexington to become a geology professor, which was unusual. [See Appendix 5: Letter to Helen Foster, Mar. 8, 1995] [See Appendix 6: Helen Foster's Reply, Mar. 28, 1995] And there was a girl who visited me in Tulsa, and she had been a student of Eardley's for three summers, so she knew her field geology pretty well. But she was from the University of Chicago. And had done their physical geology course. The University of Chicago has set up geology courses into physical geology and biological geology. So students take supporting cognates in either the physical courses or the biological courses.
She stayed with me several weeks and went to every oil company in Tulsa trying to get a field job, because she had good credentials for field work. She couldn't get a single job offer, so she wound up in Washington D.C. working at the U.S. Geological Survey. (Her father had been Chief of the U.S. Bureau of Standards). And then she went to do aerial photographic work, I think, drawing maps on photographs. We were taught to use photographs to map out the geology which was a nice way to do it. It was easy if you had field geology to identify outcrops. But that's — I guess she worked in Washington all her life, and I just heard from Helen Foster that she had died — this other girl died. But the only opportunities were in micro paleo or indoor mapping, and some girls made it good in the field office. You know how an oil company is.
There's a district and a division, and then the head office. I think they're head of the heirarchy and I was assistant to the senior geologist in the head office, and those are the guys that make the decision whether to drill a hole here, or here. And that's the big wildcats. But the small stuff gets done out in the district, the small division: they have a certain amount of money to play with. So all those guys had to have something handed to them so they could make the decision of what to do. Whether drill a new well or pull up and go somewhere else. And it was interesting. It was challenging, but I wanted a research job. I wasn't very happy, so I was out there and nothing to do and bored. But I did go to the movies a lot because it was air conditioned. God, I saw all those good movies with — at that time Ingrid Bergman, and Hitchcock. All those good movies.
Doel:The post war surge.
Tharp:They were great. But I was so bored then I started taking a course, and so I went to the University of Tulsa. And I just started taking math courses. I would have taken others, but I could only go at night.
Doel:And math happened to be what was offered in the evenings?
Tharp:Mm-Hum. So I went three or four years to math courses at night.
Doel:What did you take the night courses in?
Tharp:Mm-Hum. They gave us so much homework, we couldn't get much else done. [laughter] It was ghastly. But they had some good teachers.
Doel:What level were you approaching by the time you got your B.S. at Tulsa? That was in 1948?
Tharp:I had just barely gotten enough credits in math to have a major.
Tharp:I had differential calculus.
Doel:Did you find that it came easy to you at that point? Or was it still difficult?
Tharp:It was mostly work, it wasn't — I didn't even have a slide rule, until I was almost through. I found one on the street one night.
Doel:Did you really? [laughter]
Tharp:All that figuring you had to do. Well, I was taking one or two courses at Michigan for math. And then I thought, "I need some more of this stuff." So I — there wasn't much else to do.
Doel:That was at Stanolind Oil, as I understand, during that period?
Doel:Did you have any contact with any of the people who were in research in that office? Did you talk about their research programs?
Tharp:Oh, I had a girlfriend who was a chemist. She worked out at the lab. I think she worked for Humble Lab, and she could use the spectrograph. And got to do real interesting jobs. She was working in the chemistry lab. And then the I went to school with all this time, she and I took the same courses together.
Doel:This is when you were at Tulsa taking mathematics?
Tharp:Mm-Hum. And she worked in some lab. I think she was a chemist. They had good jobs because they were chemistry majors, but then we branched out. She branched out and took Comparative Religion, which was fun. And then we'd go to all these churches in Tulsa, and we decided we liked the Jewish church best. [laughter]
Doel:That's a switch.
Tharp:Well, yes, we tried them all out. The Catholic wasn't too impressive, and of course the Catholics are more or less in the minority in the West anyhow, and then we liked the Presbyterian. And that was a psychology type preacher. So we liked him, and we'd go there on Sunday morning. Friday night we'd go to our favorite Jewish church, once in a while we'd go to midnight mass, and then we'd go to the Baptist church and listen to their music. You know, they were so primitive. They had this organist, and I remember we went there once, and they had the organist and the pianist playing the Tschkowsky Duet, and they could almost keep together. [laughter] But that was what — yeah, I really liked the Jewish church out there. And that minister left. After the bomb went off August 5, 1945. I think he got a new parish in Newark, New York or something — New Jersey. But he was very concerned, after the bomb. But that was interesting. I liked it. I felt very much at home there.
Tharp:In the Jewish church. Because it was similar to the Unitarian church we'd gone to in Washington. No nonsense.
Doel:Right. Were these people that you met in the church or the synagog ones that you had other social contacts as well? Just when you were going to church?
Doel:Just when you were going to church?
Tharp:That's all - just that? There weren't many Jewish people in Tulsa. There were some. And, of course, some on the faculty. But in the oil business, per se, you couldn't find a single Jewish person. Of course, everyone out there went under the name Mister even though they had an advanced degree.
Doel:This is the corporate culture of the oil firms?
Tharp:Always Mister, so you never really knew what their background was.
Doel:That's interesting. Could you tell, after speaking with someone for a time, or did that really become homogeneous among employees after a time?
Tharp:I couldn't tell.
Doel:That's very interesting.
Tharp:I was on a very low level. I wasn't up there with the big guys making decisions where to punch the well. About all I did was get — actually, when I'd have to get the maps for them, this one guy, who thought I was displacing him, was very upset because he was the one in charge of the maps of the nineteen seismic crews. They had very special secret information.
Doel:Surely some of the most sensitive materials in the company.
Tharp:Uh-huh. And there wasn't a much interplay between the companies, very competitive. And, of course, when the Friday scout reports came out, everyone read them from cover to cover to see who was doing what. That's the only way to find out what your competitors were doing in a field where you were, which is very competitive. But the scout reports were interesting. And it was like a big family group, nice people. I loved to work with them. They were top notch guys in the whole business. They'd worked their way up. And had a lot of background in the areas that they represented. They have a senior geologist from the Southern Division, and one from the Central Division, and one from Rocky Mountain Division. And just when I left, some company was making their first off-shore oil test.
Tharp:Tennaco, I think, made it, and I guess it came in dry. But they were just getting into their off-shore drilling.
Tharp:And then at Lamont, there was this guy, Ewing, who had tried, as you know. He was trying to get — he was caught young, having spent his summers in the Louisiana bayous. Looking for oil for the oil companies, and he adapted that technique to the oceans. Someone got him interested — I guess it was Field and Bowie — got him to go out there and drill in the ocean with what he had learned there. And then once he got onto that, he was all gung ho, in the 1930s.
Doel:He certainly was very enthusiastic about that.
Tharp:Now that's what disturbed me about Menard's book. He - Menard, you know he wrote a book?1 [See Appendix 7: Ocean Bottom Seismograph, by J.L. Worzel]
Tharp:And he gave all that credit for that area to Russell Raitt out at Scripps, but he didn't show up until the 1950s or 1960s. Ewing had been doing off shore seismic reflection in the 1930s and he invented it. Bullard helped too.
Doel:Yes, he certainly did.
Tharp:But I was always resentful to Raitt because — well, after all, it's just that Scripps thought — didn't know what we'd done, and they thought they'd done it all. But I shouldn't say that, I'm sure they're nice people. And Helen Raitt also wrote a book.
Tharp:But Raitt was — he did the same thing Ewing did.
Doel:I wanted to talk about communications between different centers of geophysics. I'm just curious in a general way; during the time that you were at Stanolind in Tulsa, how much did you know about work in applied geophysics that was on going in the US?
Tharp:All I knew was what we did there, they had gravity, and magnetics. And 19 seismic crews.
Doel:Right. Did you get a pretty good introduction to the types of instruments that were being used?
Tharp:No, I never was in the field at all.
Doel:So that was not something that you had a chance to talk about or to see?
Tharp:No. We saw the results of them, and they were very valuable. But there was always doubt about, "What the hell good is gravity?" And there was even more doubt, "What the good is magnetics?" I can't even remember what they were doing in that. But Ewing was interested in both of them, though he didn't see what the hell good either one of them would be either. He was all precise and profiling.
Tharp:But, nevertheless, Ewing had a magnetometer on the very first cruise of the ATLANTIS I. Bruce helped build it because it had to be — they had got this from an airplane flying over Bermuda with the USGS looking for what, I guess the magnetic quiet zone — and Bruce got a hold of that magnetometer. But they had to replace most of it with wood. Then they towed it behind every god damned trip they ever went on. They had all that day, they didn't know what to do with it, they had the wrong theory. Then somebody called Heirtzler comes along, scoops it all up, and gets credit for doing it, using it. And he didn't have nothing to do with collecting it. It was just Ewing's philosophy that you get everything you can get. Maybe he got that from the oil company. That attitude.
Doel:At Stanolind there would be an immense store of earlier information of all kinds, archived, I would imagine, quite well, so that anyone interested in a particular region would have one's fingertips all information on it.
Doel:That's a very interesting point.
Tharp:Well, that was where they invested their money. They're trying to find oil, that's why they found it.
Doel:Right. But it's interesting that they apparently didn't filter what kind of data they saved. Stanolind seems to have preserved just about all.
Tharp:Oh, you'd have to ask them. I didn't get to work with them. I just knew it existed, and it was something that I had to hand to this boss to get to the executive meeting every morning. And they had to defend their position. I don't know anyone — any girls that got to work on the seismic crew.
Doel:Right. I would imagine that would be a very hard area to take up the time.
Tharp:Well, we figured the girls couldn't go out in the field, it was just a matter of living conditions. And that was the Victorian era. You know, you just couldn't camp out. Me and Annabelle Brown, that was her name, she figured that was the main reason why they wouldn't hire girls for field work.
Doel:Is Annabelle Brown the chemist that you knew?
Tharp:No, she was a geologist from the University of Chicago who had been — actually she was Eardley's field assistance for three summers in the Jackson Hole area. So, you know, that's a good area to learn geology.
Tharp:He was a great teacher.
Doel:Did you work principally on maps and mapping during your period at Stanolind?
Tharp:No. Oh, somebody — yeah, somebody did give me a roll of maps once. I forgot about that, I even took them with me when I left. This guy had a map — four by eight feet — of the United States with every county printed on linen. One for each period — each geologic period — and he'd plot the deepest well on it, and the depth they got this.
Tharp:It was sort of a continuation of paleo-geographic maps like Eardley's book title had turned out to be, you know, mapping different ages on a map. One part would overlap over everything, underneath this, then a high and nothing and so on.
Tharp:That was just something that he gave me to do. Now I wonder why he did, he gave me that to do. But other things were very routine, I didn't write reports, make maps or anything. I'd read about what people were doing and, I thought, "Gee, what am I doing here?" I never heard from my girlfriend that I took all those courses at Tulsa with. Her name was Freda Jones
Doel:You and she had been pretty close during that time?
Tharp:Well, she came from Oklahoma, you know, so she'd go home and see her parents and stuff. She went home every other weekend.
Doel:Let me ask two last questions before we move on to your time here at Lamont. Did you feel that you had already a particular interest in mapping during the time that you were at Stanolind, or was that one element of part of geology that you found attractive?
Tharp:No, no. I just had that one map that this guy gave me to work on, and to plot the deepest hole in every country in U.S. The geologists were indicated in color so that subsurface geologic maps would be depicted.
Tharp:Depth to basement and so on.
Doel:You mentioned that you found it interesting to work on the map when you were at the field camp at Michigan?
Tharp:Uh-huh, but that was regular assay geology. Just to go out and, you know, learn the section, collect the rocks, be able to identify them. Observe the different land forms. It's an interesting area.
Doel:Yes, it is.
Tharp:And so beautiful.
Doel:The physical landscape out there.
Tharp:We got to climb Glory Mountain once, and that was nice. The view from Idaho was a lot different, there were no mountains, it was just smooth, gentle, the backside of the uplifted Tetons which are rugged facing East.
Doel:One last thing; I'm not sure that we have covered this. In 1944 for a while you actually worked with the US Geological Survey?
Tharp:Oh, yeah, I had a part time job, actually with Dr. Cohee because that's the first time that the USGS, down in Washington, decided to investigate the Michigan Base as a source of oil. So he was sent out there. He had his office in the basement of the Natural Science building, and he used — there was still some drilling there in Michigan. So they had these samples there, which, you know, what the samples look like. They're glued on boards and labeled and measured and so on, and then they had them from all over the basement. But I worked for him just as a draftsman, and I finally — it was fun, but I had to study. I went home, had a long serious discussion with my father, and says "I can't pass all these exams and work anymore." So he agreed that I'd stop working, so I did. It was too much.
Doel:Yes. That sounds just overwhelming at that point.
Tharp:And so, but George Cohee, he became a big name in stratigraphy, in the USGS.
Tharp:A big compilation all over the United States, after the Michigan Basin, and he came to Washington. The last time I heard, he was very sick, and had retired and was at home, in Reston I believe. He lives at home and he's very sick.
Doel:I personally don't know anything else about him.
Tharp:Uh-huh. Well, that's where I learned to do ink drafting. And that's one of the reasons I think, I got hired by Ewing.
Doel:Yes, I was going to ask you. Clearly, that's a very important question.
Tharp:Why Ewing would hire me?
Doel:Not why he would hire you but —
Tharp:What did he think he was getting?
Doel:Yes. What did he find particularly interesting in what you had already done?
Tharp:Oh, I had a very interesting interview when I showed up. Hum. Well, I went to — I wanted a research job, so I went to Columbia University, I thought, "I'll be a research associate, there must be something here to do." I had gone to the American Geographical Society, because I had heard they were writing a book on the geography of oil, and I thought, "Gee, I could help on that." And this little old lady looks at me and says, "We ain't got no room for file clerks." [laughter] And that was the end of that.
Doel:I bet that was the end of that.
Tharp:So then I went to Columbia and I — and Ewing was away.
Doel:May I ask why Columbia?
Tharp:I don't know. I thought it was a good school. Out in the rest of the country, Columbia is the only school in the East. Many textbooks in College are written by Columbia professors. Also, many teachers in secondary and college level came to Columbia during the summer for several seasons and get their master's degree.
Doel:Just what you knew of the school and what it was doing?
I sat around and the secretary says, "Well, since you do have a degree in math, maybe you should see Dr. Ewing, but he's not here now, come back in three weeks." So I sat around at home, never went anywhere else, just sat. And I went down there, and he was there. You know, he's Texan, very cordial, he has that southern manner. He was cordial. [Insert I: SCHERMERHORN - When I first walked into Room 202 in the basement of Schermerhorn Hall looking for a job, there were several people whom I took to be students in the small outer office. I was ushered into Dr. Ewing's office. He asked me the standard questions about my background and he seemed to become more amazed as he heard about my assorted degrees and the order in which I had taken them. His courtly Texas manner could scarcely hide his bewilderment and finally, he blurted out, "Can you draft?" I remarked that when I was a student at the University of Michigan, I had a part time drafting job for George Cokee of the USGS.
At that time he was doing an initial study of the Michigan basin as a potential oil producer. I was hired as a mathematician for Frank Press as I had a degree in Math from the University of Tulsa in addition to my Masters degree in Geology from the University of Michigan. So, I punched a Monroe calculator for Frank who was then a young seismic student of Dr. Ewing. Jo Worzel, another student had two girls also punching the Monroe calculator doing gravity research. That was 1948. I met Bruce Heezen one morning at 0800 in Schermerhorn when we both came to work at what we thought was regular time. Here in New York, no office starts before 0900 because of the commuting problem. Bruce was just back from the National Geographic cruise of 1948. Bruce and Doc Ewing were writing an article for the NGS magazine but they misspelled Bruce's name with Robert Sisson who was the photographer for the NGS for the 1948 expedition on the ATLANTIS I. This article was published in the NGS magazine in November 1949 by Ewing and Sisson.
Relations between the Ewing group and the NGS were fairly strained and actually, non existent after that. Bruce was a graduate student in the Geology Department at Columbia. I saw him occasionally around the lab. I remember once Bruce was sent off to substitute for an invited lecture scheduled for Dr. Ewing. Doc, as we all surmised, did not especially want to return to Lehigh. After all, having been there 10 years with no promotion, he had been essentially fired. Down in Schermerhorn the guys all ate lunch with Doc in Angelo's shop. The girls, the secretaries and calculators all ate in the other room. I was a newcomer and not a member of either group so I would dash up Amsterdam Avenue to look at the Cathedral at St. John the Divine. It was the largest cathedral I had ever seen. Back at the lab, Dr. Ewing was idolized by the students even to the point of having the same lunch of a sandwich, a beer and an apple. They discussed their problems quite candidly as Ewing asked them about their projects. It was a fairly talented group as well as a representative group. There were one or two students for each of the several disciplines such as seismology, gravity, magnetics, geology, cores, paleontology, physics and engineering.
They were in Angelo's shop which after all was the home base for building instruments. Those early days at Schermerhorn basement in 1948-1949 were fairly unique experience for me coming from the standard hierarchy of an oil company. This bunch of graduate students continued to amaze me. I never saw such young people having so much freedom and responsibility. This was the nucleus of the fantastic team which Ewing built to study the ocean. For me, looking back after thirty years working at Lamont, this was the origin of Ewing's continued multi-disciplined approach to studying the ocean. Of course, the underlying purpose was to get out to sea and study the ocean. Instruments for this purpose were not available. One did not go out to the corner drug store and buy an ocean bottom camera or a sounder. One had to know what they wanted to measure and then the instrument had to be designed, built in Angelo's shop and then taken out to be tested at sea. If lost over the side or defective in some way then another instrument was built in the shop with necessary improvements.
Bruce described these noontime lunches where they all ate in front of the big blackboard in the shop. Bruce wrote "I cherished those noontime lunches as it was a chance for all of the entire group to discuss scientific problems and programs. It was quite possible for a submarine geologist, like me, to follow the advanced work in earthquakes, seismology, gravity or magnetics or atmospheric physics. Those were exciting days and learning was both formal and informal; both textbook learning and what was from day to day research and from our colleagues both as to their method of attach and their actual solutions to basic problems. As the group grew, as Ewing became more famous and more important, his contact with our daily lunches became less and less. Our duties became more and our attendance became less and less and the noontime lunches became impossible after the group expanded to several dozen people." Bruce described the vital essence of the noontime lunches an was saddened by the fact that they were such an ephemeral phenomena.
I too was impressed by the genuine teamwork and sharing of ideas. Looking back, after thirty years, I think the one essential element was that it was a one leader, one team group. With the inevitable expansion the graduate students became leaders in their own groups and then Ewing would lose control of one group after another. These continuing specializations led to the future divisive structure at Lamont. This thread of dissension was built into the group and as it grew and expanded over the years, it culminated in the Heezen Ewing rift. This led ultimately to the demise of Lamont as a top notch leader in this new field of Oceanography to become a second rate and medium weight scientific institution.]
Tharp:And he wanted to know what my background was, and so I told him. And since I had gotten my education in such a funny order, he finally commented — his final question was, "Well, can you draft" And it was ridiculous, he just couldn't understand. He was so bum fuzzled at this funny collection of courses, and in my taking them in such a back-ass way.
Mm. [Insert J: People in the early days in the basement of Schermerhorn before the gift of the Lamont estate to the Ewing group. Secretaries: There were three secretaries: Mrs. Ewing, Betty Clark and Jean Katz. Mrs. Ewing, Doc Ewing's wife, handled book accounts and other affairs. As their family grew, she retired from the scene. The Ewing family had four children, Hopie, Maggie, Peter, and Jerry who grew up on the Lamont estate. Betty Clark - Betty Clark was a secretary who took Mrs. Ewing's place when she left. Betty was offered a job as secretary at Lamont but she declined as her husband had just obtained his MD degree. So they moved out to more western climes. She never worked at Lamont. Jean (Parker) Katz - Jean Parker was secretary, coffee maker, typist, computer and general factotum.
She had been in the WAVES and was known as Admiral Parker. She was a math major from Hunter College but she did not have much computing until we all moved out to Lamont. Then she became assistant to Sam Katz whom she later married. Faye and Emily - These two girls were math majors from Hunter College. They punched their Monroe calculators for Jo Worzel. His gravity measurements required many small arithmetical corrections. They both worked at Lamont for a time. Emily got married and went back to New York City. Faye quit and took a job in Alaska. Jim Coulter - This early group had a business manager, Jim Coulter. When we moved out to Lamont, he continued as manager of VEMA schedules and personnel. He left after five years or so. There was some talk of his going to a Christmas tree farm in upstate New York. When Jim Coulter left Lamont, he was replaced by Sig Romaine. When Sig left he went to New York City to become a floor walker in some big New York department store. He came from a wealthy family and didn't need to work, just something to do.
A few times some of us met him on the streets of New York. He said all floor walkers spent Thursdays walking the streets of New York looking for another job. Angelo Ludas - Then there was Angelo Luda, the prime mover in the shop. He had been with Doc up at WHOI. Doc needed very basic instruments to study the ocean. Jo Worzel would design them and Angelo would build them in his shop. Angelo's assistant was Pat-Pat. When the group moved out to Lamont the greenhouse on the estate became Angelo's shop. Eventually he ha one or two assistants. Some years later, a much longer and better equipped shop was built in the marsh. Angelo was Greek, very loud and outspoken and candid. He and his family later lived out at Lamont in one of the houses on the estate. His wife later worked at the grocery store and post office in Palisades, New York. The town of Palisades got a new post office when the many Lamonters upped the population to warrant a new facility. His daughter Vicki, a beautiful brunette, later died of cancer as had his wife. He also had a son.
When Angelo died, his funeral at St. Anthony's in Nanuet, New York was attended by many top scientists from Lamont and elsewhere. He had worked closely with many of them in the instruments that he had built. I slipped in late, sat in the back pew and left early, so no one could see I had been crying. Frank Press - Frank Press had been up at WHOI and had participated in the 1st and 2nd ATLANTIS cruises in the summer of 1947 and 1948. Frank was interested in theory but he did have field experience at sea. When Doc left for Columbia, Frank chose to come down to Columbia to study seismology with Dr. Ewing. Frank Press was a young graduate student in seismology. I was assigned to work for him punching a Monroe calculator. Frank was rather shy, courteous an also the most brilliant of all Doc's students. Frank was given some opportunity to go to Russia but he was turned down by the Russians when they found out he was Jewish. So his wife went instead to observe education in Russian schools. Frank's time was yet to come. He was slated to be Gutenberg's successor at the California Geophysical Institute upon Gutenberg's retirement.
After spending several years with Ewing, he left to do exactly that. Us Lamonters have followed his notable career with interest as he became scientific advisor to President Johnson, then Professor at MIT and finally President of the National Academy of Science in Washington. He just retired this November and now is a senior fellow at the Carnegie Institute. Sam Katz - Sam Katz was another early PhD student who had joined the Ewing group in WHOI in the winter of 1947. He did his thesis on land sesmic refraction using quarry blasts in upstate New York as inexpensive explosive sound sources. He also was on the early cruises doing refraction at sea. In those days, there was some conflict between Ewing and Katz in regard that the No. 4 layer was there or not. I don't remember much of the details, but I believe that in later years, Katz's results were vindicated. Sam Katz married Jean Parker, Dr. Ewing's secretary. Sam eventually received his degree and wound up as a professor and department head at Rensaleer Polytechnical Institute in Troy, New York. He has since retired and one of their sons owns a dairy farm and sells yogurt. Jo Worzel - Jo Worsel was Doc Ewing's graduate student in gravity. Jo had been with Doc Ewing since he was a sophomore at Lehigh when Ewing was an instructor in Physics there. After those years at WHOI, Jo had come down to Columbia when Ewing was offered a chair.
Doc Ewing was offered a chair at Columbia University in 1944 for instruction and research into geophysics. Jo came with Doc as nucleus of the team while working on his PhD. Jo had a family so the family lived in New Jersey and Jo only saw them on weekends. This enabled him to study and work with Doc full time during the week. Jo designed the instruments that Doc needed in his ocean work, such as the bottom camera, coring rig as well as many others. Ewing and Jo did extensive work on the refraction method, inventing on ocean bottom seismograph. When Sir Edward Bullard suggested they use the ocean as one layer and shoot off the charges at the surface (sound source was 1/2 lb. of TNT). The records gradually improved over the years. Jo also became Doc's right hand man as assistant director, a position he held all during the Lamont years. When Doc left Lamont, Jo went with him to set up a new group at Galveston. Jo was with him until Doc died in 1972. One day Jo Worzel took his two computer assistants, Faye and Emily and myself over to the Watson Lab at 116th Street. He had a circuit diagram on a wooden board about 12"X 12". He was trying to set up a program on this board to do the hundreds of arithmetical corrections necessary for his gravity program. This attempt was not a success and it was a few years before Watson Labs blossomed into IBM. In the meantime, Faye and Emily used this Monroe calculator for Jo Worzel and I continued to punch the Monroe calculator for Frank Press' seismological problems.]
Tharp:So they hired me, I guess, to punch a Monroe calculator for Frank Press. He was a graduate student and they were working on earthquake problems. There were two other girls in the office, and they were working for Jo Worzel on gravity problems, and there were many corrections for gravity in that day, all done by hand. It was dreadful.
Doel:Yes. What training did the other two women have?
Tharp:They were math majors from Hunter. They were strictly math majors. We all had our own Monroe calculators.
Mm-Hum. [Insert K: - from Bruce Heezen - Columbia 1948 - When I returned to Columbia I found the group much expanded. The previous summer there had been but half-a-dozen of us and the work that they were pursuing gives some idea of the broadness of the program, even at that initial stage in the development of our group. When Ewing had left Woods Hole to accept a professorship at Columbia he had brought along Joe Worzel who had been with him since he was a freshman undergraduate. Joe had become involved in the early gravity cruises, and gravity became his specialty. He also was interested in photography, underwater sound, and then, as well as now, he became involved in many of the practical engineering problems of operating a geophysical cruise. Ewing found at Columbia a young graduate student who had come there to study under him, Frank Press.
Frank chose to work in seismology, and though his specialty was theory, he was involved in field observations and instrumentation also. Frank and Doc had a fruitful seven years' association before Frank left to assume directorship of the most renowned seismological observatory in the country. In the winter of 1947, these three were joined by Sam Katz who devoted time and energy to seismic refraction work, largely on the continents, who subsequently became head of the Department of Geology at Rensseleer Polytechnic Institute. During the same winter, William Donn, meteorologist from Brooklyn, joined the group as well as Renee Brilliant who later married Bill Donn who worked in theoretical seismology. During the summer of 1947, Ivan Tolstoy arrived. He at first pursued the study of submarine topography but later became involved in theoretical seismology and subsequently has become a renowned and distinguished authority in the field of wave propagation, particularly in the ocean. About the same time Paul Wuenschel came, who also devoted his time to the study of gravity and organized a gravity expedition to make traverses across the continent of South America which he successfully completed during the following year.
There was also Nelson Steenland who studied magnetic anomalies, having started his work prior to arriving at Columbia while he was working with the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey. Subsequent to his obtaining his degree at Columbia, he went on to become president of one of the major geophysical service companies. There was Milton Doboin, an older student, who came back to school to obtain his degree. He ha run the seismic refraction studies on the Bikini Atoll, a now classical study. He was working in the summer of 1947 on earth currents — electrical currents in the earth. He stayed two or three years at Columbia, teaching a course in geophysics and, in the process, writing a textbook which is now a standard American textbook. Marie Tharp - Gordon Ross Hamilton arrived but stayed only briefly. He was sent off to direct the Bermuda SOFAR Station where he remained until 1968 when the student riots at Columbia University put an end to the classified military research at Bermuda. There was also David Ericson, the paleontologist who had come along with the core collection from Woods Hole. Jack Northrup came down to Columbia from Woods Hole with the Ewing Group. His grandfather had been a member of the faculty, Chemistry Department I believe, of Columbia University but had died quite early in his career. Jack got his Masters at Columbia using underwater photos from the BALANUS. He later took his PhD at Scripps.
And in the one room devoted to the machine shop, Angelo Ludas held sway with his assistant Pat-Pat. Pat-Pat was chunky and well built with a shock of hair similar to Ewings and the first impression was that he was Dr. Ewing's son. Cradle of the Oceans from Bruce Heezen - There was Dick Edwards, an ex-naval officer who was taking a course in physics at Columbia University. Dick had such a sense of duty and enthusiasm for the project, he devoted long hours and tireless efforts to seeing that the field programs progressed, but, in the process, neglected his own work. Subsequently, Dick entered the Korean War and returned, becoming Senior Administrator for the scientific vessels at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. That was the entire student group as of June, 1948, a rather impressive bunch. I haven't left out any failures. The group was called "The Geophysical Laboratory of Columbia University" and was housed in a suite of basement rooms at Schermerhorn Hall at Columbia. These rooms had an illustrious past. They had been the site of the first atomic pile, but, except for that use, they had been largely undeveloped and great masses of Manhattan schist had to be leveled off in order to make them livable. At first we had hardly any technical help. Jean Parker was secretary, coffee-maker, typist, computer and general factotum, whereas Dr. Ewing's wife, Midge, handled the bookkeeping and the accounts and other affairs.
As the Ewing family grew, Mrs. Ewing retired from the scene and her place was taken by Betty Clark. In those days, when it was learned that Dr. Ewing would be giving a lecture, the secretaries, the students, everyone, was called in to do computations, draft illustrations and make photographic slides. Considering the great number of amateurs involved, the slides were not as bad as you might expect. They were frequently quite good, but on the whole, the quality was not exciting. Life was stimulating if not hectic and the lab was a poor place to pursue academic studies, for the commotion and the noise and the interest in the scientific work led to hopeless distractions from studies, particularly those aimed at subjects of no immediate application. Each noontime students all gathered together and ate lunch in the big room. There was a blackboard on one wall and we ate generally in front of the blackboard. The menu was ghastly. Each day one of the group took his turn to get sandwiches from the local delicatessen. Professor Ewing characteristically ordered a salami and cheese sandwich and a beer. Some of the younger students, wanting to emulate their master, used to buy the same. I soon fought for my independence for my stomach revolted against this combination, and instead drank milk and ate more digestible sandwiches.
But the food wasn't the thing. It was a chance to get together, all of us, the entire group, a chance to discuss scientific problems and programs. It was quite possible for the submarine geologist of the group, myself, to follow the advanced work in earthquake seismology, gravity and magnetics, atmospheric physics. These were exciting days. It was new learning, both formal and informal, both textbook learning and what we learned from day-to-day research and from our colleagues, both in their methods of attack and their actual solutions to their problems. Unfortunately as the group grew, as Ewing became more famous and more important, his contact with our daily lunches became less and less. Our attendance became less and less and the noontime lunches became impossible after the group expanded to several dozens of people. Ewing's interests were broad and his energies seemed unlimited. He was the first there in the morning and the last to leave at night. He worked every day from eight o'clock in the morning until midnight. Although most of the students were there a good bit of the time, none of them worked as hard as he did. The opportunity was tremendous, really more than he realized at the time. The organization which was beginning to grow, which at that time was called the Geophysical Laboratory of Columbia University and which essentially consisted of graduate students working under Professor Ewing, was growing at such a pace that the senior staff positions, the directors of minor programs, were graduate students, some of whom had little or no experience. If a responsible and capable person has such responsibilities thrust upon him, he is bound to respond or fail miserably and I am afraid... Note - ends mid sentence.]