Oral History Transcript — Dr. George Sutton
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Interview with Dr. George H. Sutton
George Sutton; June 3, 1997
ABSTRACT: Family background and early education; Muhlenberg College (1944-1945, 195-1947); Merchant Marines (1945-1947); summer work for Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (1949, 1950); Bruce Heezenís expanding earth idea; Columbia University (1950- ??); courses taken with W. Maurice Ewing, Shirley Quimby, Walter Bucher, Marshall Kay; seismic and gravity surveys in Africa, circa 1955; meeting Sir Edward Bullard in Cambridge; work at Lamont Geographical Observatory with Jack Oliver on seismology; formation of the Alpine Geophysical Association with Charles Drake, Walter Beckmann, Bernie Luskin; merging with Charles Officerís company.
TranscriptSession I | Session II
Doel:This is Ron Doel. This is a continuing interview with George Sutton. Weíre recording this in Lake Monticello, Virginia. Todayís date is the 3rd of June, 1997. Tanya Levin is here and doing the interview with me. One of the topics that I know we didnít get a chance to talk about last time was your involvement in the Bermuda work, in the Intersea Acoustics work. How did that come about? How quickly did you become involved in that work?
Sutton:My memory for dates is awful. In the spring before school got out we sort of, at least for a few years, we all got together with Dr. [W. Maurice] Ewing to decide where people were going to go in the summertime and what to do. And I had been — I think this was the third year but Iím not sure. Iíd been at sea the preceding at least two summers.
Doel:And that was on the [???]
Sutton:Yes. Actually, the first one was on the Caryn. And then I went on the Vema. And my wife was pregnant and I really didnít want to be away for all summer. So when we divided things up I got a chance to go to Bermuda for the summer. So I was just there for the summer. One summer.
Doel:How much did you know about the Bermuda Station operations?
Sutton:Well, I knew a little bit about why it was put in. They had a deep hydrophone that they listened to signals. And they did a lot of Navy stuff to see how far they could get sound
Doel:How much did you know about the Bermuda Station operations?
Sutton:Well, I knew a little bit about why it was put in. They had a deep hydrophone that they listened to signals. And they did a lot of Navy stuff to see how far they could get sound propagation through the ocean. I did a number of odd jobs there. I remember Bernie [Bernard] Luskin was trying to develop an electromagnetic sound source and we spent some time working on that. What else did I do? I know we did set up a big experiment to set off a line of floated charges going away from the deep hydrophone and I remember I worked with Mark Landisman [coughing] on that. And we set off charges. I canít remember now. It was quite often. It was kind of a bust. We really didnít get anything much out of it eventually because there were troubles with the recording system, the timing in the recording system.
Doel:You mean much of the summerís work or the floated charges that you trying to get?
Sutton:This one experiment. It was sort of an all-nighter, sort of shot all night. And I remember the ship had a little trouble finding Bermuda on the way back.
Doel:Finding Bermuda. Thatís interesting.
Sutton:That was before we had global positioning and all that sort of thing. If you couldnít get a good start basis and so forth. But Bermudaís not that big a target. We did finally find it. We didnít do much with that data. We tried but it got to be too difficult to try to get anything really useful out of it. Because what you see is a variation of the propagation to a given point as a function of range because the velocity structure, you have places where the signal gets weaker and stronger. We were just trying to understand that better. We learned a little bit but nothing ever got published from it.
Doel:Was that a disappointment? That you werenít able to use this for publication?
Sutton:Well, those kind of things happened a number of times so [???] disappointment, but as soon as I got back from Bermuda, I got busy doing other things. So I still have some unpublished data from the year I spent in Africa. I did a gravity survey there and thatís never been published. Other people have used quite a bit of the data.
Doel:I recall that either from what was on tape or our discussion after that, and that you were thinking to revisit some of these data.
Sutton:Well, I keep talking about it. One of the problems is we had the paper just about written. One of the graduate students used the work for a Masterís thesis, John Grow, a nice fellow, who got his Ph.D., I think, at San Diego. He got his Masterís degree at Lamont. And unfortunately, this gravity survey was around the Western Rift Valley in Africa. It was the biggest single thing I did while I was in Africa. I did get a couple of small papers, seismology papers out of it. The thing we were looking for was to try to decide whether the West African Rift was a tension feature or a compression feature. One of the earlier works by Professor [Sir Edward C.] Bullard, actually it was his Ph.D. thesis, I believe, did pendulum gravity work in Africa, and he had come up with the — it looked to him as though the down drop part of the Western Rift was being held down by compression. It was thrust force holding down this thing. And I had taken some courses from Professor [Walter] Bucher, structural geology, and we were kind of convinced that that was probably wrong and more likely it was a tension feature, just the opposite, and that the surface things you could see. Of course, he didnít have that many stations. Taking pendulum gravity measurements was a long, involved, hard experimental thing to do. So he didnít have very many stations. And he was there when Africa was harder to get around in than when I was there. So I had many, many more stations than he did. I used a gravity meter that Joe [J. Lamar] Worzel had shipped over to me, and I picked it up and read the instruction manual. Iíd never seen one. And I had several ways to try to get the elevation, which is the hardest thing to do there was to get accurate elevation because thatís an important number that you need in order to correct your gravity observation. Constant data. So I had several fancy barometers that I would read. And Iíd check back against the central barometer whenever I could. I didnít have any of that kind of problem with [cross talk].
Doel:No, the technology has certainly advanced dramatically.
Sutton:Anyway, we got a lot of data and this fellow worked it out and with much more data we found that we could fit it with two dimensional structures. We could fit it with either this kind of fault or that kind of fault.
Doel:And youíre holding your hands?
Sutton:Yes. This kind of fault would be over thrust. And this would be a tension effect. And actually on the way back from Africa I stopped in Cambridge to talk to Professor Bullard about it. And I donít know if I told you that. And I said, ďYou know, it looks to me like itís probably tension rather than compression.Ē He said, ďOh, I havenítí believed that for years.Ē
Doel:I remember you telling me that like it were an interesting conversation.
Sutton:So anyway, we found that from the gravity data we couldnít decide which it was. From the other models that we tried we could get it either way. And we had it all written up. It was a nice paper. But by the time we were getting around to publish it, all the business on sea floor spreading and the oceanic rift thing and all this coming out, so you really had to rewrite the whole paper. The data was still fine but the whole background was completely different from where we started.
Doel:When you say the Sea Floor Spreading Paper, do you mean Harry Hessís [cross talk]?
Sutton:What happened, of course, I didnít have any money — and Iím lazy. I didnít have any money to work on that specific project and as soon as I got back I got into earthquake seismology and lunar seismology and actually the job I had when I came back from Africa was to install long period seismographs during the IGY [International Geophysical Year] around the world.
Doel:I wanted to get to that in just a minute, but you raised a really important point there. Was that something that did affect research programs at Lamont? That if one had an interesting paper that had been funded on a previous grant or problem, was it hard to find funds that were of the kind that one could use for projects?
Sutton:Oh, yes. Itís always been. Still is. Always was. Some people worked harder than I did and they managed to somehow get it done, theyíd work all night. It was a frustration. But that other paper, we really should have finished it because there was a lot of really good data.
Levin:Iím curious about that. You were sure that Professor Bullard was wrong. What gave you that impression? Was it that he was using a different type of measurement?
Sutton:No. It was the same type of measurement. He didnít have as many data points. And it turned out that he made some calculations. He didnít have the capability that we did to do two dimensional gravity calculations of modeling. It was a lot harder for him to do it. Actually, for our calculations we used a two dimensional procedure that Manik Talwani developed long after the time that Bullard did his stuff. It made it easy for us to do all kinds of models.
Levin:So was Lamont ahead in that way, because Talwani had developed this?
Sutton:Everybody was ahead. See, Bullard did his stuff, I donít know how much, in the late 30s, I think it was, or 40s. Many years before we did our stuff. So there was a lot of technology available that he didnít have. We had gravity meters. He didnít have a gravity meter that was acceptable to use for the experiments he was doing. So everything was harder. Heís a brilliant guy and you canít criticize him.
Doel:How well did you get to know Gordon Hamilton when you were down in Bermuda?
Sutton:Well enough to like him and be a little frustrated by him occasionally as a boss.
Doel:What sort of things come to your mind when you think about that?
Sutton:I used to have ideas about Iíd like to try this. Iíd like to try that. His first reaction to any new idea was, ďBullshit.Ē
Doel:How does one get around that?
Sutton:Oh, he was really a decent guy. That was his start of the conversation. Then you had to try to convince him.
Doel:What sort of idea? Were you thinking of any particular one?
Sutton:Canít remember now. Probably this experiment we ended up finally doing, which was one of the things I tried to push. And it was a big deal. We had everybody in our whole little group was involved in this experiment. I remember this, itís a little bit delicate, but we needed something to float these, so we used half pound blocks of TNT, set off every few minutes on this line going away from away from it. And the most reliable floats we could come up with were condoms. So one of the guys had to the drugstore and buys a couple of gross of condoms. The guy said, ďBoy, youíre going to have a nice weekend,Ē or something like that.
Doel:We actually heard a similar story from Alma Kesner. When she couldnít get balloons when she was purchasing up in Palisades, having to go to the druggist.
Sutton:Well, theyíre really very reliable. Much better than cheap balloons that you buy. And they were just fine.
Doel:Were there things that you recall that you were doing during that summer in Bermuda that you found helpful in your later career?
Sutton:Well, everything, I guess. I donít know of anything specific. I had more experience at sea and did some more work with electronics. We built most of our own equipment or a lot of it, had to repair it. Itís so long ago. I donít remember a lot about it. My wife was badly pregnant.
Doel:You were eager to get home.
Sutton:She didnít have a very good time, because we had this little house. And I was up on this gorgeous bluff looking at the ocean with nice breezes coming in. She was stuck in this little house with a two-year-old and very pregnant. It was hot. It was a tough couple of months for her.
Doel:When you started installing the seismograph stations for the IGY, had you already finished your Ph.D. at that point? Because I know that was in [cross talk]
Sutton:No, I was in the process. My Ph.D. was delayed because of the year I spent in Africa. I was writing my dissertation, the thing I planned to use for my thesis, on my way, on a boat. It was a freighter that we took to Africa and it was a long time we were at sea. And I spent almost the whole time writing on the dissertation. And Jack [John E.] Nafe was sort of my main advisor. Ewing was my principal advisor but Jack Nafe was my immediate advisor. And I had my first draft done when I got to Africa and I sent it back and I waited for a year for Jack to respond. When I wasnít there to kind of lean on him nothing happened. Then I had to do a lot more work on it after I got back. And so I finally got my degree in Ď57, just early in Ď57, so I essentially was finished. I finished it in Ď56. I finished after I came back from Africa. See, originally, Iíd planned to make my dissertation on seismic refraction but I could see it completely changed. I used the physical analysis of deep sea sediments for my dissertation,
Doel:What was the particular problem that you had addressed?
Sutton:I was trying to get some handle on what determined the compression way of velocity on semi-consolidated rain sediments. See, at sea, what the basic seismic data actually was an ultrasonic sample. Without the ultrasonic we measured the speed through the cores and this was done when the cores were fresh. In fact, I repeated some of the measurements after we got back from Lamont to see how important it was to do it fresh. It turned out there wasnít a big change. But most of them there wasnít a big change. There was some. It depended on how coarse the sediment was. If the sediment was fairly coarse, water came out of the core. And then it would be a major change in speed. But most of the clay is the fine stuff. The permeability was so low that they were essentially the same after coming back, as they were when we measured them on the ship. And we compared the speed with the amount of carbonate that was in the density, the porosity and the grain size. And this came up with some kind of an empirical relationship with one of those parameters.
Doel:And your concern was principally with the very top region. That part which was [cross talk]
Sutton:As far as the core would go down, which is only the first 30-40 feet usually?
Doel:Do you remember much debate at that time at Lamont over the structure of the rocks underlying the sea floor? Because there were clearly some debates over whether there was an intermediate velocity layer that might have been volcanic. Sam [Samuel] Katz was advocating that point of view.
Sutton:I donít remember all the details. People who were working in the Pacific found there was a lower velocity rock under the sediments that was not observed in the Atlantic as much and part of the reason was just the difference in the thicknesses of these layers made it easier for them to observe it in the Pacific than the Atlantic. And of course, we always tried to conserve explosives as much as possible so we probably under sampled. We should have set off a lot more charges close in, especially to look for this. But a lot had to do with the relationships among the water depth and the thickness of these different layers because if the layer isnít thick enough it never becomes a first arrival when it would be easy to see. Itís back in there someplace, but itís a lot harder to get hold of.
Doel:And this is Russell Raittís work that youíre referring to?
Doel:You just raised an interesting point. Were the explosives that you were using, could you charge those to a grant or given the nature of the quarrying operations in that work? Because thatís something that had to come from [cross talk]
Sutton:The stuff we used, almost all the stuff we used was surplus from World War II. So we didnít pay anything for it. All of the research, almost all of it was on Navy research contracts and grants. So that was just supplied. We didnít have to pay anything for them.
Doel:Iím just wondering what had kept the number of explosive charges down. Clearly later, if I remember right, there were more and more charges. The sampling would be denser.
Sutton:I think part of it is a matter that a lot of us got started during the Depression —
Doel:Thatís a very good point.
Sutton:—and tried to conserve. It looked as though you had an adequate answer to it. And the answer was itís an acceptable first approximation. Itís just that you didnít get all the details. You still donít get all the details. You certainly got most of the gross structure. In fact, Iíve talked to people from oil companies who when they went into new areas in shallower places, I would think specifically in the North Sea — some old Lamont refraction profiles were done in these areas and those people, even when they went in there with their high powered reflection gear, they used these as guides to do. And as it turned out it was a good, good first approximation to what was there. The results were fairly reliable. Itís just that you didnít get everything.
Doel:How did you first get involved in that extended IGY operation? Youíd mentioned a moment ago that it did take you too many parts of the world.
Sutton:Yes, well I didnít actually go to many. I was in charge of getting stuff out. So most of it was shipped and we depended on the local people to try to get them going. A lot of communication back and forth about it.
Doel:Were you also in charge, then of figuring out what might work as good stations and what kind of facilities were needed?
Sutton:I donít remember. I donít remember. Iím sure that I was not in charge of deciding where they should all go. I know that. Because at the time — see, when I came back from Africa I had been in the Marine seismology business and while I was in Africa I was doing earthquake seismologyís, the first earthquake seismology I did. And when I came back, Jack [E.] Oliver — see, Frank Press left for Cal Tech the same year that I went to Africa. So Frank Press was kind of the seismology head until he left. And when he left Jack Oliver became the seismology head. And when I came back from Africa, Jack Oliver said, ĎWouldnít you like to stay in earthquake seismology instead of going to sea all the time?Ē So I said, ďSure.Ē So I sort of became the second under Jack Oliver in seismology. Earthquake seismology.
Levin:You were mentioning in your IGY activities, one of the things you would do was to communicate with the nations?
Sutton:Well, individual scientists, I donít really remember how — which probably I didnít have an awful lot to do with deciding where we would be putting the instruments.
Levin:But you talked with the scientists.
Sutton:I would deal with the scientists who were in charge. See almost all of them went to existing earthquake seismology stations where they had seismologists who were used to running instruments. But these were long period instruments, so they were different from what most of the people had experience with. And so we had to help them get going. And they had some nasty characteristics. The galvanometers involved in these things were very delicate, and itís easy to break them and sometimes difficult to adjust them. Go ahead.
Levin:Was it particularly true in certain countries that you were finding more problems in others?
Sutton:There was one place — Iím not going to say where — someplace in South America. And the deal was that if these people would run the stations, weíd supply the instruments, and we supplied the photograph — this is all photographically recorded, and little mirrored galvanometers on drums. So we supplied all the equipment and the paper, but they ran them and they were supposed to make time corrections so that the time was as accurate as possible using radio time signal for correcting their clocks. And for what they got out of it in addition to the work was that when they sent back their records to us we promised that any records that they would like we would copy and send a copy back to them. Well, this one place in South America routinely asked for everyone.
Levin:Which country was that?
Sutton:[laughter] I donít remember. Like some politicians that I know, they donít remember.
Doel:They donít remember.
Sutton:And in addition to wanting a copy of every one, often times they were just straight lines with time marks on them. So obviously the boom was sagged against one stop to the other and just sitting there for a month. They wanted all those straight line records. This was an exception. Most places really did a very conscientious job of making good records. One of the most interesting ones was the record in Fiji. Are you going to see Bob [Robert] Houtz? I donít know if heís on your list of people to talk to. Well, he came a little bit later. Fiji, there they did not have a seismologist. The fellow who was in charge of the instruments there was a geologist by the name of Bob Houtz who eventually ended up at Lament. Heís not originally American. But I think he had an American wife. Anyway, he got this instrument and he got it going and we got these absolutely gorgeous records from there, really nice. And they seemed to have a lot more low frequency signals in them than all the other ones. See, they were supposed to set up so that the seismometer pendulum had a natural period of 30 seconds. And the galvanometer is supposed to have a natural period of about 90 seconds. And this produces a barn past filter, low frequency, to pick up long period waves. That was the object of the whole thing. Well, it turned out that what he thought the period was one stroke, like with a clock, a one-second clock; it goes tick-tock-tick-tock. So he thought this was supposed to be 30 seconds for one way instead of for the whole cycle. So he had — and it was really hard to do because the longer the period you make it the less stable it is. So he managed to get this thing to run twice the period anybody else. Theyíre gorgeous records, you know. He did it by mistake because he used the wrong definition for the period.
Doel:Thatís very interesting. So that contributed to the accuracy of the [cross talk]
Sutton:Well, weíve got really nice records from that. It was great. And he managed to keep them going.
Doel:Bob Houtz was down there and Lynn Sykes went down for a time as I recall.
Sutton:That was much later.
Doel:That was later.
Sutton:Yes, much later.
Levin:So when you were looking at these records at, say, this other South American country, obviously you could tell what was happening and how detailed the notes were being taken. But was there ever perhaps concern over the professionalism of the science in different countries in the world? Was there any attempt to somehow standardize it or to send people out to demonstrate?
Sutton:No. At that point we didnít. I personally went to Hawaii to help. But that was in the U.S. To help get that station going better. And Iím trying to remember now. And I know I did go to Canada to help there a little bit. But see Canada had a vertical long period station running for a while. I canít remember what the problem was. But I know I did go up and had a nice time.
Doel:Was that a Canadian observatory?
Sutton:Yes. John Hodgson was in charge at the time. Nice man. In fact, there were two John Hodgsons. Father and son, both seismologists.
Doel:Thatís right. They both were there. One thing, in thinking about IGY [International Geophysical Year] as an entity, did you find that there was sufficient funding under the IGY auspices to do the program as you saw it best to do it?
Sutton:I think we accomplished a lot. And Iím sure we could have done a little bit better job if we had more money. We may have done better if I was able or somebody was able to go to each of these places, to have somebody who was familiar with the long period instruments. I think it was fine. You can always use more money. But an awful lot of stuff came out of the IGY.
Doel:That was the other set of questions I was curious about. How did IGY influence Lamont when you look back on it?
Sutton:Well, we already were in long period seismology, but I think it increased the amount of influence we had in long period seismology because we had all this data from all over the place to work with. I personally didnít do as much with the data as a lot of other people did.
Doel:Who do you recall having spent a lot of time on the data?
Sutton:Well, Jack Oliver and letís see, Morry [Morris] Major worked on it, Jim [James] Brune. Now I did get involved with working on the big Chilean earthquake with Lee Alsop, and looking for the free oscillations. But that was a combination of a strain meter that I got involved with also.
Doel:That was the Ď64 earthquake as I recall.
Sutton:1960, wasnít it?
Doel:Ď60? I think youíre right. In Ď64 it was the Alaskan quake.
Sutton:That was when the first several groups just had the right kind of instruments to see the free oscillations, the fundamental period.
Doel:It was a major observation at the time.
Sutton:Oh, it was a big deal. Yes. A lot of that stuff came during the International Geophysical Meeting. I was there at the meeting. I forget where it was. Someplace over in Europe.
Levin:Was that in Barcelona?
Sutton:No. Iíve never been in Barcelona so it wasnít there.
Doel:Were you presenting in that session where the information came out?
Sutton:No, it was too new. See, the stuff that was presented at the meeting about the free oscillations I think was sort of cabled to the people who were at the meeting by the people who were back home working up the data. We didnít have anybody working up that data at home.
Levin:Do you remember what you were particularly interested in — data from different areas or geographic areas in the world, perhaps that they hadnít had before?
Sutton:For which? Well, there were practically no long period seismographs around the world before the IGY. There were just a couple of places where we had them. And often it was just the single component, just the vertical, so the main thing was to try to get them as distributed as possible around the whole world. See, one installation was in Antarctica, for example. It really was a start. The IGY network was a start and was considered as a prototype of the world wide seismograph network, long period network that came out after the IGY. And it was using essentially the same instruments. And they saw how much more we were learning from getting these things all over the world.
Doel:The other thing I wanted to ask you about at this point was where you saw your career most likely tending? You had mentioned that Jack Oliver had invited you back in for the earthquake seismology. Where did you see the research going in that field at that time?
Sutton:Well, we were all interested because of the stuff that had been gone up, we were all interested in the longer period signals. I tended to be involved in trying to improve the instrumentation most of the time. So I got involved in putting in a strain meter in mine, in Odgensburg. I was even confused about what comes first. And then we got involved with tape recording seismographs so that we could do some machine analysis, Itís a lot easier than from the photographic records.
Doel:That was one of the interesting things I wanted to ask you about. Who did you regard as the leaders in digitization of these records? Were you actively working on that at Lamont?
Sutton:No, I wasnít at the time. Actually, I was fighting a rear guard action, trying to do it with analog computers, so I lost out. We did do some interesting things with analog computers and analysis of the seismograms. But the horsepower of IBM and so forth, like the South. I think at the time a lot of stuff was more flexibly done with analog with computers and with digital. But that changed.
Doel:Did you regard yourself as the leader of that effort at Lamont in doing that work? Or were others?
Sutton:On the analog stuff, yes. Yes, I was the one who was doing it. Paul Pomeroy worked with me, mainly, and a couple of others of the graduate students.
Doel:One of the things I have is a paper that you published in 1963 on seismological instrumentation. And itís clear you were also thinking about the possibility of the lunar instrument at that time. How did you first get involved in that phase of your career?
Sutton:Well, probably through Ewing. Because Ewing was talking to the big shots who were developing the space program. And one of the obvious things to try to do was to see if thereís any seismic activity on the moon and then Jack [Oliver] and Doe and I would talk about it and they were both busy doing other things. So I sort of got the job to push the lunar stuff.
Doel:How active a role was Frank Press playing in that instrumentation?
Sutton:Oh, he was very involved. He was at Cal Tech [California Institute of Technology]. So they were our competitors for the development of it.
Doel:Thatís what I was curious about. It really was proceeding independently at Lamont for instrument development.
Sutton:Yes, it was set up, in the beginning it started with the Ranger [Mission] seismographs. At the beginning it was a competition between us and Cal Tech essentially. As far as I know there were only two groups working on it and this was a JPL [Jet Propulsion Laboratory], the whole thing was a JPL project, and essentially Cal Tech, [Hugo] Benioff was the lead person at Cal Tech, and you know, he was already a famous guy. And I was the lead guy at Lamont. And Gary Latham was working with me and several good engineers on developing. So essentially we developed competing instruments and there was a show-down test where they took two proto-type instruments up — and I donít know if I talked to you about this already — they took the two proto-type instruments, one from them and one from us up in a helicopter above a concrete runway in a sort of a semi-abandoned airport out near Pasadena and I think they sort of dropped them from a thousand feet up or something. One of the specs was that they were supposed to live through 1,000 G acceleration. And so we dropped them. Of course they both got damaged badly enough so that neither one would work. So they kind of took them apart to see well, which one was damaged the worst and which one was more likely to get fixable. And we seismologists, you know, Benioff and his bunch, and we got together by ourselves and looked them over and decided that the Lamont instrument looked like it was the most likely instrument to proceed with.
Doel:Thatís very interesting. So all of you were together, the two teams, and examining both instruments at the same time.
Sutton:Yes. And you might get a different story if you go out to Cal Tech, but Iím pretty sure this is correct. Then we had this big meeting with about 15 engineers and program scientists from JPL. It was their decision which one to pick. This was all after — I think it was during the same period of time when we were out in California when we dropped these things and looked them over the next day or two days later. We had this big meeting where the JPL people, essentially they were asking us questions about our instruments and how they worked and so forth. I could tell by all the questions and the way the questions were asked that they already had decided that Cal Tech should build the instrument, rather than us.
Doel:It must have been a disappointment.
Sutton:Yes. Then we had lunch after this meeting was over. They didnít say which. During the meeting they didnít say what their decision was, because they were going to go back by themselves and go through all their steps. Because you know, these are big shot engineers. They had formal ways to do all this stuff. So we had lunch at Benioffsí. Very nice man. Had lunch at his house. And I told him, you know, I was pretty sure that their instrument would be chosen. He said, ďNo, George. No, we all decided. Yours is better.Ē He was wrong. I didnít get the results until after I got back to Lamont. I got a phone call from this guy, and I wasnít very polite to him when I heard their answer. But they had all kinds of reasons.
Doel:What sort of things were they saying?
Sutton:Well, they felt that Cal Tech had more support, background support, more senior people. They had much more active support from Frank [Press] than I was getting from Doe. From their point of view it made a lot of sense because Cal Tech is right there. It was down the street.
Doel:So itís interesting that those considerations were playing very high even when there was ostensibly a technical decision.
Sutton:Well, it was a combination. You know, they got something that worked. Well, we donít really know that. But that instrument that they developed was actually built eventually by a commercial outfit that built flight instruments. I donít know if they still sell them, but they sold them for years. The commercial outfit sold them. This lunar model that was made up — well, there were advantages to it. You had to work at any orientation because the design of this thing was that you put the seismograph in a great big ball so it wouldnít vaporize when it landed. It wasnít a very fancy experiment, but none of them eventually worked. But it wasnít the seismographís fault. I think the first two missed the moon completely. And one landed on the back side of the moon.
Doel:The problem was with the ranger series, which were rather ill-fated.
Levin:Well, after Cal Tech got essentially the contract, the competition was over. So did they tend then to call on you to ask for advice?
Sutton:Oh, yes. We stayed involved as co-investigators. But there wasnít anything to investigate because nothing worked. We were involved in the design review and all that stuff to give advice. But see then came along Surveyor [Mission], which was the next — and because they were busy with Ranger, we got the Surveyor job, which actually was more fun anyway. And with the Surveyor job was a lot fancier instrument. Because this was going to be a three component long period, plus a single vertical short period. This was the original design. And this was going to be lowered down from the space craft onto the lunar surface. That was the design. And we developed a really nice instrument. And we used the instrument on the bottom of the ocean. That was one of these proto-types we actually used on the bottom of the ocean.
Doel:Which had come first? The development of the lunar instrument that was then adopted for ocean?
Sutton:Yes. Didnít really have to be adopted. It was ready to go. So that was an advantage. But of course, then the Surveyor program got in deep trouble. So the first thing that went was the long period seismographic part got thrown off. And I said well, maybe we can hang onto the short period, just this one little short period instrument. And then eventually, right near the end it got thrown off. It had all kinds of trouble with the booster rockets. And it was getting closer and they were way behind schedule and it was getting close to the time that the men were going to go on the Apollo [Mission] program. And at the time, this Tom [Thomas] Gold from Cornell was saying about gold dust that we may have tens of meters of dust that youíll just disappear into and they had to get something unmanned up on the moon, the lunar surface, to find out is it safe to send people.
Doel:You were mentioning a moment ago about gold dust at the concern with needing, of course, to get something like Surveyor to take photographs to show the density.
Sutton:I think there was a chemical, an analysis, actually it was done as some radioactive way to get some idea of the composition of the soil. And the photographs, thatís about what was left from the whole Surveyor program, which originally was a whole bunch of different experiments. And I stayed involved with it all the way through. We were able to get some information about the mechanical properties of the soil by looking at how the spacecraft vibrated when it landed. So we used actually engineering data that was sent back, and we got a couple of little papers out of that.
Doel:Itís very interesting. And that was, as I recall, some of that was correlated with the photographs made of the footprint. What was it like working with NASA [National Aeronautics and Space Administration] as an entity, as a patron?
Sutton:I had trouble with it. I had trouble with it. I do much better in smaller groups I think. It was hard.
Doel:What were the particular frustrations in NASA, say just during this Surveyor program?
Sutton:Well, youíd go through all this effort and everything gets delayed and you canít use the instrument anyway.
Doel:It never flew did it, on the Surveyor?
Sutton:No, no. Actually the Apollo seismograph that finally got used was essentially — because you see, Lamont also was in charge — I was the principle investigator on the Apollo seismograph also until I went to Hawaii, and then Gary Latham took it over and I became the co-investigator. So the Apollo seismograph was actually a reduced version of the stuff that we developed for Surveyor. It was smaller. Didnít weigh as much, but the general principle, all the design principles were the same as we had developed for the Surveyor. And it turned out to be a pretty good instrument.
Doel:When was the first time that you expected to be able to use it on Apollo? What flight was first scheduled for [???].
Sutton:I donít remember. Eleven?
Doel:Was it as soon as the first landing?
Doel:I was curious.
Sutton:I think it was the first landing. Yes. It was one of the primary experiments. See, the first one did not have as good a power supply as the later ones. So it didnít last very long. Iím trying to remember now. Because we were really foundering, trying to understand the data when I came back. We were seeing all kinds of strange things in the records. It took quite a while to figure out what was going on.
Doel:When you think back to that, what particularly had seemed interesting in these data? I mean, youíre talking now about Apollo 11 and the first data sets coming back.
Sutton:Yes. Well, at first — Iím trying to remember whether we got anything decent out of 11. I think we did. See, one of the things, we got these strange looking signals. They just rattled for a long period of time. Didnít look anything like anything we were familiar with from the earth. We didnít know whether these were impacts or moonquakes, for example, for a long time. And finally we discovered — and actually it was the guys at Hawaii that discovered it originally. I was at sea. And I remember them calling me on the radio about it. They discovered several events that wiggle for wiggle looked alike. And it was essentially impossible for those to be meteorite impacts, to land exactly at the same place. Because they would have had to be within just a couple of meters of each other in order to look so much alike, so they didnít figure out that these things were moonquakes.
Doel:That was your first unambiguous lunar quake?
Sutton:Yes. And gradually we learned more and more how to interpret these things. But see because of the lack of any moisture on the moon, and the very high precocity of the material, and the lowest velocities, lowest speeds in the material — it was very low — and so because of the lack of moisture the elastic properties were extremely — we call it in terms of Q — the Q of the stuff was very, very high compared to earth materials, you know, order of magnitude, a couple of order of magnitude higher. So stuff can just rattle around for a long period of time. And this gave us just great big long signals. And we gradually learned more and more how to interpret them.
Doel:How were you learning about the moon during this period? Who did you have discussions with about the structure and the properties and [cross talk]
Sutton:Actually, I kind of got out of it all. I was in Hawaii already.
Doel:I was thinking, even when you first started getting involved. How much contact did you have, for instance, with those who had been working on lunar problems already in the 1950s, like Harold [C.] Urey or Gerard [P.] Kegler?
Sutton:Very little. You know, weíd have these meetings where everybody got together and talked about their things. Harold Urey was interested in everything. Heíd come around and he was really interested in what we were doing. Kegler had essentially had no relationship with him. He was more of an astronomer. But Urey, he was a really great guy.
Doel:Were you at the Falmouth meeting of the summer study from the Space Science Board that discussed lunar instrumentation?
Doel:There probably were a number of them in the 1960s.
Sutton:Yes, I was at one there. Actually, part of that was talking about going to Mars. There was a separate meeting about going to Mars. Thatís where we first drew up the first ideas, science ideas about going to Mars. But the lunar stuff was already going at that time. I think that was just before I went to Hawaii.
Levin:How wise did you think NASA was in choosing its programs? Do you think it chose things more on a political level or rather on what was best for science?
Sutton:I donít know. They had the best scientists in the U.S. available to them, because it was a good source of funds. But sometimes like a lot of other things the best debaters sometimes won the argument but maybe thatís not necessarily the best thing to do. But I think generally the quality of the people involved was very high. The costs are tremendous. To develop the instrument that we put down on the bottom of the ocean, for example, if we were doing that through oceanographic funds, we probably would have spent about a tenth as much as NASA paid for. A lot of it is because of all this — the quality assurance, I think that what happened was that somehow they got mixed up between things that are important to provide a safe trip for the guys versus whatís sensible for instrumentation, especially new instrumentation. Delicate seismographs, theyíre delicate. And they might break sometimes. Actually our failures, you know, the failure on the first Mars went up didnít work. And the reason it didnít work was somebody put in apparently the wrong the squib, they call it that sort of makes an explosive release. So the seismograph never had a chance to work. It was clamps.
Doel:This was on Viking 1 [Mission] that youíre referring to?
Sutton:The first Viking. On the first Viking the seismograph didnít work at all. The second Viking the seismograph worked but it didnít get anything useful, which wasnít a surprise to me.
Doel:How interested was Ewing in bringing Lamont into planetary studies at that time? Did you have conversations with him about that?
Sutton:Not a lot. Not a lot.
Doel:How interested did he seem?
Sutton:Well, heís interested in everything but he was more really involved with the earth stuff that was going on. He didnít provide much guidance. He was always interested in everything I had to say to him. This is kind of understandable. When we worked on the data, when we first had data to work on he was interested enough so we were all down, Frank [Press] and he, we were all down in Houston trying to understand what we were seeing.
Doel:What was that like? What kind of facilities did you have at Houston?
Doel:Yes. Were you there for several weeks at a time when the missions were running?
Sutton:Yes. In the beginning. I donít remember now how long, but it seemed like it was too long. Sometimes Iíd just as soon get home. There was plenty of space for us to work, if thatís what you mean. And they provided pretty good facilities. The data came in reels and reels of tape, which was kind of hard to deal with. To find things.
Doel:These were data tapes just from your instruments?
Sutton:Just from our instrument. They separated out the stuff so just our instrument. But just from our instruments filled up a lot of closet space. But see, I really — I donít know. I was not very excited about a lot of stuff by that point.
Doel:Itís clear you were getting discouraged by a number of factors. Iím curious particularly when you think back on it now what were the most important.
Sutton:Well, I donít know. I thought it was great that we really could identify the moonquakes and we had played around with different ways to present the seismic data as a function of time by putting them out in different ways than just three-orthogonal components, combining them in ways that helped to identify different wave types and angles of incidence and so forth. And when we were doing that sort of stuff was where the fellows found the moonquakes. But unfortunately there were a little politics involved there. The principle investigator had to make sure that the first publication that came out on moonquakes was not from Hawaii even though thatís where they were found. It didnít bother me but.
Doel:Because youíd already left in Ď66 as I recall.
Sutton:Yes. Iíd left before anything was flying on the moon. And I had a little trouble with getting data from the ocean bottom side of the seismograph off the West Coast, which is the last thing I did when I left Lamont.
Doel:What was the problem?
Sutton:Just dealing with a new principle investigator back at Lamont who had been my former student. I donít like to talk about it.
Doel:Thatís discouraging when these sorts of things happen. What Iím curious about, too, is how much time prior to the time that youíd left Lamont for Hawaii, were you spending on the lunar NASA research compared to the other research programs you were still involved in?
Sutton:Well, it was the combination of the lunar and the ocean bottom thing.
Doel:They donít seem as one piece in some ways?
Sutton:Well, they were very closely related because we did use the Surveyor instrument for the ocean bottom instrument and Iím trying to remember now. It seems that I was still working on Surveyor stuff when we went to Hawaii.
Doel:It would make sense.
Sutton:And the Apollo stuff really didnít get going until after I went to Hawaii, the development of the instrument. See, Gary Latham, even though I was principle investigator when it started it wasnít long before he took over as principle investigator so I was spending most of my time the last year I was at Lamont working on the ocean bottom instrument. Thatís right.
Doel:What I was also curious about what was do you remember discussions about what one would expect the condition of the moonís interior to be? In other words, how you came to understand the structure of the moon as most other planetary scientists as that community was beginning to take shape believed.
Sutton:I really wasnít that involved with developing the models. I was doing other things.
Doel:But clearly you had an expectation that the moon was not going to be geologically active in terms of —
Sutton:No, thatís right.
Doel:Do you remember the discussions that had gone in the late 1950s about [Nikolai] Kozyrevís claim to have seen an active volcano on the moon?
Sutton:I donít remember that specific thing but I know there was a big debate about what percentage of the craters were volcanic and which were meteorite impacts. But I wasnít really involved very much.
Doel:Iím curious, too, did Ralph Baldwin show up at any of those meetings that you were involved in?
Sutton:I donít recognize that name.
Doel:He had written one of the books in the very early 1950s that most people cite as being one of the reasons the American community began to accept the impact origin rather than the volcanic for many craters.
Sutton:[Eugene M.] Shoemaker I know. But I knew him and I knew he was involved. But I guess Baldwin came before him.
Doel:How much interaction did you have with Gene Shoemaker?
Sutton:It was quite a bit. I like him. He seems like a nice, good guy.
Doel:Had you met him when he was first at NASA headquarters? Or had he already gone to Flagstaff at that point?
Sutton:I think he was already at Flagstaff. Now I donít remember when I first — I donít know where he was when I first found him. He was a student of Harry Hess at Princeton and I had been at meetings with Harry and I think maybe Gene was at some of those meetings. I donít know where he was at that time.
Doel:Did you find it relatively easy to work with the contractors, the instrument makers, when you were building the instruments for Surveyor and then for Apollo?
Sutton:Well, see, I was not that involved with the contractors. See, we developed and built the instruments for Surveyor. Of course, they never got to be flight instruments so that was satisfactory. For the Apollo I was a co-investigator so I didnít have any real responsibility for monitoring. We would have period meetings where everybody would go and theyíd have a show and tell and I specifically remember one example where they were showing this flight instrument in a clean room. I donít know if I told you this, but the fellow who was going to take the instrument apart so we could look at the inside of it, he put on one white glove and he picked up the screwdriver with the white glove and the bare hand he picked up the instrument. It seemed backwards to me somehow.
Doel:Probably to a few other people as well.
Sutton:But a lot of that stuff is interesting. And you know the paper work that went with each little nut and bolt was amazing. Thatís why it costs so much, of course.
Doel:Prior to the time that you left to go to Hawaii, did you feel that the lunar planetary work could become a major component of Lamont or did you see your involvement pretty much in the one particular instrument that had applications for the lunar program?
Sutton:Well, I didnít think of it as a major thing at Lamont. I know that at the time I was leaving there was talk about getting a building at Lamont for space work and Ewing in the negotiations had tried to keep me from leaving to go to Hawaii, he talked about, ďWell, you know, if that building comes about you can be in charge of it,Ē and things like that. Now usually he kept he kept his word about stuff like that, so I took it seriously. But Iíd already committed myself to leave.
Doel:Was it a surprise when he mentioned it?
Sutton:No, he really tried to keep me at Lamont. It was very interesting. Well, there were a whole bunch of reasons why I left. One of the main reasons I left Lamont was because I tried to get more money for my engineers and nobody paid any attention to me.
Doel:Is that right? What did you do on those sorts of issues? Would you talk directly with Ewing or [crosstalk]
Sutton:No. See at that time Doc had stepped back from day to day operations and Joe Worzel was sort of the director in charge. I donít know what the best way to say it is. Officially he was Associate Director. But it was more like he was the President of the company and Doc was the Chairman of the Board kind of a thing.
Doel:Thatís an interesting way to put it.
Sutton:And so they had a Salary Committee and so it would be one person on the Salary Committee from each of the groups and since Jack Oliver was the senior guy in the seismology group he was the representative. And Joe [Worzel] was essentially the Chairman of the Committee. See, the engineers working on my project dealing with these big shot engineers from Hughes Aircraft and wherever they were building the equipment, it was a completely different kind of life from the other engineers at Lamont who could kind of work at their own schedule and be sloppy about the paper work. My guys couldnít get away with that. And they also knew they were dealing with people that they were as smart as or smarter than, who were making twice as much as they were. And I tried to explain this and get more money. And since Jack didnít support me at the committee meetings because, well, he just felt that beginning Ph.D. seismologists should make more than any engineer whoís there, which is fine if youíre a beginning seismologist, but itís not fine if everybodyís salary is low — and I had to have these engineers. I couldnít do the work without them. And we had big long heart to heart talks about it but Jack — a good friend and an excellent scientist but we just saw differently about it. Actually, and I talked to Joe about it, and Joeís reaction was just, ďWell, George, everybodyís trying to get more money for their people. Whatís new?Ē
Doel:So he wouldnít support you either?
Sutton:No. And I didnít try to go to Ewing about it. I donít know if it would have done any good. I really wanted Joe to handle it.
Doel:Did you find it harder to talk to Ewing after Harriet [Greene] became his wife and was in the outer office?
Sutton:I donít think so. I donít remember having any trouble. My brother had some problems with that but thatís another story.
Sutton:Yes. My brother worked for Ewing for a while as sort of the Assistant to the Director.
Levin:And had problems with Ewing?
Sutton:No. Well, he eventually had problems with Ewing but it was mainly through Harriet that he had problems with Ewing.
Sutton:What happened? Well, see my brother had been in business and heís a pretty good engineer. And he had spent lots of time, he was really into — had really wanted to get into academic stuff. He was tired of this awful business world and I tried to explain to him that the academic world is every bit as bad. Heís older than I. Heís dead now. Heís four years older. And he thought he could get involved with science administration, some research. Heíd be an administrative guy. And he wondered if it would be okay if he could talk to Doc [Ewing] about, you know, just in general what Doc thought about this idea. Well, he went to talk to Doc and ended up being hired by Doc to be his assistant. And he went around trying to help people write their proposals and make sure their progress reports got done on time. Stuff that I was always bad at. And all kinds of things like this. And as far as I knew everything was satisfactory. But then Doc went to sea and Doc had this filing system thatís about as bad mine over there.
Doel:Youíre pointing behind you to a filing cabinet.
Sutton:To all that junk. The junk was all over the place. Actually, he was probably more organized. But he had lots of tables and he had each project with a separate pile. And Paul thought that maybe he could organize Docís office and he talked to Harriet about doing this and Harriet said, ďGee, Paul, thatís a good idea. Why donít you do that?Ē She didnít want him around.
Levin:So she realized that that would get him into trouble.
Sutton:Got him in lots of trouble. Yes. When Doc came back he was furious. Sheís a clever woman. A smart woman.
Levin:How much had you heard about Does attempts to cultivate a relationship with [Robert] Jastrow at NASA? Did he talk about any attempts to get Goddard as part of the Lamont group?
Sutton:I never heard that, I think there were Ė
Doel:Robert Jastrow was in New York at that time.
Sutton:Yes, I remember him. Good guy. I would think, we tried to have good relationships with them as far as I know. I didnít know anything more than that.
Doel:In other words, within Lamont, he wasnít someone who would show up or someone that you would discuss these issues with?
Sutton:No. No. I donít remember ever talking to him about seismic specifically. I remember being at cocktail parties with him. Because they had some really good seminars down at the Space Institute at Columbia and I got involved in a couple of them.
Levin:Do you remember attending them? Did people from Lamont go to those meetings?
Sutton:Well, I did. I donít remember how many, I know at least one. Maybe more. I donít remember.
Doel:How many others from Lamont seemed interested in this work?
Sutton:There werenít too many. See Jack sort of backed off from it. He wasnít really very interested in the lunar stuff. That was the thing. It was difficult for me trying to get money out and trying to get him to go along with getting more salary. Because NASA would have paid the salary. There wasnít any problem with the sources of funding.
Doel:It was funding relationships within the Lamont community that people were concerned about?
Sutton:Yes. And of course after I committed myself to go to Hawaii they actually let me go to one of the Salary Committee meetings. After Iíd committed myself to leave. And I went to one and I pounded on the table for the engineers. And they got raises.
Doel:Thatís very interesting although it didnít leave you any options at that point.
Sutton:No. In fact, I thought they were all going to come with me. But they got raises so they stayed.
Doel:Did not work out well for you then, clearly.
Sutton:Not very. Thatís sour grapes.
Doel:Iím curious, too, did involvement in the lunar program seem professionally risky either to you or to others at Lamont?
Sutton:No, I never felt that. I think actually in retrospect, the hardest thing was for graduate students that got tangled up in it. Because if you got tangled up and then you got a four or five year delay in flights and stuff like that, and an experiment that goes bust. Itís bad enough doing marine stuff. Marineís kind of high risk, too. You can go out for a whole summer and come back with nothing. Your instruments donít work. But NASA is worse. Unless you have an ongoing thing where thereís data available to work on. Any graduate student who expected to get a thesis out of the Ranger seismograph, zero. Anyway.
Doel:I do want to cover a few other issues during your time at Lamont. But you were mentioning some of the factors that persuaded you to accept the offer from Hawaii. You mentioned one was the problem with getting the pay that you wanted for the engineers working with you. What other factors were on your mind at the time?
Sutton:I think was my main one. Because I didnít quite know what to do about it. It was very frustrating. The idea of going — Well, there was another thing that bothered me some but I could have done something about that — was Lamont had started with us all in one original mansion and so you got to walk down a hallway and see what this guyís doing, what that guyís doing. Then we had the seismology building. We had the oceanography building and especially I got sort of separated from the marine seismic and Jack wanted to keep it separate. John Ewing was kind of one of the main guys in the marine seismic stuff and he was in the oceanography building. Jack Nafe was over there and weíd have seismology seminars and they would have seminars and there was hardly any inner mixing. That always bothered me. So I would show up. I would be the only one at their oceanography building from earthquake seismology group and vice versa. Hardly anybody came from there. And that bothered me. See, at that time Hawaii at a stage was more like Lamont was earlier, when sort of there were people doing all kinds of things, interacting with each other.
Doel:Of course, it had just been founded essentially in the late 1950s, so that it was a new institution at the time. Itís very interesting.
Sutton:And [George] Woollard had been there for a couple of years and he was a good guy. He and Doc were kind of equivalent types. Doc was more famous and probably a better scientist but Woollard was just a wonderful man.
Levin:So when you were separated, do you feel that the fact that you werenít able to intermix was having an effect on perhaps having different perspectives on what you were doing? Not being able to go to someone else and say, ďThis is what Iím doing. What do you think?Ē That sort of thing?
Sutton:Well, itís partly that. Partly just interest in what else is going on. I enjoyed knowing something about — especially the seismic stuff which I was mostly interested in. But there were a lot of interesting things going with the marine seismology. See, I was involved through Alpine. I was involved in the reflection work with the sparkers and air guns and that was all being done in the other building.
Doel:Was there a time at which, following up on Tanyaís question, that you sensed that community at Lamont beginning to fracture? Was it the new buildings going up or were there earlier instances where you felt that the community was not [cross talk]
Sutton:No, I think it was just getting physically separated, that it made it a lot easier to just sit in your own building than to walk five minutes. We did have wide seminars all the time. They would often meet people from completely outside who would come in and talk. Not as much what was going on at Lamont.
Levin:What were you hearing about the rise and fall of biology at Lamont? Did you have much of a connection or did you hear about that group? I know you had some interest before when you were growing up, with biology. Did you keep in touch with that group?
Sutton:I was never really involved. Ostwald Roels was involved. I helped him get to Lamont. I knew him from the Belgian Congo.
Levin:You helped him get to Lamont.
Sutton:Yes. Well, I just introduced him to people essentially.
Doel:Was Paul Burkholder already there at the time?
Sutton:Paul was there. Yes. But I never had much to do with him except say hello. See he worked hard.
Doel:What sort of person was Roels?
Sutton:Roels? Interesting guy. Real hard charger. And I think a very capable scientist. He was very loyal to Ewing and I think, did he leave? He left, didnít he? He left when Ewing left. I think he went toÖ
Doel:He eventually went to Texas. It might have been at the same time.
Sutton:So we still communicate a little bit. Not very often.
Levin:Did you recommend him to come to Lamont?
Sutton:Yes. Actually, Iím trying to remember now how it went. At Columbia he got in with a Nutrition Institute or something and Columbia, and something went wrong there and I didnít have anything much to do with that because I didnít know anybody there. But I think I probably introduced him to Ewing or something like that and said, ďEwing is always interested and looking for something else to grab a hold of.Ē
Doel:Had you known about the efforts in the 1950s before Burkholder and Roels came on board? Gifford Pinchot [Jr.] was there for a time and Bob [Robert] Menzies. Had you run into them?
Sutton:I remember Bob Menzies. I donít remember what he did, but I remember his name.
Doel:How did people at Lamont regard the biology effort? Those who were more in the physical sciences?
Sutton:I donít know. I donít know. We knew that the paleontology, you know, that micropaleontology tied in very much with understanding what was going on in the oceans.
Doel:The sort of things that David Ericson —
Sutton:Right. Right. And I could see where there would be some sensible continuation from there into biology, the similar kinds of organisms. I donít know what else they did. I know Rods was interested in all kinds of different things. He got involved with farming in the ocean.
Doel:Of practical applications, bringing in very cold nutrition-rich sea water from the sea floor.
Sutton:Right. And he had been trying to do similar kinds of things in the Congo. See, one of the things he did in the Congo which I thought was really important stuff was to take fish in the Western Rift Valley, theyíve got big lakes with lots of fish, and 50 miles away from the lake people are dying from the lack of protein because they didnít have any refrigeration or anything. He developed a way to sort of get fish protein, essentially get into a powder and try to convince the Africans to throw a little bit of that into their soup and it would solve their problems. So he was working on things like that that I thought were great. One of the problems he had was he couldnít convince Mother that she should cook it differently than Grandma did. So the big educational —
Doel:Iím sorry. I didnít mean to step on your words. How successful was that project?
Sutton:I donít know. I think it was a lot less successful than he had hoped it would be. I think it was very difficult to convince people to really use his stuff. And then I think if Congo hadnít become independent heíd probably still be there and maybe it would have been successful by now.
Doel:He had come over just around the time of independence, hadnít he?
Sutton:He wouldnít have come otherwise. Iím sure. And see, I had two engineers working for me that I knew over there, too. One of them that went with Rods eventually and helped him with the work he did in the Caribbean.
Sutton:Van Hemelrijk. I donít know if you recognize that name.
Sutton:Heís one of the engineers. Very excellent engineer.
Doel:One of the ones that you had had. Thatís interesting. Did other developments at Lamont like that, the growing controversy between Ewing and Bruce Heezen, enter into your thinking about whether it was better to stay at Lamont or move on to Hawaii?
Sutton:No, well, that controversy bothered me. I thought they should have been more mature about how to handle it. And of course, theyíre both excellent. I got involved in it a little bit. It didnít bother me too much, but Doc kept complaining that he didnít have any good graduate students working with him. And I was sort of the central person for new students who came to Lamont. So I said, ďThe first really good guy, Doc, is yours.Ē Then I think somebody went to him. I donít know. This may be completely wrong, but my memory is fuzzy. But this good guy came along and I sent him over to Doc and Doc was about to take off for sea or something or other and he ended up not working with Doc anyway. He ended up over in the oceanography building. I canít remember now, who — maybe he went and worked with Bruce, which would have been really great.
Levin:So that was the problem that Ewing saw. That the graduate students were going over to oceanography, and especially over to Bruce [Heezen].
Sutton:Well, see, Doc was in the big house all by himself. And all the data was scattered around other places. Students going to work on something. Iím sure, you know, any of the students would have been just very happy to work with Doc. But they couldnít really work with Doc. It was difficult. I could see why Doc would be frustrated, too, about it. Because he was always so busy with a lot of administration stuff that he had to do. He used to say he worked all day doing junk so he could work after supper on funds and such stuff
Doel:How did you come into that role of being the person whom the graduate students came to see first at Lamont?
Sutton:I donít know. I was always interested in the students. I ended up having a similar job in Hawaii.
Levin:When you say you got involved in the Heezen/Ewing controversies, you got into it a little bit but not very much?
Sutton:No. I wasnít really involved in the controversy. And it got much worse after I left.
Levin:Did you have any impact? You said not very much, but did you have any?
Sutton:No, the only thing Iím telling you about is the students and Doc feeling isolated.
Doel:What sort of things were you advising students when they came?
Sutton:Well, one of the things is to try to connect them up with somebody who could help get support, to see what kind of things they were interested in. Help pick out what courses to take.
Doel:You were teaching over at Columbia during that time. What were you teaching?
Sutton:Well, I taught a course on geology for engineers, which scared me to death because I didnít know much about geology. But I taught some instrumentation courses and seismology. Exploration. I did teach some exploration seismology.
Sutton:Iím trying to remember. I get confused what I taught at Columbia and what I taught at Hawaii.
Doel:Now, clearly you were working in instrumentation about that time. It would be quite natural for you to be teaching. How did that geology for engineerís course come about?
Sutton:They were looking for somebody to teach it and I thought Iíd learn some geology. Not how to teach. I had to go down to Columbia to teach that.
Doel:What was that experience like?
Sutton:It was scary. I had to work hard. I donít think it was an especially good course. But I tried.
Doel:These were students who were in masterís programs?
Sutton:No, these would be engineers mainly who wanted to learn something about geology.
Doel:Interesting. We need to pause just for a moment.
Doel:You were mentioning that it was a bit scary to be teaching that one course in particular. How often would you be teaching? Was it one per semester or one per year on average?
Sutton:Yes. One a semester.
Doel:One a semester.
Sutton:It was mostly research.
Doel:How many students would you have?
Sutton:Graduate students you mean?
Doel:You were teaching both undergraduate and graduate?
Sutton:The undergraduate, I donít know. Somewhere between 10 and 15 probably. I donít really remember. God that was a long time ago. The graduate students, probably about ten, seismology, something like that, so it was a number like that.
Doel:Were any of those graduate students particularly memorable for you? Those coming up through the ranks in those years?
Sutton:Well, I found out from Lynn — I didnít realize this — Lynn [Sykes] mentioned something about professors that he had, a couple of professors he had with Mark and this was at Markís service, the [cross talk] Memorial Service. And Lynn said he remembered being with Mark in this course because it had two professors. That must have been some kind of — I forget what it was. But anyway, Lynn told me afterwards — I didnít know who he was talking about — he says, you know, ďGeorge, you were one of those professors I was talking about.Ē See, so thatís how much I remember. And it was with Jack Nafe and I shared some course. I think what it really amounted to it was his course and when he was away I would fill in. Thatís sort of the way I remember it. But at least Lynn remembered that I was involved some. As far as the guys that impressed me, Lynn was one of the ones and Jim Brune was another star. Of course, I worked with Paul Pomeroy a lot. We ended up working together.
Doel:And Iím recalling now the name of the engineer you mentioned. Itís a Dutch spelling of the name. Van Hemelrijk.
Sutton:Yes, I remember that.
Sutton:Yes, well, they were two people I met in the Congo and they ended up — they left. Things got pretty nasty in the Congo after the independence. Itís completely off the subject. I waste your time with it. Thereís a big article in the opinion section of the Washington Post a former — what do you call those people? Young people who go out in different parts of the world sponsored by our government.
Sutton:Peace Corps. This fellow who was in Zaire as a Peace Corps, and it was just an awful article. I just canít believe that itís the way he said it was. One of things he said in there was how horrible the Belgians treated the Africans. My experience was that the Africans treated each other much worse than the Belgians treated the Africans.
Doel:Another topic I want to make sure we cover before we get back to the experiences that you had once you were out at Hawaii, was some of the seismic work that you continued to do in the late 1950s and early 1960s. You were working with Chuck [Charles] Drake and Doc Ewing on a number of papers, or at least one paper at the Continental Margins. And you were also working, as I recall, on the Puerto Rican trench. How did that particular work come about?
Sutton:With Manik Talwani
Sutton:Yes. Well, see he had developed the two dimensional gravity calculation, digital calculation in a paper or two before that. And I had done the seismic work in the area and the thing was to try to combine — other people had collected the gravity data, so what we wanted to do was try to combine the seismic and gravity data using these computer models for comparison, to try to get the best fit we could for the structure across the Puerto Rico trench. So at the time it was considered a pretty good paper.
Doel:How did you find Talwani as a person to work with?
Sutton:Oh, heís fine. I liked working with Mike. Good, hard worker. Smart. He was more computer literate than I. We spent lots of nights together. Hours and hours. We did a lot of the work at Nevis where we were allowed to use the computer after everybody else was done at night. That was in the days of punch cards.
Doel:Borrowing time on computers. What discussions do you remember about what the structure of the trenches represented, at the time that you were doing that work. Do you remember that being an issue of lively debate?
Sutton:I donít know how much debate there was. Well, see the original idea about the structure there was — that I know about — was produced by [Felix A.] Vening-Meinesz. He talked about — whatís the word he had — this great big [???] — because thereís a big negative gravity anomaly across the Puerto Rico trench. What was the term? He had a strange term for what produced this gravity anomaly. And the reason that his interpretation turned out to be pretty wrong was because he thought there was a much thicker crust out of the Atlantic Ocean than there really was. And so this produced a great big down drop of this low density stuff, produced a gravity anomaly. Well, that turned out to be not the case because the crust wasnít that Ė
Doel:Right. And you already knew that about the time you were doing the work.
Sutton:We knew that already. Actually, what we thought it looked like was that it looked kind of like a graben, you know, the Puerto Rico Trench looked like a graben. Well, it turns out that wasnít very right, either. We got the structure about it right, but the actual tectonics was not correct.
Doel:Iím looking over the list of names on one particular paper that came out of at least a secondary result from the work that you were doing. One that was co-authored. Manik Talwani was lead author and Lippy Schum [spelling?] was also involved, Maurice Ewing, yourself as the fourth author, and Joe Worzel. And this was commenting on a paper that W. Jason Morgan had written at that time and produced an interesting debate between the two groups. Clearly, you were the most junior of the scientists in that community of people.
Sutton:I wasnít junior to Manik at the time.
Doel:Manik was still junior. Thatís interesting.
Sutton:Actually, see, he took — in terms of age and times since you had your Ph.D., but this was closer to his field than mine. And the reason I was on there was because I was working with Manik on the Puerto Rico trench paper.
Sutton:Actually, see Manik got the professorship that I had. There were a limited number of professorships at Columbia. So when I left he got that.
Doel:He got that already in Ď66 then.
Sutton:Well, he got it after I left. That freed up a position for another geophysicist essentially. Because the geologists tried to keep holding down the number of geophysicists. Because it started with one. See, they thought Ewing was enough. We had one structural geologist. We had one stratigrapher. We need one geophysicist.
Doel:Except Lamont became the tale that broke the Ė
Sutton:Yes, I guess. See, Worzel and Press broke that when they became assistant professors.
Doel:Yes. What I was thinking about particularly, too, is that at the time clearly Doc Ewing was not in favor of Continental Drift and Joe Worzel was certainly not and Gifford Pinchot didnít change his mind until later magnetic data came about. I was curious if you remember discussions that were going on about these new ideas from Hess.
Sutton:I donít remember. Whatís the year on that?
Doel:This was 1966, published on July 15th and it had been submitted on March 14th.
Sutton:See, I was on Bruceís side about that stuff, but I didnít have to actively involved in the argument because I was doing other things. I think I mentioned to you, when I came back from Africa Bruce was really interested in what I found about the Rift Valley because he had compared, and he showed me cross sections, he compared the Rift Valley with a cross section across the Red Sea and across actually the North Atlantic. And you know, they looked alike except oneís wider than the other. They were sort of successive things. And so, you know, he had it. His problem was he didnít know what to do with all this stuff. And thatís when he got involved with expanding earth. But he had what was happening. See, I remember — and I never spent a lot of time with it — but I remember wondering why people kept talking about — see, Ewing felt at the beginning of the MOHOLE Project, okay, he felt that the one place you can get the whole history, the whole sedimentary history of the whole world was to drill holes through the sediment in different places in the ocean, because the ocean is the primary thing. The continents are scum that has gathered up from strange things going on. And if you can find the right place, if you can dig a deep enough hole youíll get the whole history, the whole sedimentary history of the world. But weíre talking about, well, the oldest stuff weíve seen in any of our cores, which only go down 60 feet at the maximum, something like that, the oldest thing weíve seen is Jurassic or something like that. And I remember asking the question, now is this sampling problem or is it real? How quick is it? Is there any way that we can decide if this is really a sampling problem or is it real? Because you have to look for a place where you hit older sediment because of erosion or something or other. And I never got a satisfactory answer.
Doel:From Ewing or from others?
Sutton:No, Of course, now we know there wasnít anything over there. At the time you just - - and see, one of my problems with the whole idea of the sea floor spreading in the Pacific — this was after I got to the Pacific — was that [Hugo) Benioff had come up with stuff about the focal mechanisms of the big earthquakes around the margins of the Pacific Ocean. And he found somehow, I donít remember the details of where it came from, but he said that thereís an indication that these are strike-slip faults. Theyíre not over thrusts — well, he didnít even mention theyíre not over — he said, ďTheyíre strike-slip faults.Ē And it indicates that the Pacific Basin is rotating counter clockwise relative to the continents. Well, see, it turns out thatís wrong somehow because thatís where all the stuff is going. Itís going down in these trenches. And of course, what he said was correct for right there in California because thatís whatís happening along the San Andreas. But most of the other places it isnít that way.
Doel:Thatís very interesting. But Benioff was senior enough that those observations were clearly, his ideas were influential.
Sutton:Yes. I didnít know where the stuff went either. But Bruce [Heezen]ís ideas about — well, actually he found somebody else who said it looks like the earth could be expanding. And that was the only thing he could come up with that made any sense.
Levin:How was that treated at Lamont? What were people saying about this idea?
Sutton:I think Ewing just ignored it. Iím not sure. I donít know. I donít know. I agreed with Bruceís business about the spreading and you know, Ewing and Bruce together were the ones who talked about this world-wide mid-ocean ridge where thereís a lot of volcanism. And the business of the magnetic anomalies, I remember talking to Doc about the magnetic anomalies. When you get these much bigger magnetic anomalies going across the continental margin of the East Coast than you do going across the Puerto Rico Trench. The Puerto Rico Trench is this tremendous structural change and hardly any magnetic anomaly at all. Here across the Atlantic margin thereís a great big magnetic anomaly. And itís kind of gentle. It didnít make any sense. I donít know how that worked out eventually. Itís mostly how the reversals — of course, we didnít know anything about reversals then either.
Doel:Was there a particular interest in the Puerto Rican Trench from military interests with the underwater sound work? Or were your interests basically settled because of the uniqueness of that region? [Telephone]
Sutton:In the Atlantic it was structurally the most interesting thing that we recognized at the time in the Atlantic Ocean, so we tried to understand it. Itís not the military as far as I know.
Doel:One other thing Iím quite curious about is how this exchange of papers came about. How well did you know W. Jason Morgan?
Sutton:At the time he was a graduate student.
Doel:He was a graduate student at Princeton.
Sutton:At Princeton. Yes. I didnít know him at all. In fact, his student came to Hawaii, a guy by the name of Dick [Richard] Hay, who now is pretty well known, and boy did he give me a hard time about that paper.
Doel:About the paper.
Sutton:Picking on this poor graduate student who turned out to be a pretty damn good geophysicist. His intuition is great.
Doel:But clearly there were enough of his ideas that concerned a number of you that made it clear that you felt a paper was warranted. And Iím wondering what you recall about it.
Sutton:I donít remember anything about it. Iím surprised. I probably shouldnít have my name on it, but itís there so I canít do anything about it. I donít even remember — I think the reason I was given the opportunity to be there was because Iíd worked with Manik on it.
Doel:Because youíd been initially on there. One of the things that seemed to have motivated part of this paper is some of the mechanisms underlying the — the sinkers and the risers under the ridges that Morgan was thinking about at the time. Had you played a role in writing any part of this paper do you remember?
Sutton:I donít remember.
Doel:Because part of the introduction states, ďWe will not mention your objections to the spreading-floor hypothesis, but weíll limit ourselves to specific discussion about the sinker and riser mechanisms to explain the gravimetric, seismic and heat flow data over the Mid Atlantic Ridge.Ē And it was a comprehensive concern with this broader tectonic interest. Had you met him?
Sutton:No. No. If I did I donít remember. I donít remember meeting him.
Doel:Outside of the magnetic group, or at least [Neil D.] Opdyke who had been Keith Runcornís student, did others at Lamont seem sympathetic to sea floor spreading and drift in the early 1960s? And of course, you mentioned Heezen in the expanding earth.
Sutton:I donít remember talking to anybody else about it other than Bruce. I just donít remember.
Doel:Was it something that came up in colloquia that you remember?
Sutton:I donít remember. Again, I was doing other things at that time. This guy, Dick Hay, I told you about. How come that you didnít just jump right on all that stuff you know? Itís the most exciting stuff in the world. How come you didnít give up on the lunar seismogram for the down holes and the ocean bottom seismographs and drop everything else and work on that? You know, you dope! [Laughter]
Doel:Some things are so clear in retrospect. Never in the moment. One of the other things, I meant to ask you this a while back when you were talking about Lamont as a community in this period, did the lunchroom stilt serve in some sense as a de facto place where people from the different divisions could get together and talk with one another? Or didnít you find that to be so much true?
Sutton:I donít think there was a lunchroom there when I left.
Doel:It still wasnít there?
Sutton:I donít think so. I donít remember it. Because we had a seismograph station down in the cellar.
Doel:The root cellar.
Sutton:No, not the root cellar. I think it was the old swimming pool.
Doel:It was still in the old pool. And that, of course Ė
Sutton:And they had offices. See they had offices above the pool. I think when I left there were still offices there.
Doel:Very interesting. I didnít realize that the cafeteria started that late.
Sutton:Yes. It came late. I went home for lunch. See, I lived at Lamont up until a couple of years before I left.
Doel:Were there other aspects of your work on the seismic refraction? Studies that we havenít covered?
Sutton:I donít think so. I told you about building the instruments. That was the first job I had there.
Doel:And I pulled out right now one paper that you had written from 1965, published in Ď65, ďOcean Bottom Seismic Observatories,Ē that you co-authored with W.G. McDonald and D.D. Prentiss and S.N. Thanos.
Sutton:Yes. They were the engineers.
Doel:The engineers on that. How well received was this paper? How quickly did the community come to sense the value of putting these instruments on the sea floor?
Sutton:It was a long time. Actually — see, I talked to some [coughing] people at the NSF. See, one of the problems was it was expensive. So it was just a practical matter of how can we with a limited amount of money how much do you want to do this for? See, it turned out, one of the problems was — one of the ways it got funded was because the military people and the people who were worried about nuclear test detection and so forth were interested in looking for really quiet places to monitor signals from small events. And the thought was that the bottom of the ocean might be very, very quiet.
Doel:This was part of the VELA-Uniform program.
Sutton:Yes. And so thatís where a lot of the money came from. Essentially all of the money for this came from that, from ARPA [Advanced research Projects Agency], and it was followed through the Navy because it was a marine thing but with interest by the rest of the military. Then it turned out it wasnít that quiet. So as far as the funding sources, they kind of lost interest in that.
Doel:I was going to say, how long did their funding last before they decided this wasnít worth investing in?
Sutton:They kept funding the operation of it. Then they gradually, they wanted to just shut it down. Had to keep fighting every year. See, that was after I left because it just got going before I left. And eventually John Quo took over the operation of it. Gary took it over temporarily and I donít remember when it switched from Gary [Latham] to John Quo. Gary got real busy doing the lunar stuff I think probably, and then John Quo took it over, was watching over it, and Mi Nowroozi who wrote a lot of the papers. We just wrote some papers based on long period data that we got from that that was just sitting around for years. We got interested in long period noise at the bottom of the ocean. And there was a lot of good data available.
Sutton:Now, of course, now theyíre talking, all kinds of talk about putting instruments on cables all over the Pacific Ocean.
Doel:Were there any competitors at the time that you were doing this kind of instrument development? Or did you regard Lamont as being the premier?
Sutton:Well, we were the only ones doing cable based instruments. And we were the only ones doing anything with long period instruments. There was quite a bit of competition in short period instruments.
Sutton:With whom? Hugh Bradner at Scripps [Institute of Oceanography]. Texas Instruments people. I forget the names. I think they were the main ones. The Russians were doing some ocean problems, seismograph stuff. But it was all short period. All short period.
Levin:Did you have any contact with the Russians to know what they were doing?
Sutton:Well, a little bit got published. In fact, one of the indications that the ocean was really quiet was from some Russian publication, I recall, which we never could track down. I still think that part of the reason that we got a lot of noise is what youíre sitting on, whatís immediately under laying you. I think if you got to a place where there were low currents, a long way from any boundaries, and if you get to a place where the sediments were very thin, or you actually get on rock, that it would be quiet. I still think thatís quite likely. But where we were here, off the West Coast, big thick pile of sediments, it just wasnít especially quiet.
Doel:Did you have direct contact with the people in VELA-Uniform? Or was it mostly simply in terms of contracting?
Sutton:Well, they had meetings, you know. And the Air Force Office of Scientific Research had meetings. This went on up until — well they still have, contractors still have meetings, the nuclear testing connection business. Of course, now thereís a new push because of the new treaty, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty is bringing everything back again.
Doel:I was curious as to how involved you had become in those efforts. Or in attending these meetings at a given location?
Sutton:Well actually I got more involved, see, I got away from it when I went to Hawaii, pretty much, and I was trying to do all kinds of other things keeping Hawaii running. Iím convinced professionally I probably would have done better staying at Lamont than going to Hawaii. But I had a good time going out there so itís all right. I had to learn how to be a heat flow man and all kinds of stuff I didnít know anything about.
Doel:The demands were such that you needed to be more of a jack of many trades, at least, if not all. Because you did co-author at least one paper with Paul Pomeroy that directly involved — on energy radiation patterns from underground nuclear explosions.
Sutton:Yes. That was aimed right at that stuff. And see, after I left Hawaii and went back to work with Paul [Pomeroy] in his little company, we got back into that stuff for a while.
Doel:When did that happen?
Sutton:In Ď81. I left Hawaii in Ď81 and went to work with Paul at Rondout Associates, Inc. I assumed you knew something about that. And eventually that folded a few years ago. We published a couple of papers about some of that stuff. We ran some instruments. And were interested in regional detection.
Levin:What struck you when you went to Hawaii as to how it was run and organized? Basically the interactions between the scientists and the people as opposed to how things are run at Lamont.
Sutton:Well, when I went to Hawaii, it was more like Lamont was when I was a graduate student. Graduate students had a lot of responsibility for running the contracts and writing the proposals and the whole bit. And so that more people tended to interact more in different parts of the organization. So we had seismic reflection people working with gravity people, working with seismic refraction people and magnetic people. Everybody sort of working together. And it was just different. You know a smaller organization. And there were fewer engineers to do the work so you had to do a lot of the instrumentation yourself and development of equipment.
Levin:Did you feel that in its progression as you stayed in Hawaii, did you feel that it was being developed along the lines that Lamont was? That it was gradually getting bigger and more splintered?
Sutton:Well, about more splintered I donít — yes, I think so. I guess thatís just the natural phenomenon of growth, of a fairly successful place.
Doel:What did you regard as the major differences between the two institutions?
Sutton:Well, I think at Lamont we were poorer and we worked harder. [Laughter]
Doel:Interesting observation. Iíd think it would go further than that.
Sutton:Well, people really worked hard at Lamont. We had a lot of discontented wives at home, and girlfriends. People, I think were more laid back in Hawaii. Part of that is [???] Willard was a more laid back guy than Ewing was.
Doel:I was curious, too, about his institution. How his personal style, his administration different from Ewingís?
Sutton:In many ways similar. Willard was very influential. He could go walk in the Governorís office and talk with the Governor. Itís a smaller state. Everything is different and he was on good speaking terms with the president of the University and compared to Columbia, the Institute of Geophysics in Hawaii was a much bigger thing than Lamont is compared to Columbia University. Because Columbia University got a great big super medical school and got a super this school and super that school. Teacherís College is world famous for doing an awful job of teaching people how to teach. And so the Institute for Geophysics was a pretty big part of the University of Hawaii. And it still is. Actually itís grown a lot since I left. Itís getting more and more recognized. And that was one of the things. See, with attracting students, it was hard for us to attract really good students. There was always a lag between what youíre capable of doing and how much the advisors know about what you can do. So we did have difficulty attracting really good students even though we had lots of research money. And thatís gradually changing. They have a lot better faculty out there now than when I went.
Doel:How many faculties were there at the time that you went out? Roughly. How did it compare in size to Lamont?
Sutton:Well, in terms of faculty, about the same. Actual faculty. The size of the institute was, I donít know, maybe a quarter or less than Lamont at the time. My guess is itís still about that. Maybe a little bit more. See, there are two departments — well, there were two departments at the time I went there. One is the Department of Geology and Geophysics and the other Department of Oceanography. And thereís quite a bit of overlap between those departments. And they both were affiliated fairly closely with the Institute of Geophysics. But there were little problems of turf among those three organizations. And most of us had split appointments between a department and the Institute. And actually, the departments talked to one dean and the Institute talked to another dean, which makes complications. The Institute ran the ships and most of the facilities, the machine shops and the laboratories.
Doel:How did the two institutions differ in terms of the patrons that they most appealed to?
Sutton:I donít know.
Doel:I mean was there more, relatively speaking, was there more NSF money at Hawaii than there was at Lamont? Or did you find roughly the same proportion?
Sutton:I donít really know. I would guess similar. I donít really know. In Hawaii, in the beginning, and these changes with time, also, in Hawaii, originally most of our money came from the Navy. But see now they have a fairly big space group out there. They work on planetary sciences. And so they get a lot of their money from NASA now. And at the time we didnít get much. I got some money from NASA. I was about it.
Doel:Were there others actively involved in the lunar work with you?
Sutton:Only my graduate student. And actually, as soon as he got his degree he went to work with Gary down in Texas. But then he came back to Hawaii after a couple of years.
Doel:Interesting. When you look back on Lamont, particularly after youíd been away for a number of years, could you identify a distinctive pattern, a kind of research school that was identifiable? Or did Lamont seem to be more a community of people with different perspectives, techniques?
Sutton:When you say when I come back? Do you mean when I came back from my sabbatical?
Doel:Well, particularly when you had a chance — either when you were actually working at Lamont, or once you were out at Hawaii and had a chance to see Lamont from a greater distance? I was wondering whether there were things that you really could regard as characteristically Lamont, in the way that they were carried out or thought through, that differed from other institutions.
Sutton:I donít know. I donít know whether I believe this or not, but a lot of people felt that Lamont really — they wanted to do everything by themselves. There were fewer tendencies to cooperate with some other institutions. And I think some of that is probably true and some not so true. See, Iíve had difficulties with just dealing with my ex-colleagues, who continue to work on the lunar data and in the ocean bottoms, which I was mainly responsible for putting down. But I donít know how much of that is my crazy personality and not being able to deal with people properly or what.
Levin:Was this a criticism mostly from outside Lamont?
Levin:So people outside said that Lamont generally took to itself.
Sutton:Yes. And see, a lot of people used to say that Ewing canít possibly do that much science to get his name on so many papers. Well, I knew better. Any paper I knew anything about that he had his name on he deserved to have his name on. He contributed.
Doel:Itís interesting that that was a concern, at least, among people outside of Lamont. Seeing this.
Sutton:Oh, itís a common thing. Lots of people expect to get their name on papers because they bring in the money, or whatever.
Doel:As director of a place, for instance.
Sutton:But you know, Ewing worked 20 hours a day seven days a week.
Levin:In Ď73 you came back from your sabbatical. What influenced you to go back to Lamont? Why at the time?
Sutton:Well, a number of reasons. I grew up in the New York/New Jersey area. I grew up in New Jersey. So one thing was just to get back close to home for a while. And I had spent 15 years there and it was like a homecoming for a while. Actually, it wasnít as pleasant as I hoped it would be. Not as pleasant especially. Lamont had changed. There were a lot different personnel.
Levin:Had you kept in contact with someone while you were away in Hawaii? Did you keep your connections?
Sutton:Well, there were connections. But see, by the time I went back, see Ewingís group had moved to Texas. So some of the people I work with — and Jack Oliver was gone to Cornell. Lynn was still there. But now heís a senior guy. At that time he was a senior guy. When I left he just got his degree. So everybody sort of changed. But I enjoyed — you know, there are good friends there. Wally [Wallace S.] Broecker is a good friend. Just to say hello to these guys was nice. But I mostly didnít interact with people very much. I went to the seminars. But I taught myself some statistics during that year.
Doel:That was your goal for that year. Interesting.
Levin:So what most impressed you as having changed when you came back?
Levin:What had particularly changed outside of the personnel when you came back to Lamont?
Sutton:I donít know. It seemed like kind of a natural extension of what was going on when I left Lamont. There were more and more people that I didnít know. Itís like going back to your hometown. It changes. If you grew up in a small town. There are fewer and fewer people you recognize when you go back. So I donít know that thereís any major difference. You know, the seismology group still had their Monday evening seminars. A lot of stuff was still the same. Had a record reading, where people would go and read records together.
Levin:How was Talwaniís administration different? Do you see different organizational styles that Talwani had?
Sutton:No. Apparently, there were differences. My guess is — this is just from talking to people about it. I know a lot of people seem to be unhappy with Manik as the director. I like Manik; I think heís a good guy. And my guess is that he tried to continue to run the place like Ewing did and he wasnít Ewing. You know, the whole world was changed. I donít know. Thatís just my guess.
Doel:There are two other questions I do want to ask you from the 1960s. When in the early 1960s you became one of the associate editors of the JDR [???]. And how did that appointment come about?
Sutton:I donít know. Somebody asked me. I am now again. Now there are a hundred of them or something like that.
Doel:But there were far fewer when you were first doing that. And was Orson Anderson the general editor at that point? You were on from 62 to Ď65.
Sutton:No. Jim Peoples.
Sutton:Now part of the reason is that Jim Peoples, he was Doe Ewingís brother-in-law, and so we knew each other. I donít know, I donít really remember. I suppose he asked me to do it and I said, ĎSure.Ē
Doel:Iím just curious what kind of responsibility you had.
Sutton:As associate editor?
Sutton:I donít know. It was different than it is now. Now itís all fairly formalized. I donít really remember. I obviously didnít spend as big a percentage of my time as now I do.
Doel:I can imagine now itís — one other question. Did it surprise you that Lamont didnít become a major player in the planetary sciences area? Or did you think during the time that you were there that this might evolve into a branch component of Lamont?
Sutton:Well, I donít know. Wasnít Manik involved in the gravity? And Mark was involved in the heat flow.
Doel:They were all involved through the Apollo period. And Mark did stay involved in certain - - at least he kept his hand in certain of the Mars interests. But compared, say, to the way that Cal Techís [California Institute of Technology] geological sciences or Brownís developed. Or how, as you mentioned, how Hawaii developed later.
Sutton:Well, see, part of it, of course, is that most of the strong people historically at Lamont were sort of looking down rather than up. And the seismology department evacuated and went to Texas. So I guess thatís — I donít know how to use a seismograph on a satellite, see. I havenít figured that out yet.
Doel:Itís an instrumentation issue to play a role,
Doel:One other question I did want to ask you today. As you look back, are there any beliefs or convictions that you feel have been very important to you in your life as well as in your profession?
Sutton:You mean moral?
Doel:Any. I mean this in a very open ended way.
Sutton:I donít know. See, I seem to work better — Iím just talking about me — I seem to work better with small groups. I didnít feel too comfortable working with the big things at NASA. Even though, you know. And it seems as though it tends to be more and more now. They have these workshops and NSF runs the workshops. And they invite a bunch of people together, they come up with a grand plan and then they go look for money to fund the grand plan. The marine seismic stuff now is done with fairly large inter-laboratory experiments.
Doel:The consortiums and so on.
Sutton:And Iím just a lot more comfortable myself working in smaller groups, more controllable. See, I was the chairman of this committee — I think they appointed me because they knew I wouldnít be able to ask for a lot of money. This committee supported by the Navy on where weíre going to go with seismology in the future. Well, they came up with a couple of things. One was thereís a big experiment off the coast of Mexico with a bunch of OBS [Ocean Bottom Seismographs]. And supposedly as a preliminary to that — because I tried to convince people that we really donít know what these seismographs are measuring. How bad are the seismographs? So we ran this big experiment, Lopez Island Experiment, to compare different people — see all of us were lying about how good our seismographs were and so hereís a chance. We put them all down in the same little shallow bay.
Doel:Thatís very interesting. When was this happening roughly?
Doel:In the early mid-1970s.
Sutton:Yes. The stuff was all published in the Marine Geophysical Researchís. I was sort of the ramrod of the experiment to compare the instruments. And then we wrote a big technical report on it and then broke it up and published most of it in a number of papers in one of issue of the Marine Geophysical Researchís. Thereís a paper in there by Sutton and Ewing and a couple of other people. And then they did this big experiment — Iíve forgotten what the name of it was — of Mexico, but see I didnít get involved in the main experiment. But then another thing they did. We continued this work and this committee — or modified it, and came up with the idea that ONR [Office of Naval Research] should build or support the building of a seismograph to be used by the whole community, a seismograph system. And there now exists [coughing] ONR Ocean Bottom Seismograph, which was built partly at Scripps, partly at Woods Hole, partly at MIT, partly at the University of Washington. It had to be done that way because somebody will get mad if you didnít spread it around. And itís like any instrument built by a committee. Itís not very good.
Doel:Thatís very interesting. Did you feel that the rise of these much larger institutions was undercutting the best science [cross talk]
Sutton:In a way, I think so, yes. Some things require group effort. And of course, now, just in general, part of the reason for that I think is the shortage of funds. There was an interesting article in I think its U.S. News & World Report, a little editorial by [David] Gergen. Is that his name?
Doel:David Gergen, yes.
Sutton:David Gergen on hoping we donít miss the boat on the importance of basic research. Itís a really good article. I donít agree with everything he says, but I thought this was excellent and we better be careful if we donít put an adequate amount of money into basic research. Just everything. Not just stuff Iím excited about.
Doel:Thatís an interesting point. You know, when you were mentioning before that you had gone to NSF in the 1960s, to try to find funds for some of the broader projects, and how responsive was NSF?
Sutton:No, actually it was the other way around. This fellow there who had been funding a lot of stuff that I was doing — God, what was his name?
Doel:Bill [William] Benson was there at that time.
Sutton:Bill was there but this was a fellow who worked under him. I liked — you know, Bill was a good guy. I canít remember this other guyís name. Heís dead now.
Doel:We can always add that to the transcript later.
Sutton:Anyway, he asked me, he said, ďDo you think we should put some more of these OBSí around?Ē And I said, ďI donít think you can afford it.Ē And so there it sort of dropped. But Iím not very good at predicting things like that. See, I told the guys at Alpine Geophysical Associates, they said, ďDo you think we should get in the business of building long period seismographs?Ē And I said, ďNo, thereís no future in that. We couldnít make any money out of it.í Of course, right after that they came out with this worldwide network they were going to put out. So other outfits built them.
Doel:Indeed, that program certainly came up quickly. The testing program in its context. It merged. Well, I would like to thank you very much for what has become our second and long session. And we will be providing a copy of the transcript once it has been prepared to you. The final version will not be made available until you see the final copy.
Sutton:Iím not sure Iíll want to read it. See all the bad stuff I said.
Well, thank you very much.
Session I | Session II