Notice: We are in the process of migrating Oral History Interview metadata to this new version of our website.
During this migration, the following fields associated with interviews may be incomplete: Institutions, Additional Persons, and Subjects. Our Browse Subjects feature is also affected by this migration.
Please contact [email protected] with any feedback.
This transcript may not be quoted, reproduced or redistributed in whole or in part by any means except with the written permission of the American Institute of Physics.
This transcript is based on a tape-recorded interview deposited at the Center for History of Physics of the American Institute of Physics. The AIP's interviews have generally been transcribed from tape, edited by the interviewer for clarity, and then further edited by the interviewee. If this interview is important to you, you should consult earlier versions of the transcript or listen to the original tape. For many interviews, the AIP retains substantial files with further information about the interviewee and the interview itself. Please contact us for information about accessing these materials.
Please bear in mind that: 1) This material is a transcript of the spoken word rather than a literary product; 2) An interview must be read with the awareness that different people's memories about an event will often differ, and that memories can change with time for many reasons including subsequent experiences, interactions with others, and one's feelings about an event. Disclaimer: This transcript was scanned from a typescript, introducing occasional spelling errors. The original typescript is available.
In footnotes or endnotes please cite AIP interviews like this:
Interview of Marie Tharp by Ronald Doel on 1995 December 14,Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics,College Park, MD USA,www.aip.org/history-programs/niels-bohr-library/oral-histories/22896-1
For multiple citations, "AIP" is the preferred abbreviation for the location.
Discusses the move from Schermerhorn Hall at Columbia University to the Lamont Estate in Palisades, New York. Describes the Lamont building and where in the building different groups worked. Characterizes Lawrence Kulp, details his work for the Atomic Energy Commission, and describes his group of “theochemists.” Lamont expands in the mid-l960s. Recounts the construction of new buildings and the use of them by scientists from different disciplines. Recalls conditions at Schermerhorn and how Ewing’s group came to make the move to Palisades. How the Ewing group related to the local community. Social life at Lamont described. Contrasts the atmosphere at Lamont to that at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Mentions David Ericson, Brackett Hersey, and William Donn. Recalls Lamont seminars. Frank Press’s contributions to the seminars and his later career apart from Lamont remembered. Talks about Lamonter’s Jack Oliver and John Ewing. Gives details about the short-lived Lamont marine biology program. Calls herself and Heezen essentially geographers. Industrial associates group at Lamont. Details difficulties convincing Ewing to part with data. Lists first generation Lamonters. Details the growth of seismology. The use of seismology in monitoring compliance with the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. J. Tuzo Wilson creates the World Wide Standardized Seismograph Network. Tharp uses Wilson’s data to plot the Rift Valley. Discusses Ewing’s ability to raise funds. Lists major funding agencies. Student protests at Columbia University in the l960s recalled. Discusses military research and classification issues. Describes the Bermuda Station. The training of graduate students and the relationship between students and Ewing explored. Heezen’s style of mentoring. Graduate students are assigned topics. Teaching classes at Columbia. More on the Industrial Associates and Ewing’s tight hold on data. Lists what made Lamont both successful and unique: Lamonters build their own instruments, particularly J. Lamar Worzel, equipment is constantly running at sea, cruises are conducted around the globe. Gives a history of Lamont cruises using the Vema. Voices her concern about the treatment of the history of oceanography by historians and scientists. Discusses the consequences of international collaborations namely, the International Indian Ocean Expedition and the International Geophysical Year. Recounts her trip to China and science in that country discussed. Mentions Russian scientists, Gleb Udintsev and Vladimir Beloussov. Describes how the harassment of Heezen by Ewing began. Issues of publication crediting and censorship emerge. Tharp begins to work from home in 1965. Heezen’s students complain about the harassment to Columbia University’s president.
Let me begin and say that this is Ron Doel and this is an interview with Marie Tharp. We are doing this interview just a little bit north of Lamont in Nyack, New York and today’s date is December 14, 1995. I should note this is a continuing interview from one that we began doing in September of 1994. And in that interview you started to mention just a few details of your impressions of moving out to Lamont from the geology department at Schermerhorn. But I didn’t ask you much about what it was like as you first came out here. What was the first date that you actually were transferred that you started reporting to Lamont?
Let’s see. I came to Schermerhorn in November, 1948. There were rumors in ‘49 that there would be some new facility up the creek here, to work in. In the summer of ‘49 I was home for three months and then I came back and we were working at Schermerhorn, one group of people. They’re described in that batch of notes. And I think that it was ‘49. I came out one day. I may be off by a year but it was either ‘49 or ‘50. In the fall I came out and Joe [J. Lamar] Worzel told me how to get there on the bus, and he agreed to meet me at the bus stop and to walk through the back lane to Lamont. We walked back in to Lamont, about a mile. And then I went up in his office and for a while I worked in his office at the light table in his room. Then I remember the first noon there, he had two girls working computers there. They took me down from the Lamont level down to the river level and we went back down the back trail through the woods to the little pavilion where the Tonetti family owned property right on the river. Actually that’s the only time I ever walked down that trail. It was fun, I worked sometimes in Joe Worzel’s office doing some drafting, and he had his two girls there, Fay Jones and Emily Herman, who came from Schermerhorn days. They were the two computer girls on the Monroe calculators. They were in the other room. This is the third floor of Lamont. Now, in those days Dr. [W. Maurice] Ewing had taken over the morning room and two exterior rooms at the end of the building on the second floor for his office. And there was only one phone in the building and that was in the second floor stairway. And for several years we were very few people. In Schermerhorn we had been ten or twelve people. Out here we became about twenty-five people until 1960 when Kennedy mentioned oceanography in his inaugural address and then after that, for some reason, we got money to build buildings and there was great interest in oceanography. But otherwise we survived on the research contracts. The Lamont building had fourteen bathrooms but most of them got converted to dark rooms or offices or something. The basement was taken over by Larry [J. Laurence] Kulp.
I wonder how much contact you had with Kulp. Did he seem part of — as incorporated into the general group as others?
Oh no, he was very distinct from it. Very, very distinct. He was shoved down in the basement. That’s where they set up their lab.
Was it Ewing who made that decision where people went in the house?
I guess so. Ewing kept all the other geology department professors out. He wouldn’t let Pappy [Paul F.] Kerr come out there with any mineralogy students. After he got the place, nobody got to use it except him. So we had this big place and I don’t think Marshall Kay wanted to come out. I don’t think he ever set foot in Lamont. But Kerr wasn’t allowed. He effectively kept him away. Doe just came out by himself with Frank [Press] and Joe [Worzel]. And Bruce [C. Heezen]. And Angelo was given the greenhouse for the shop.
This is Angelo Ludas?
Yes. He was given that for the shop, a lot of space. Dave [David B.] Ericson was given the dining room, and I think gradually took over one of the six garages to store the cores in.
Initially the cores were kept in the main house, weren’t they? Weren’t they? Or were they always out in the garage?
They may have been. I can’t remember ever seeing them there. I can’t remember. Because Larry Kulp took the basement, but part of that was for storage. I don’t remember if there were cores there or not. You ought to ask Joe. He’d know.
How much did you come to know when you began working there about the sorts of things that Kulp was working on in geochemistry?
Oh, well, Bruce said that the geochemists were interested in dating the ocean. Geochemists were essentially daters — geochronologists. You know they started out with the Carbon 14 method and developed the potassium argon method. But they were essentially daters. But I think Bruce must have been kidding. Maybe it was true. But he said, they wanted to do dating to establish that the earth was created in 4,004 BC.
One hopes he was joking.
Isn’t that amazing. Considering Kulp came from Wheaton [College], he may not have been joking.
Yes, I understand.
And those guys didn’t drink. They didn’t drink. You’d give them a drink and they’d throw it in a potted plant. And they were really straight laced.
Did they not fit in then very well with the rest of Lamont?
We called them theochemists.
Because they were essentially fundamentalists, who I think Bruce would say were genuine — wanting to prove the earth was created by a certain day. They thought they’d find the day and month. But anyhow they were good at dates and also they were working on Strontium 90 that was found in milk from radioactive bombs. It was dangerous. And they had a bunch of cadavers and bones, and they used to test them for strontium.
Was that done in the basement?
No, that was done when they got their new building. But Kulp was a go-getter and he got his money from the AEC.
Atomic Energy Commission.
And they paid for that building. He got it, and moved out of the basement and set up all his people there. And that’s when he worked on the strontium. And they had an old pond out in the back where I think they either threw the cadavers when they were through or kept them until they wanted to use them.
What I’m holding right here is a map of Lamont from 1962 and it shows the geochemistry lab on the right hand side. It is already built. And that was, as you say, 1960 when President Kennedy made his inaugural speech that included oceanography and the growth of oceanography.
That’s when these buildings were built. All of these buildings: Mineralogy and Geology. The machine shop was here. The marine geophysics building. The date on that is 1961. The year is 1952. It was very early. That’s the AEC. They had money. They had a lot of students funded for geochemistry to do research on atomic energy.
How many students roughly were out there in the early fifties doing the nuclear stuff?
Oh I don’t know. Maybe ten or fifteen. Kulp was the chief scientist and his bright boy Wally [Wallace S.] Broecker was a kid. But he’s still there and became director. And then there were the Eckelmann twins, Walter Eckelmann and Donald Eckelmann. And Walter and his wife eventually went to work for Exxon, went all over the world as high officials for Exxon. And Donald, he did one or two papers in geochemistry and then he became the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Ohio University, where I went to school. So he rose in the academic world and he wrote papers on philosophy. Donald Eckelmann was bright but not in geochemistry. And there were other early guys we used to know. Barbara Eckelmann and I bought and picked out the geology maps and pasted them all over the walls, and in the buildings, the way Kulp wanted them. And yes, we did it. And in the seminar room we had a big flip-flop iron stand for displays where we put smaller maps, individual maps for their seminars. I used to remember the names of those guys. One was — his wife had polio, and they got married and then she was put in an iron lung and so eventually she died. But this husband became a professor at Seton Hall. You should know their names. I probably have them somewhere. Now the machine shop was set up right after we moved out in 1950 — Angelo had his shop. And then ‘52 was the geochemistry building and Kulp was the go-getter for that money. He was really treated very shabbily down at Lamont Hall because he was a theochemist.
How did that come about that he was hired and brought out to Lamont in the first place?
Well he was working at Columbia. He was a Columbia — I don’t know the exact title — geological graduate student or teaching assistant.
He had been at Columbia earlier?
Yes, he was a young, bright student in the geology department as a geochemist. Very bright.
Right. What I’m thinking of particularly is how he and his laboratory group came to be relocated out to Lamont. How that decision got made?
Well, they tried to bustle in at Lamont Hall and all they got was the basement, and even Walter Eckelmann had a lot of glass ware there. I guess Kulp didn’t like it so he got himself this money independently for this building. And it was designed I think by the same guy who designed the new residence for the Ewings.
The director’s residence.
A local architect, a good architect. I can’t remember his name. Now the other buildings, the main geophysical building, temporary buildings, meteorology and biology and seismology buildings, they were the result of Kennedy’s speech. And we expanded quite quickly.
So expansion was really in the early 1960s, the real growth.
More in the middle 1960s.
Sure after —
In the middle sixties. And then we got the new core lab. The first core lab was down here in the six room garage with one apartment — the residence for a scientist. Joe Worzel lived in this house and Frank Press lived in this house.
Okay and I should say for the tape that you’re pointing to the map right there, the very bottom on that little road that comes directly out very near the machine shop.
And Angelo Ludas had another house out here in the woods next to 9W. It’s occupied now by the security man, Ray Long. It’s all part of the Lamont grounds. And they took over the barn. When we came there they had cows and they’d moo.
They still had cows out there and they were building a barn with the doors opening toward the north and Bruce and I were just standing there laughing at it. Building a barn which they had built for their cows with the door opening on the north and not west and that’s stupid. That is as stupid — I mean how stupid could these people be! And then these buildings were built later and they were taken over by the mineral physics people. Ed Schreiber was big in that. The core lab, we got a core lab quite a bit later and the new storage area. It must have been in the seventies. That was quite a bit later, a nice storage area for cores. Now this map doesn’t have the new geoscience building on it which came later.
Right. That’s much later. That map was actually printed ‘62 or ‘63.
Ah ha. This building sits right on the cliff and the river is down here. Were they going to put these buildings on the slope?
That’s a good question. What you’re referring to is the dashed lines there where it indicated that other new buildings would be built which in fact were not actually —
They were never built. You couldn’t put them on the slope. We had the edge of the slope here and Nelson Rockefeller hated it so because it was a square ugly building painted tan, and he raised so much fuss that he sent over a full flatbed with full grown trees to plant in there so the people in Westchester wouldn’t see this ugly building.
This is in front of the oceanography building.
Yes. And then later Joe had to agree to paint the front of it green. The back is still tan.
So that at least in the summer it would tend to vanish.
And I think the biology part, that’s where the swimming pool was. No, no it’s down in this area. There was a swimming pool which was converted very quickly by the gardeners at Lamont. It was converted to a seismograph station. And then there was a root cellar out in here somewhere where the first time they — that’s where they put the seismometers, in the root cellar. I think they’re still there. I’ve forgotten exactly where it is. It was always there. That’s one of the first things they grabbed, the root cellar and the swimming pool. And the gardeners had, what do you call it, the greenhouse. Ewing grabbed all that. The big house came with a housekeeper and an electrician, Ed Smith. He had been an electrician over at the Rockefeller estate and his wife had been the flower arranger for the Lamonts. She used to cook up really good meals. You could smell her cinnamon buns in the afternoon floating through the air. Then she’d invite us down to tea. She was quite good to all the neglected spouses when the guys went to sea.
They had stayed on there after Mrs. Lamont left the property as I understand it.
Yes. They were supposed to have the life long residence there but somehow Harriett Ewing got them kicked out. And I don’t know. They had another house up in Yorktown and so they went up there and didn’t get to live out their days here. Then somebody else took over this area but I don’t know who.
But it sounds like they played a role in maintaining Lamont as a social place?
They did, and they arranged the Christmas parties. Alma Smith was the housekeeper and her electrician husband made those early days fun, because we were one limited group in a big mansion. It was a friendly group. It was friendly.
How did working at Lamont in the big house compare to working at Columbia? Did you like it more or less once you started?
Oh at Columbia we had two rooms in the basement of Schermerhorn. One small room for Frank [Press] and Joe [Worzel] and Joe’s two girls and me and Sam [Samuel] Katz so there were one, two, three, four, five people in a room as big as my kitchen. The wind blew in from Amsterdam Avenue every day. I had to wipe the dust off twice a day. It was filthy. And Ewing had an office about as big as a bathroom. And then there was a small outer office and then there was the shop. That was the biggest room. That’s where Angelo made things. He had more space than anyone. And he had a pit in the ground which was handy. They had used those same premises for the Manhattan Project. And then we came along later and got stuck there. And Ewing had taken the cores, when Eric came down from Woods Hole. WHOI [Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute] didn’t want the cores so the cores were sent here and David Ericson came along with the cores and they stuck them all out in the hail.
In the basement of Schermerhorn and Ewing was threatening to store his cores in St. Paul’s Chapel because he thought that would be something useful for that place. Now Joe Worzel has a whole episode when a whole bunch of them, Frank and Joe and Bruce [Heezen] and Gordon Hamilton went on a train ride up to Norfolk where they got an offer of the Hetty Green estate. They found it was thirty miles from MIT or Cambridge, and the academic section and was too far from the shore, farther than Lamont from Columbia. Anyhow they voted against it. And then they came back and were stewing. And that’s when Mrs. Thomas Lamont came into the picture and up and gave her estate which was for sale at one time. Her house and a hundred and fifty acres were for sale for $150,000 and she couldn’t sell it because of the taxes and because of the zoning. No one would buy it. So the snooty Sneden Landers said they couldn’t use it as a tourist trap or a hotel that was against the zoning. So she offered it to [Dwight D.] Eisenhower, then President of Columbia University, and they had either four or five other homes anyhow. And they only used this one during the fall. So she offered it to Columbia and then Eisenhower directed the gift towards Ewing. And there’s a picture there of Mrs. Lamont giving Eisenhower the deed.
That’s right, it hangs inside what’s now the library in Lamont Hall.
That’s genuine. She gave it. But she didn’t give any supporting funds. She gave her supporting funds to Smith [College] for literary scholarship. They were disappointed not to get any supporting funds. Well, they kept the three gardeners on and made them do other things than plant flowers. And we had a big dedication, which was nice.
What do you remember about the dedication?
Oh, I guess Bruce and Doc were at sea and they had to beat it home so they would be there when it was dedicated. And Mrs. Lamont was there and part of the program was in the yard and part of it was in the seminar room — living room. Somewhere there might be the ceremony program of that day. But we had been working there for several years. You know we’d been working there. Ewing tried to maintain both the Schermerhorn Office and out here so it’s hard to have two offices and all that commuting. Eventually he gave up the Schermerhorn office and moved out here. But he still kept one room at Columbia, 402, as office space for his students. Graduate students had an office on campus. It took two years for everyone to come out. We used to work both places.
How long did you do that?
Until ‘52. 1 started in ‘48 and as I recall I can’t remember whether it was ‘49 or ‘50 that Joe met me at the — I think it was ‘49. But I also worked for some guys down in Schermerhorn. And I worked for Larry Kulp. I did drafting you see, line drawings. You know, worked at both places. Au of us did. And we still thought we were part of New York City. We didn’t know. We were part of New York City. We went to the movies. We went to church at Riverside. We went shopping at Macy’s every Thursday night. And then the Haagensens lived down at the bottom of the hill. I guess I said something about them. He worked at Columbia Presbyterian, Dr. Haagensen, and he was down at the bottom of the hill. And so when anyone was sick they always asked him which New York doctor to go to. His son-in-law, Sam [Robert D.] Gerard, ran the ship for Lamont. But he married Alice Haagensen. We always ignored the community because we were too busy. We had nothing to do with the local community.
When you say that you mean not only Palisades but the whole?
The whole area. I think Joe Worzel had the good story later about Sneden’s Landing and how it fared because Columbia came out and stopped paying horrendous education and school taxes that the Lamonts had paid. They had a big fight and Joe has that all recorded. Columbia I think at first did pay a certain part of the tab for the school education but they’re not supposed to pay taxes. They’re an educational institution you know. But Joe has that all described.
There are some records that indicate that one area of contention was whether Lamont was a teaching institution and hence exempt or whether it was a research facility at the University in which case it might not be.
Joe went into all that. It was both. He has that all written up. That happened much later. And he had to work on that problem.
That’s interesting that it came up again. That was in the late 1950s then or even later?
It came up much later I think. The date is on the Worzel tapes. They were still talking about the taxes. And the Lamont scientists that lived on the grounds, the Press kids, the Worzel kids, the Ewing kids all went to school down in the Palisades elementary and public schools so they thought they should pay taxes. So I don’t know. Joe solved that problem.
Oh, I’ll make sure to ask him. How often would you actually visit Joe Worzel and Frank Press in their homes on the campus?
Oh, not very often but once in a while we got invited to a party. It was very seldom. They usually had their parties in the machine shop. One time Joe got drunk and he was beating on one of the big five gallon drums and he was making a lot of noise before he passed out. But anyhow that’s where we had our parties. Sometimes we’d have the more civilized parties in the seminar room. The Ewings were completely isolated from any social activity. I thought they were snobs. I didn’t care but I thought it was very funny because we were never invited over there.
You never went over to their residence at all?
No. And I thought that’s very un-Midwestern. Just to welcome you into the neighborhood. They were very snobbish towards me because I wasn’t married. But I didn’t care because I was having fun working for Bruce. And they didn’t have anything to do with me.
And that was Mrs. [Averilla] Ewing as well.
I didn’t realize it at first but I believe she had a drinking problem. I understand Dottie Worzel had one too, but Joe cured her. And Billie Press, she was quite friendly and outgoing, but she liked to put on airs. So she probably did well in the social scene in Washington. But they were all different. They were just out there and bringing up their kids in a most unusual circumstance. Husbands gone, working all day, all night. The wives hung in there. There were very few divorces at Lamont.
That’s an interesting observation. You mean compared to what you would hear about at other institutions?
Especially because the men were gone so long. David Ericson, paleontologist of cores, had two assistants, Goesta Wollin and Janet Wollin and Goesta forced Eric to write a book. I think you may have seen it. Ericson was such an introvert he couldn’t even get his own contracts — Goesta Wollin had to help him.
What sort of a person was he? He was very quiet you’re indicating.
Yes, we found some pictures of him somewhere. He was very withdrawn and completely immersed in his cores and bugs. He was completely immersed in it. But we used to go out and drink with him at five o’clock in the dining room. He was moderately sociable.
Had he been working at Columbia before coming out to Lamont?
I don’t know where he worked but he was always hanging around his cores. He probably had an office there. But he came directly from WHOI with Ewing. I don’t know where his office was. I never saw him until he came out to Lamont.
I think I asked you similarly about Angelo Ludas. How long had he been at Columbia before he came down to Lamont?
He was in that shop with Ewing. Yes, Angelo was at WHOT. He went to sea on the Atlantis cruise. Susan Schlee wrote about –
The Susan Schlee history of oceanography.
She wrote about the Ewing group. That’s the only way I could recall it exactly. She did pretty well in describing the Ewing group at WHOI because that was such a sleepy little town. And the Ewing group was all gung ho and worked day and night and she said WHOI was never the same after the Ewing group left. WHOI was founded at the time when oceanography was undertaken in America by wealthy young men who had their own yachts. I guess that refers to [Harry S.] Bigelow and Columbus Iselin and the like. And it was conducted at a much more leisurely pace.
Did Columbus Iselin come through Lamont after it was founded?
Oh, I don’t know. I don’t remember. See we got the Vema in ‘52 and after we got the Vema we didn’t have to go up to WHOI to use the Atlantis. And I don’t remember Iselin coming through. He may have. I didn’t see him. Lots went on without me as you know. He lived on one island and took a boat to come to WHOT during the day. [John Brackett] Hersey had his own small group up there but it was very, very small. You know a very close-knit, hard-working group.
Hersey. I don’t know if he’s still alive or not. I got a card for his seventy-fifth birthday. I wish I could have gone. And he also had some of these heart problems. You never had a chance to interview him.
Perhaps someone else.
He lives down in Washington. Near Fairfax or Alexandria. I don’t know that he’s still alive. Well, hang on. He’s one of the few people left. He pasted our maps all over his building. He had paid for them. He had our diagrams all over the walls. And he was up at WHOI and then for some reason he came down to Washington and he was the oceanographer and he was doing stuff everywhere. And I think Gordon [second name not given] came down and then later Gordon walked out. You know Bruce had a lot of contact with him. Quite valuable contact.
During the l950s when the trouble started between him and Ewing.
He gave us a lot of support in the Office of Naval Research [ONR].
You mean Brackett did?
Yes, after all Ewing had done a lot during the war for ONR.
It’s unfortunate that there are more people to interview than time and historians to do the job. But thank you for letting me know that. He may still be alive.
He may be. I don’t know his state of health. He had had some operations. But then he had his wife. But since you live in Washington —
I’ll see what I can find out.
He really gave Bruce a lot of support.
I want to talk about many of those issues when we begin to talk in depth about the 1960s and the start of the Heezen rift with Ewing and so on. One person I’m curious if you also had contact with in the early days — he was in the atmospheric physics meteorology division, William Donn? Who was he affiliated with?
Oh you mean Bill Donn?
Yes, Bill Donn.
Yes, he was left over from the Schermerhorn days. I’d forgotten. And he was a very bright kid. He had written a text book at age twenty-six on meteorology. And he waited seven years for his girlfriend to get through med school before he married her.
Is that right?
We didn’t have much contact with him about meteorology other than once in a while working with him on microseisms. But he was very much on the student’s side as the problems with Ewing emerged. He was very candid about how Ewing’s shortfalls had eventually developed. Personally we had more contact with him as a person than as a meteorologist.
That was another division at Lamont?
Except for the microseisms.
Directly you mentioned the time when the different groups would come together. How important were the symposiums for getting the Lamont group to all come together? Was that a principal way in which everyone got to know one another?
No, Ewing copied that from Rice [University] where somebody there, who was it — Cavendish? They called them Oxbridge Seminars. And Ewing copied those because that’s where Rice would bring in famous scientists to lecture to the students so they’d know that these guys are real and not just names. He did the same thing here. We had seminars every Friday afternoon at four. They were partly opportunities for famous people and also it provided a place where students could report on other people’s work so they’d learn how to give a paper. The students would report on other people’s work and on their own work. And then it got so specialized. I wrote this down somewhere. All the students would have their own seminars. And under Ed Miller they would go into some magnetic theory which was great. But I guess the seismologists didn’t want to hear it so they’d have their own seminars.
I heard that Frank Press had tried to hold everyone together for a time keeping it as a common seminar and then the group became too large.
And as you say things became –
Frank was really at his best at those seminars.
You think Frank was at his best in those seminars.
Yes, in those seminars, because he had read all the literature and remembered it. And he could either ask questions or bring up pertinent things.
Do you remember any outside visitors particularly who came through for these colloquia?
I can’t think of a one. I really can’t.
Were they common — I guess I’m curious in general whether it was mostly in-house. You mention Heezen and others.
In the early years it was in-house. I realize now they have, you see the bulletin boards, they have visitors every week in all fields. You just look at the bulletin board.
But Frank was there and Doc was there and everyone would be there. And some of the students would be giving a paper that someone had written. And Frank was there and he would ask questions about this guy and other papers he’d written which probably the student didn’t know. And he had such an amazing command of the literature and the memory of people even at that young age. Frank I believe was at Lamont for seven years before he left. And we all speculated how Frank would make out without Doc. Because they had worked so closely together.
They worked very close together for those years.
Oh yes, they worked together. And as it turned out I think that it was Doe who suffered the most with Frank’s departure. Because Doe got interested in other fields and he didn’t have Frank there working on the seismology. And then there was Jack Oliver and his crew and they wouldn’t cooperate or work with Ewing the way Frank had. So I think that that partnership, when it split up, was more to Doe’s detriment than to Frank’s. And we had all predicted that Frank wouldn’t be able to work when he left Doe. But he really rose to the top.
That’s an interesting prediction. And we’re talking about 1954 when Press went to CalTech [California Institute of Technology].
Because [Beno] Gutenberg’s position had been reserved for Frank when Gutenberg retired and so that’s where he went.
What made you think that Press might have difficulty in working when he left Lamont? Was it just the synergy?
It was just between him and Ewing. We all thought that. We would speculate that Frank wouldn’t make it on his own because he was part of the Ewing group and Ewing’s special partner in the work. Whether it was surface wave, etc.
The model seismology work was beginning at that point just before Press left to go to California.
I don’t know about models.
But you mentioned that Jack Oliver’s group, they worked more autonomously?
Who did you consider to be part of Oliver’s?
Oh, Bryan Isacks. He took five people up to Cornell [University].
When Oliver went to Cornell.
He took — the main one I remember was Bryan Isacks and some others whom I can’t remember.
How were relationships between Jack Oliver and Doe Ewing?
I think they were all right. I had something from Jack Oliver a while back. I probably can’t find it. You know he interviewed Doe. If you want to make a note to check the book by Jack Oliver. I had some great correspondence with him. He did very good work. On his own and he also did very good work finalizing things with Bryan. He really liked Bryan. He set up the experiments to prove that subduction had taken place.
And that began the basis of that famous late — I think it was 1968 — paper that’s often listed as one of the critical turning points.
It was. It proved that subduction occurs. And Jack Oliver gets full credit for it. But Jack Oliver himself has done a lot on land geology. I have that somewhere.
Okay. I have made a note of that. Off tape we’ll see if we can find it.
You didn’t see that little book he wrote?
I believe I have.
He was one of the early ones to leave. You know, independent, and he couldn’t be pushed around by Ewing. Maybe because he had been captain of the football team or something.
I knew he was on the football team. Was he actually captain?
I think so. I may be wrong but I thought, gee whiz, it must be some good use for football.
What sort of a person was John Ewing when you were working in Lamont in the early days?
Oh, a great big guy. Also quite bright as was Frank Press and he worked in seismology as did Frank Press. But he was quite bright and also outgoing. Did a very good job.
One other quick question I wanted to ask you earlier when we were talking about the different divisions within Lamont. There was also a merging I believe by the late 1950s with the microbiology division, Perry Hudson and a few others. Do you recall how much interaction there was between you and those who were working out of there?
It was a very short-lived project that may be interesting to investigate because fish had no known cancer and they wanted to find out why fish didn’t have cancer. The investigator was Perry Hudson who at that time lived in Palisades and he and his wife were good friends of the Ewings. They had similar-aged kids. That so-called project was very short lived. Ewing wasn’t interested in catching fish. [July 4, 1998 addition: I heard on television just the other night that they are investigating sharks’ livers for an ingredient that halts cancer].
They were simply in the way.
Yes. One of the things he learned at the WHOI was that WHOI had such a good marine biology department, you know, its hard to beat [Louis] Aggasiz. They had been going for so long and their library was so superb and they had visitors there from all over the world. It was the tops and so Ewing never got into biology. He said, “Why compete with them?” And he also never got into oceanography — you know physical water stuff. Because they had a good start in that too. The Gulf Stream and all that. Ewing was smart. He stayed away from those things.
Even though a few people like Wally [Wallace S.] Broecker eventually went into ocean water circulation, it certainly wasn’t what Ewing was pressing at that time.
At that time. No that was much later. And I believe Broecker must have gotten into ocean water and dealt a lot with chemistry.
Having been with Kulp and having done?
Yes. But Ewing was smart in that area and so was Broecker. In his own career Bruce Heezen stayed away from things that he wasn’t expert in, like physics. He couldn’t compete with Frank Press so he went into geomorphology and the distribution of sediments. We were geographers essentially. We needed accurate PDR to identify abyssal plains because [unclear word] in abyssal plains produced a gradient of 1000:1. Which is very flat.
Precision Depth Recorder.
And a major distribution of what was out there. We were essentially geographers. We were just making maps. But the first thing we knew we discovered that some ocean bottoms were smooth and some were rough. That was one of the first things we knew. We mapped this out in general and then let the theoreticians come along and speculate.
You made an interesting point a moment ago in calling yourself and Bruce essentially geographers. Did you have much contact with anyone who did the more traditional physical geography either at Columbia at the time or elsewhere? Or did it all stay within the Lamont?
No I don’t know a thing about the geography department at Columbia. Eventually I think it was eliminated.
But it was a very weak department. In fact the study of geography in this country is very weak compared to England or in Europe.
Indeed. It was already weak in the 1950s and then it became even weaker thereafter.
The American Geographical Society in New York City out on Broadway and 156th Street couldn’t get enough money to keep themselves going. So eventually they moved to the University of Wisconsin, in Milwaukee. So that’s where they went and they’re right there today.
Do you recall whether there was an attempt made to develop any part of the microbiology department? To make it larger than the program?
Oh, oh. That was very short lived with Perry Hudson. They have a biology department now and for a while they had this girl Barbara Hekker who had a Ph.D. in marine biology and she was there for quite a few years. She went on cruises, she collected things, she classified animals. I think she was fired. They ran out of money. She was a funded person. The other marine biology work is that done when Bruce and C.D. [Charles] Hollister wrote their book The Face of the Deep. They decided near the end of the book that they would reorganize the classification of marine animals based on their tracks and photographs. So that added another year to that book. They reclassified all that. I guess I told you that.
That you mentioned, yes.
That was marine biology but it was just work based on Bruce and Charlie’s photographs. Not too much on the catching the real animals. I don’t know if they’d had a place to put the real animals at Lamont. They must have in the marine biology department.
I’m curious if you recall any discussions that had come about in the early days about whether that was an area worth expanding? You mentioned already that Ewing didn’t want to go into certain fields that he thought would be eclipsed by other institutions.
I think that would be it. He concentrated on the profiler records and collected a tremendous collection of the profiler records made with the machine he’d invented. He and Joe and [Edward C.] Bullard. But they developed it and corrected it and improved it and he made that collection of ocean bottom pictures. He locked them all up for ten years. He wouldn’t let us see them either.
This was during the sixties?
Yes, when they were writing the book. Ewing also locked up the profiler records. It was ten years before we got those and when we did get them we had so many to work on we had to hire all these people to help us. But one of the things that forced the release of the profiler records was the Industrial Associates. They should give us some credit. I don’t know when they came but for a number of years this bunch of oil companies gave Lamont a lot of money to have copies of the profiler records because oil exploration had expanded to the deep oceans and they wanted to know what the records looked like. Looking for oil traps.
Was that program already started by the late 1950s?
Oh no. It came much later.
It was much later.
I can’t give you the date when that started but that was an important contribution, the IAs. And they would come, give talks, leave money and collect their copies of annotated profiler records. Also we got to see the profiler records. It got so that in later years of working on the maps I had to use them. They were super because you could see through mud to the basement. But I don’t know when they started. Actually the Industrial Associates when they were started were housed in Lamont Hall, the main building, in the same room that Bruce and I started working in. It had four bedrooms on the second floor and we were in the Lamont daughters’ room which looked up the river.
Quite a good view.
And Bruce took out the john, threw out all the green fixtures, made that his little private office. Me and one or two other guys were out in the other room looking straight up the river. Of the other three bedrooms, Frank Press had one. And then across the hail from us was Chuck [Charles] Drake. Samuel Katz, George Sutton and a couple of other guys were up the hail across from Frank Press. That was the second generation at Lamont. The first generation all came out from WHOT to Schermerhorn, to Lamont — Doc, Joe, Frank Press, Bruce, Angelo, Sam Katz, Jean Parker, Chuck Drake.
The second generation included all the new graduate students who were coming in and moving up to Lamont.
Well for a long time we were limited, but after 1963 it just exploded. And it was a happy family in the big house. One group in one place. One direction. Of course in 1962 the seismologists got a lot of money because I don’t know whether it was Jack Oliver or Frank Press that discovered that they could detect underground blasts of nuclear bombs in Russia by seismograph records. So when Congress heard about that ability they decided that seismology at Lamont should be well funded.
The Nuclear Test Band Treaty negotiations had really influenced the development of seismology.
Boy we got lots of support and I think seismology made us the most well-funded department there. At least it was at that time and it stayed that way for a long time.
You mean after agencies like DARPA began funding seismology it became the best funded?
The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency. It was one of the government military funding agencies that supported much of the seismological research.
I didn’t know they had a formal agency. But the reason they did, I didn’t know where they got the money, I thought it was from the government or Congress. And they got this money and as I say it was probably Jack Oliver who discovered that you could detect nuclear blasts underground. That was very important. That’s almost as important as the —
As his work on the subduction.
And so then they got all this money and there was this guy J. Tuzo Wilson who at that time, in 1962, saw all this money. He must have gotten some of his own. He was another armchair geologist. He had gotten some of his own and so instead of working with records of random earthquakes he set up a worldwide seismic network. You know, the World Wide Standardized Seismograph Network, WWSSN, and he set up stations up all over the world in 1962. So that was very important when we were making a map of it and correlating earthquakes. And the amazing thing was that when Bruce correlated the rift valley, they were accurate to half a degree to several degrees. It would be an accident if they were in the valley. But Bruce saw the correlation and I thought that was the toughest job of anything. And we got the better earthquake locations after J. Tuzo set that up. And that was an important contribution. Made for more certain and accurate correlations of rift valley and fracture zones on our ocean map.
That was indeed. Was seismology fairly well funded from the founding of Lamont or do you mean that you really noticed the improvement of funding after the —?
I notice the improvement. Now I have to think about the funding.
Of course Press was involved in that from very early on.
Yes. But he was a student and I don’t know where he got his funding. But Doe was the one who got the funding then and he was such a famous name after WHOI and the end of World War II. They thought, “Oh this guy is smart.” He could write a letter and get a million dollars on anything. I think Doe did all the funding. I don’t know if Frank did or not. I just don’t know.
I’m just curious. Did Ewing talk about fund raising that you recall? Was that a topic that would come up in conversation at Lamont?
Well, it sure was during the harassment but at the beginning I don’t know. I just don’t know. At the beginning it was Bruce who said that the SOFAR [Sound Fixing and Ranging] Station in Bermuda gave us about a million dollars a year to run the ship. And they were doing secret war classified work out in Bermuda.
This was the underwater sound channel.
Yes. That was WWII out of WHOI — I don’t know what Bermuda did. And they supported our shop. And then the Office of Naval Research supported us and then I think there were some Air Force Contracts but I don’t know who they supported. And another supporter, now what was his name, Cooper, [Butler] King Cooper. He supported us. He was down in Washington. He liked us. They had a lot of things in there but I don’t know who picked us up afterwards. But Wally. Oh you know, Larry [Kulp] went and founded his own company. But I still think that Wally held onto some of the Navy money in the process and got paid. But I don’t know. He’s still around. You should talk to him.
I’m going to.
He could give you a real good rundown on whatever you want to know.
No, I intend to ask him too about that. I’m curious how much contact you had with the group down in Bermuda. Gordon Hamilton was down there.
Yes. When I was at Schermerhorn, he was there briefly. He was part of the original Schermerhorn group and then he got sent down there to head up the SOFAR station. And we would see them, stop there on the boat, pick up supplies, and get entertained by Gordon who was always glad to see his buddies. He was down there and quite happy. Well, of course they were done in by the 1968 riots in Columbia when the kids insisted that Columbia not do war research related to Vietnam. They got kicked out. Gordon Ross had to come to Washington. That’s where he still is, I think, but he may have retired by now. Gee whiz. You sure should talk with him.
The names and the numbers are increasing. Indeed there are quite a few people who ought to be interviewed.
Well, he was close. Because of the student riots at Columbia, they killed the Bermuda station. Gordon went to Washington and became head of ONR eventually and some of the other people came out here to PGI in Rockland County and they carried on with their contracts. There was a small group out here at one time.
This is Palisades? What do those initials stood for?
Palisades Geophysical Institute.
We can double check.
They still have a small office but [Frank] Mongelli retired and when their funds were gradually cut back, he retired and went to Rochester.
You mean RPI [Rensselaer Polytechnical Institute] the school or just retired to the town of Rochester?
I understand Mongelli retired to Rochester, New York. But he still works a couple of days a week at PGI in West Nyack, New York. I guess he had a home up there and a family or something. He didn’t go up there to school. He retired and went to where he had a family. That group survived when they assumed a low profile.
I really want to ask a lot about how those riots and the anti-Vietnam war sentiments affected Lamont later as well. But the period was very important not only for the Bermuda station but for Lamont as well.
Oh, I don’t know how they affected Lamont. We were isolated from that. And some of Bruce’s students went down to see the riots. Of course one of the outcomes of the riots was Grayson Kirk was asked to resign as President of Columbia. After that it became a more democratic organization at the top levels. They had a senate and committees and stuff to make it more fair. Bruce told me that Grayson Kirk was voted out by the faculty at a meeting in St. Paul’s Chapel. The best book on the riots is by Cox, Archibald Cox, who was kicked out in the Saturday Night Massacre during Watergate. So he wrote this good book on the riots. That would be the bible for you to look through. Archibald Cox. You know just a little book, but it describes the riots. This took place during our harassment so Bruce had to put up with all these changes in presidents. Kirk had not been fair to the parliament or the Central Committee. You know he appealed to the Central Committee. But all of that isn’t clear. Yes, definitely those riots affected Lamont because of the change in presidents and the change of attitude of the presidents toward Lamont during the harassment years.
I suspected — having looked at a few documents that are in the Ewing papers in the University of Texas — that some students were concerned that Columbia, like the Bermuda station, also still had classified research contracts or certainly Navy money, Air Force money, coming into it and hence ought to be severed from the campus in the same way that other military funded activities were in other institutions.
I guess that was an outcome. And I’m sure Bruce knew about that too. But I don’t think I did. Or I haven’t thought about it in a long time. I remember Bruce being mad at why they were criticizing the government because that was what kept us going. And he was quite a loyal American and this business of Vietnam, the war, the objections to it wound up being objections to the American form of government as well and the universities which contributed brains and money and research to keep the war going. We were just an offshoot. Bruce did a lot of secret projects for the Navy off and on. We didn’t mention the names or know about them. We called his submersible vehicle the Bottom Buggy. He never could say where he went or how deep or how far or how long. And we couldn’t use classified data in our work and that’s why we had started drawing maps in the first place in the fifties.
That’s why you went to the physiographic map because of the classification problem.
Right. And there still was an element of classification in the U.S. Navy that didn’t allow us to see the detailed surveys. We couldn’t see them. They declassified the general surveys in 1961, but not the detailed ones.
I wonder generally how big a problem military classification was for doing the work that you did prior to 1960s. Did it really hinder?
It didn’t hinder us because we went to drawings. When we wrote our little book, Floors of the Ocean, our locations were very generalized. No longitudes and scaled-off depths. We had to do that. The text of the little book describes the diagram which we had to use because of classification. We didn’t do contours. Bruce didn’t get into contours until later. In fact, he put off doing contours actually until we had done the whole world and made all the decisions on the world scale. But Bruce died before we got to do even a minor part of the world in contours. The only contours that are really spectacular are the detailed ones of land topography like the Alps.
Yes, that’s a good point.
They’re so pretty. And contour maps are very generalized. They don’t show the texture and they can be inaccurate. And we were interested in accuracy.
I know we covered a little bit of that in our first interview. When we were talking about that.
There’s going to be a lot of repetition when I get this thing pulled together for you.
Well I’m trying to make sure. Let me know in case I’m asking something that you have written a new addition to in the first part of the interview.
Well, I’ve written up the Schermerhorn days and the people. That has to get typed.
Right. We’ll make sure all of that gets put in.
What you were asking about the early days from 1950 to 1960? That’s about all I can remember.
I’m curious, there were of course military classified projects that came to Lamont during the 1950s. Did people talk amongst themselves over what they were doing? Or did the classification tend to keep people quiet about certain activities that they did? How free did people feel to talk these things?
I can’t answer that either yes or no. Because I don’t know. Which means there probably wasn’t much conversation.
That was the next question. You didn’t hear much then about other people’s classified work?
Well, I stuck with Bruce. I thought it would be disloyal to go around to the other guys. I think I thought I would like to know what [James R.] Heirtzler was doing in magnetics. But I never went over to see him and ask him. I just don’t know. I don’t think magnetics was ever classified. I don’t think so.
Certainly not to the degree that the contours or the soundings were.
Or the sound channel research that was going on. Did you ever actually go to Bermuda to visit the Lamont station down there?
We stopped off there a couple of times when we were on the boat going somewhere else.
Probably was a fun time when you visited.
Our travel was always connected with work. But we did get to see a lot of places, port wise. Gordon always treated us great, just great.
What were the facilities like down there?
A building with some grass, space, offices. Quite a lot of space. I wasn’t aware what they were doing. But a lot of space. He always gave us a good time.
What kind of stuff?
One other thing I’ve been real interested in, as the second generation became third generation at Lamont, who came to be the principal graduate advisors for the newcomers?
Well I tell you. Originally Ewing was their part of the second. And somewhere between the second and third, he became ostracized because his secretary Harriett [Ewing] made the students make an appointment, so she created a barrier between his students and Ewing. Chuck Drake just hated her for that very reason.
Harriett was his secretary at the time.
Because as students, they had a close relationship with Doc. And she created the barrier and so it grew because Doc would get paranoid because the students weren’t coming to see him and he thought he should know everything. And then Harriett had to scurry around and try to find out from the students what they were doing themselves. She came into my office once and wanted me to show her how to make a physiographic province map, that’s a generalized thing. And I didn’t see any reason to tell her. But she tried and it got worse and worse. She would interrupt when Bruce was away, she would interrupt his mail, and fired his secretary. She was an influence I would say. She also was a good influence in getting Doctor Ewing to do a paper. She would say we ought to get this one writ up. But her efforts were both good and bad. She did what she could trying to be a scientist. Eventually they married.
She became his third wife.
And when they went down to Galveston she was with him directing that place but Joe Worzel fired her within three weeks after Doc Ewing died because she felt she should run it and Joe thought he should. I guess he had the upper hand there.
But Joe got mad and quit himself and walked out leaving all those records. He had a lot of valuable historical stuff and he walked out on them because he was mad at them. There were conflicts down there. I can only guess between Ewing and Texas and the Ewing set up involved different problems. Because Columbia always favored our research, you know. They didn’t stop it. The only thing we had to fight was the classification.
You mean the military part.
We probably could discuss at length the difficulties which I don’t know about.
You were saying that Chuck Drake in particular had gotten very upset at Harriett?
He was one of the first to see the development before the other people did. We thought that it was good that he had a secretary who would answer his mail when he was away with a modest amount of intelligence and initiative. She actually helped him a lot.
You’re speaking of Harriett. But then the concern came that she had too much authority in terms of? When you say, I thought it was interesting, that you say between the second and third generation Ewing becomes less significant as an advisor as one of the reasons.
And then of course some of the second generation were professors and then students would come to them. Joe was always a professor and Frank was and Jack Oliver. Their students are the second generation. And I can’t think of who the others were.
Out of just those, who tended to have large numbers of students? Who seemed to draw quite a few students on as advisors?
Well I think the seismology department had the best funding so students were most apt to go in and study seismology. You could get a scholarship, or get paid, or get an interesting problem to work on.
So by the mid-1960s seismology under Jack Oliver attracted quite a few students.
Yes. And Bruce had quite a few. Did I give you Jeff Fox’s name? He wrote a chapter about Bruce as his teacher because Jeff was one of Bruce’s students. We figured out for that article Bruce had about twelve students who got their Ph.D.s under him. He was quite popular. The students liked him.
How was Bruce as a graduate advisor? What was his style?
Gee, let me see. He had a lot of students and in those days he would assign somebody to the Western Pacific to work on. Or like Bill [William] Ryan he either assigned him the Mediterranean so he could do his thesis on the Mediterranean. That’s a pretty big thesis area. And he assigned David Needham to work on the Caribbean and he also worked off Africa tracing sediments from the Sahara. I guess in those days it’s unusual but the professor had to assign a topic for their thesis because it wasn’t known what there was to do. Nowadays a student goes to the professor and says as part of the test of whether they’re good enough to be a Ph.D. student — they’ve got to come up with their own problem. But in those days you couldn’t. The teacher had to show them what the problems were because they weren’t that well known. And there were different things besides our geography studies. You know there’s sediment and mud and currents and, for example, Dave Needham got into the Curacoa Trench which has no circulation at all. And then it was very rancid. But Bruce could guide his hand and direct what they worked on and where. I don’t know how the other guys operated but that’s the way Bruce did it in his day because the students didn’t know what to work on. He could just direct them to the area and the data that was available and the problems that were left and the students didn’t come and say I want to do this, this and this because they didn’t know. This was the best standard in most other areas but I don’t know how it is now with today’s students. Maybe they still have to be told what to do and where to go.
Probably depends on the maturity of the field in a sense of how many problems are already in the literature so that people can have a grasp of it merely by reading it fairly widely.
Peter Rona though. I think he went to Columbia. I don’t remember. But he was chief scientist on one cruise and wrote a whole report on that one cruise. And in those days you could do that. And it was very valuable. But now a student can’t write a report on one cruise because they have to link it up with everything else that’s known. But he found a good career in the hot brine. So he’s still looking for the chimney stacks and stuff.
The undersea volcanic depths.
He turned out to be quite good. That was a new field and a breakthrough to find them somewhere besides off the coast of Oregon.
What did people tend, how did people respond to the challenge of teaching once people were primarily out there and about at Lamont? How many classes were held here as compared to those that continued to be offered on the campus?
Oh Bruce offered to be a teacher when he didn’t get paid. He liked to teach so he was an unpaid lecturer for several years before he got his degree.
Was this during the official time of his suspension? During the ?
No, no, not then. Before.
And also Joe Worzel and Frank Press, they gave classes down in Columbia. I think they were just grad students then. But they both eventually got full professorships. And Bruce just went on teaching and gradually got promotions but the sticky point was to get the promotion to a tenured title and it was Jack [John E.] Nafe who came to his rescue in that area I think. Ewing was trying not to have him receive a tenured title. He got to be an associate but never made full professor because of the problems. Kids couldn’t vote, associate professors couldn’t vote because Ewing didn’t want them to. But the whole demise is quite interesting. It was something. It’s tough to recall when you don’t think of these things for a while.
Oh I’m well aware. You remember roughly how many students by say the late 1950s, early 1960s were taking the graduate classes that the folks at Lamont were offering. How big did they grow to?
Well in Bruce’s bibliography of reprints in the popular section he always lists his students in submarine geology. I guess he always called it 101. So he’d list all his students by name.
That’s all of the students in those lists.
They’re in those lists. I never counted them. But a lot of people had his class. His students are listed there. I don’t know about Jack Oliver or Frank Press’s students.
How much time did it take Bruce or others to prepare for teaching? Actually do the teaching? Was it a substantial fraction or did they find they could do it?
Well actually Bruce had a lot of lectures. I don’t know if I sent those to the Smithsonian or not. I may have. Along with the drafts of his papers. He had lectures and reading lists for his students.
Some of those are down there at the Smithsonian.
Now all the kids liked to teach so when he was away on a tour with a ship it was always, I figured, quite easy to find a substitute teacher. They still do that. If someone has to go to Hawaii before they go they dig up a substitute teacher. And I understand that people are always glad to get those opportunities to teach.
I have other questions I wanted to ask you but I don’t want to interrupt what you’re thinking about right now. Did something come back to mind?
One thing that we just left that I wanted to get back to that you mentioned some time ago now, the Industrial Associates Program. When did that start?
That’s what I don’t know. I don’t know when it started. I can’t. But it was an effective group.
Do you remember whose idea it was that helped to kick that oft?
They must have been approached by some oil company. I would say an oil company.
So it came from the outside?
I think so because they recognized the value.
Of the profiler records.
In finding oil. I would say it came from the outside. You might ask Joe.
I will. And you say that a lot of the people, those who were connected, had an office in —?
In our old office in Lamont Hall. In Bruce’s and my office when we worked in Lamont Hall. For a long time that was the Industrial Associates room. And then later they had money to get the profiler records annotated neatly and then photographed and reduced. They never allowed the originals to be taken out, but you could have photostats. And that was done in the geophysical building.
The new building.
The new building. For quite a few years and I don’t know.
Obviously the more recent years.
That new gray building. I remember some of the kids’ thesis when they would want to use the profiler records for their thesis area that Bruce had selected, Doe wouldn’t let them use them. So they were mad at that. Taxpayers money. Students had wanted to work on them and this old man was hanging onto the records acquired by taxpayers money. This violated every procedure as well as limiting academic freedom and access to the data which the taxpayers had paid for. You know we used to get mad. We got so mad at that. But eventually I think some of these arguments the kids fought for led to the founding of the World Data Center out in Boulder. Here it was legit for a person, who acquired the data, to keep it for a year and if he hadn’t used it, then he had to give it up to the scientific community. And I think that was an outgrowth of Ewing’s sitting on all that data but I don’t know who effected this. Somebody in Washington I guess.
What factors were behind Ewing’s reluctance to give up the data? Was it connected to Bruce and the controversy more or less? Or did it run broader?
Oh, let me see. He sat on the photographs. But he and Joe had invented the ocean bottom camera. They designed and built it.
Indeed and that goes back to the WHOI days.
That was some project. And they probably felt it was proprietary data for that reason and also Doc did not allow the use of color film. He was too puritan to allow color to be used. Only WHOI would do that and he thought it was wicked I guess. Ewing may not have wanted color because color photos would have to wait until they got back to land and Ewing and everyone were anxious to see what they had just photographed.
Is that right?
WHOI went in for very optical things, which was nice for ocean bottom photographs. But Brackett Hersey, I think, did that. He was an instrument man too. And let’s see. Oh and Ewing’s first contract, his first Guggenheim contract, where he used his bottom camera to photograph the airplanes that had been shot down in World War II. That scrapbook used to be in our office and I guess Harriett took it down to Galveston. I never saw it again. That book was photographs with the name and number of the shot down airplane.
Oh that’s interesting.
That was to identify the shot down airplanes. Probably boats too.
All the wartime work that was being done.
That what the camera was used for. And of course that was secret. And he had invented the camera, got a grant to do it, his first one. So he might have felt possessive because of that reason. I’m trying to think of the reasons why he was so possessive. But since he had invented most of these machines, devices, I mean, designed and built them, maybe he was possessive of them. But that’s what you’ve got to emphasize as Lamont’s contribution that is so unique. Building all those machines which Wood ignores.
You’re speaking of Robert Muir Wood’s book The Dark Side of the Earth. Yes, you had mentioned off tape before we got started your feeling that the linkage between Ewing’s ideas of development of the instrument and the availability of people like Angelo Ludas in the machine shop that produced that very much contributed to Lamont’s quick rise to a high status.
But Joe Worzel designed them.
Indeed, Joe’s contributions in the design.
He was an engineer and Ph.D. These instruments were designed to solve a problem, and Ewing knew what the problems were.
But he ignores all of that.
He being the Wood book you’re referring to.
Yes. And I think that is our unique contribution. And I think that it is a more unique contribution than at any other place except at WHOT. Brackett Hersey did try to make a PDR after we made one. He called it the PGR and used transparent paper. But the only improvement was it was transparent paper and could be copied. But it was our group that did it. And that is our unique contribution and Ewing’s contribution and the way he ran the lab and the way he ran the boats with an iron hand. All the gear had to be working, everything had to be working on every cruise for every minute. And none of this nonsense like at Scripps where the biologists took the ship out and wouldn’t take soundings. Woods Hole never got beyond the northwestern corner of the Atlantic. But that’s another thing that Ewing did. He went round and round the world on these widely spaced cruises and when we didn’t know more than we did then, that was very important. That was a unique contribution of Lamont and Ewing.
You mentioned already, you anticipated the question that I was just going to ask you which was in what other ways did Lamont differ from the other big oceanographic centers like WHOI and Scripps?
We had a tough haul. That was one of the things. When the ship was at sea 365 days a year, and all the gear was working and getting all the stuff. And I don’t think that was true of other places.
The Vema for instance certainly spent more time and accumulated more nautical miles at sea than the other.
But it was well placed. It was regional reconnaissance. Didn’t fool around on one little ride.
Indeed if one looks at the track of the Vema over its active lifetime as Lamont’s research ship, it is going around the globe on a fairly regular basis.
Yes. Of course the early cruises did not go around the globe because they didn’t have that much money or that much oil or sails. We were lucky to get some. We did the western Atlantic, then we were lucky as Bruce said, to get across the Atlantic. And then we never dreamed we’d get down the whole length of the south Atlantic but we finally did by Vema 12.
Was this because the ship by then had been remodeled? Or was it simply having more access to funds?
Having more money as well as remodeling. It was Vema 19 when they took off the sails because they had problems. And after that it cost so much to redo the ship, they took off the sails because they had to be salvaged at sea and repaired for six weeks with no sails. Then they had the motor. After that they always went around with the motor. But this is some of the stuff that you would find in Benny Amirault’s narratives. Benny was the chief officer?
Right, someone you had mentioned off tape.
Now I can’t find that stuff because it’s God knows where. It would help you to take one of his books to the person you’re promoting to show the style.
Well, I think any kind of historical material of that sort is helpful just to bring together the history of Lamont. So it would be good to keep track of that and be aware of it.
Well, there’s one if you want to promote a fund to publish that stuff separately, the story of the Vema could be one of the supporting volumes for the history of Lamont. You say you’re not going to do the history? This other guy is going to do the history?
Well, this probably ought to remain off tape. What I’m doing, one project, is not necessarily going to be and won’t be the final word. There will be other projects coming out. Books written at Lamont itself.
But they’ll have access to these tapes.
Well, I just hope our tapes show up better than the Wood book. We did show up badly in the Wood book, which is a universal history of oceanography so far.
As you mention off tape this is one of the concerns that you had with the way that the history of oceanography has been treated so far.
By the Europeans, particularly the English. I don’t think there is any history of oceanography in the U.S. except Schlee’s at WHOI and [Russell] Raitt’s at Scripps and what else — [Henry W.] Menard’s at Scripps but only up to 1968.
A small history that is just being to emerge at this point. There certainly are very few books that have come out. One thing I’ve been curious about too was how did people involved at Lamont get in the Indian Ocean expeditions? The big drive in the early 1960s.
Well I don’t know about all of Lamont. But when Bruce was at sea somewhere and I was supposed to be working on the Mediterranean, Brackett Hersey called me up and talked me into doing the Indian Ocean instead of the Mediterranean. I had already done the North Atlantic and South Atlantic. Bruce was gone for six weeks and by the time he came back, Joe Worzel had given me money to hire people and we were digging into the Indian Ocean. And we spent a whole year on it. I had quite a bit of help. And we did the Indian Ocean and we did the physiographic diagram for it. One of the purposes of the Indian Ocean expedition was to promote cooperation among various countries, scientific cooperation. I think it did do that. And another thing was to find places where they would be finding the fish on banks and stuff to feed the starving millions of India. But that was not very successful. Not very many fishbanks can be related to that project.
Right. It worked much better as a fundamental research project than in any of those applied areas that were listed.
And we had fun. We did the Indian Ocean in a year and I had quite a bit of help. And we got to go to India and Bruce talked about it for a while or so it seemed and described our work and everything we had found. We had found micro-continents we hadn’t recognized before. We had also, let’s see, when did we find the first drift in the Indian Ocean? I can’t remember. No, no we found the drifts in the Atlantic but we also found some drifts in the Indian Ocean and I had the privilege to name some of the long ones. I used the longest names I could find in the Atlas to cover up the whole drift with a name. You know, a twenty syllable name. Sometimes if we had a small feature like the plain ones we picked the names to fit the size. For instance, in the South Atlantic Id Abyssal Plain between two seams.
And when we got to the Indian Ocean, we came into the Gulf of Aden and we mapped the biggest cones, the Indus Cone and the Ganges cone. They were fun. It was a fun job. We got a lot of data from the Russians. We really got in with the Russians. They gave us a Vityaz sounding so we could do the Sumatra and Java trenches with great accuracy because we had the southern Russian soundings. That was very helpful. We completely — we did the Australian area. But we couldn’t stop to write it up because we were in a hurry to get ready for a meeting. It was fun. Seven days a week for about a year. That’s all we did or thought about. I was kind of glad to get into a different area actually. But we did get to go to India and come back via Bangkok, the Philippines, Japan, Taiwan, Hawaii, and Scripps in California.
That’s interesting. You and Bruce were traveling together then.
On the way back and on the way over.
Did you meet other colleagues when you would go to these different places?
Yes. They were friendly. Especially in Taiwan.
Who did you meet there?
Bruce gave some lectures there. I would have to look up the names. We met them in India at the meeting and then they invited us to visit them in Taiwan. So when we got there, we did. And then Bruce gave some lectures and they took us on an escorted trip along the whole length of the island. There was Ting Ying H. Ma, a geologist, and some other geologists. And he was great. God, the Chinese food in Taiwan is just superb.
Is it really?
We got down to the southern tip and that was very exciting too. Then we went to the Philippines and naturally went to the Philippine Geological Survey and they gave us a map which was nice. Then we went to the airport to fly down this line of volcanoes but there was some disruption in the airport. The wind had blown all the tickets and maps and everything all over the floor so there was no way to get the flight out there. So then we just took our own trip in a rented car around the main island. We went out, among other places, we went to Lake Taal. And that was a nice lake. Fishermen live around the edge of it and I believe it was a volcanic lake. And 6,000 fishermen lived around in the village there. And we went to this restaurant and they said they listed all the earthquakes. There was a fifty year interval between earthquakes and I noticed the next one was due any minute, and sure enough six months after we got home, that whole lake had blown up and killed all 6,000 people. But it was quite calm when we were there. We went to Japan briefly and we went to Hong Kong. Then we couldn’t go to China because it was still the Mao regime and we stayed in Hong Kong and Bruce had to phone home to see how his manuscript was coming. We got to see a little bit of Hong Kong but we could only see China across the border because the Communists didn’t allow tours. When I got to go to China it was many years later, with Joe Worzel actually, after Bruce had died.
And that was a more official visit or had the policy just relaxed enough?
No, that was when the Cultural Revolution had dissolved enough so that they were cultivating foreigners. And Joe Worzel and PGI paid some of my airplane ticket to go to. That was after Bruce died. Joe Worzel wrote up the Chinese trip great. He visited all these seismic stations where they were way behind us because they hadn’t been allowed to speak anything but Russian for so long they were eager to find out what the rest of the world was doing. They couldn’t have grad students sent over here because they couldn’t speak English because they’d been speaking Russian. But Joe gave some good talks and got to explain it and John Kuo helped. He’s a Chinese professor of geology at Columbia University. He’s now doing work in Tibet. But ask Joe about the Chinese trip. He could tell you about the Chinese trip and who he talked to because he gave a lot of lectures. And he probably remembers more about the status of it. It was quite low, the status of Chinese learning, that is when the Cultural Revolution was breaking up.
And many of the good university people were of course forced out.
After the breakup of the Mao regime they started to make an effort. In China, they’d invite the presidents of universities from America and then they’d invite directors of universities, and then they worked their down to the lesser people like us. For three weeks, no spouses, they’d take them on a guided tour to universities and tourist attractions and get all they could out of us, and we could see what they had been through. It was, I thought, a well planned thing. Manik Talwani had been among the first visitors there with the other directors. But Joe can probably tell you more. It was an eye opener. Well, that was in 1981.
That’s very much more in the recent period. When you think back, how important for Lamont was the IGY?
Oh, we got to do our Indian Ocean. I don’t know what else happened. But it did open up international cooperation among foreigners. It was supposed to do that. We had Indian professors and students come over here and work.
Was this the first time that Indian students were arriving?
Well I can’t say that because Manik Talwani came from India. He had been an alternate Rhodes Scholar. And he eventually became a director at Lamont but he was an exception. Very bright. He was an exception. Later there were lots of other Indian students. And other countries. The Swedes, the French, the Germans, the Russians all participated and we used all their data for the Indian Ocean maps. So it did fulfill its purpose in international cooperation. But then Woods Hole got over there. Betty Bounce was chief scientist on the Chain, a WHOI vessel. Drummond Matthews was the Englishman.
That’s right at Cambridge.
Matthews was at Lamont for some time. He had done work there. And the Russians visited us.
Well wasn’t it about 1960 that Bruce first came into contact with [G.B.] Udintsev?
Well, let me see. Bruce was invited to Russia as a solitary person in 1961 to give a series of lectures. I think he met Udintsev on that trip. As I recall, Udintsev was not allowed to come to the International Oceanographic Congress because he didn’t belong to the party and he was sort of an independent. But I think that’s when he met Bruce in ‘61 when he lectured on the Rift Valley. None of the Russians believed in it. Very hostile reception. Friendly people, but hostile to his discovery.
To the idea?
To the idea.
When Bruce came back do you remember what he said were the reasons why the Russians were hostile to this data or to the interpretations?
He did say that. I don’t remember. I do know that [Vladimir V.] Beloussov was always against it.
He was an influential figure.
He was top man. He was top man and he was a nice man. Sort of like Bruce’s father. And when Beloussov first visited America he had a tail, an FBI man, who had to follow him and Bruce all over wherever they went. You know Secret Service.
Right. And he was quite visible apparently.
A grown man had to put up with this tail, shadow. He was a nice man. He was among the first to visit over here. And well Bruce always valued his Russian colleagues especially when we could exchange data. It really helped our maps a lot. Very important contacts. But I don’t know what else good came from that IGY.
I was thinking particularly how it did or didn’t influence Lamont from your perspective?
Well I’m only thinking of Bruce and our group. Bruce had a chance to meet Russian scientists. And a lot of other students came to Lamont after that.
So it increased the circulation within the broad international field.
It was very helpful that way. Wood had some interesting things to say on that too. Because it started out as a polar expedition very early with the Wegener, very early and then their Polar Institute expanded into some other things.
Well, there were as you note, other international polar years such as on which the Third International Polar Year, which then became the International Geophysical Year. So it had precedence.
And Wood goes into that. He’s happy to give the Germans credit for stuff.
As you pointed out, that book tends to emphasize European and English contributions much more than American.
You’ve just got to remedy that. In spite of the harassment which helped kill Lamont we did do our part.
I didn’t want to keep us talking for longer than perhaps we should be talking in this session, but there are lots of questions I want to ask you about the time that Bruce was in harassment in the 1960s. How did that start? If you want to begin talking about that now or we could save that for another session. I’m curious as you look back on it, what you see?
Well, actually John [Jonathan] Lear asked the same question. He said when in the world did this harassment start? Because Bruce had a very satisfactory and rewarding relationship with Doctor Ewing for fifteen or seventeen years. He was his prime mentor. And I suppose some of the other guys were jealous because Bruce seemed, for a long time, to be the fair-haired child. And one of the first things that happened was on Vema 15 and Bruce had made arrangements with the Bell Labs, with whom we had a contract, to go down and survey something in the Puerto Rican trench so we could see how deep it was when they put down their cable. Or some sort of thing.
Something like that.
Which would be the obvious thing to work on. He had made arrangements to have the Vema for three weeks to do this job for Bell Labs. Well what happened was that Vema 15 had gotten sent out with a radio operator who could neither send nor receive signals so that the Vema ran straight into this big storm. Ordinarily they avoid storms. That’s the zigs on the map, that’s how we avoid hurricanes.
Oh, that’s interesting. I didn’t know that.
Oh yes, a lot of course changes. You go in a different direction.
Zigzagging for the storms. Very interesting.
And so they went straight into this hurricane which was very devastating. They had to throw off all their oil, their TNT and food and the storm broke a big mast. People got hurt and one of those big Hand batteries bounced down the stairway and spilled acid all over the bottom and they felt the ship was going to get eaten up with acid. But they had enough presence of mind to put bicarbonate of soda on it to kill the acid.
Was Kohler the master of the ship then on that voyage? Henry Kohler?
I don’t know. See, now, if you had all those writ up narratives, it could be found.
It could also be found out from the logs which are at Lamont.
But that’s hard to do. I thought the narratives would be more interesting or readable. Well anyhow, some guys got hurt. They limped into Savannah and they stayed in the boat. And since they hadn’t been able to receive or send messages, everyone at Lamont was scared. We thought we lost the boat. We went a whole week with no noon position. Vema always sent in latitude and longitude of position, at noon every day. The wives kept calling in. Everybody was scared the boat was lost. We hadn’t heard from them for a week and there was this storm. Finally the person who finally got in contact with the boat was a ham operator out in Long Island. We knew after a week that it was safe.
But how was it that the ship was sailing with someone on board who couldn’t send or receive?
Probably trying to save money. They couldn’t afford a regular operator or maybe this was one left over who had been on other ships and he’d been covered by someone who could. I think it was just a money saving situation.
That backfired in a rather awful way in this case.
Yes. A lot of damage to the ship. Busted up, I think it broke one of the main masts or something. There was a lot of damage. They wound up in Savannah and that’s where they put some guys in the hospital. But Bruce still wanted to take the ship to his Puerto Rican destiny with Bell Labs and he was denied.
And he was denied, Bruce —.
For the use of the ship by Ewing. But on the other hand the ship may not have been in that good a shape. He lost face with Bell Labs but they still paid him. He had his contract. And then the ship had a couple of other cruises and kept going and going. It went through the Panama Canal and down the west coast of South America on Vema 17. And that is the sad event on Vema 17 where John [F.] Hennion was throwing the TNT charges over every hour. Benny Amirault, chief officer, was on board then. He doesn’t know what happened because everyone was at lunch and John Hennion was up there on deck all by himself. He must have had a shot fuse and blew his hands off and blew himself up and there was a very quick burial at sea. Then they limped back into port because, you know, they had to notify his wife and everyone else. The morale was quite low and that’s where Walter [C. III] who was just a technician, took over as chief scientist. He took over then and did quite well. He became a technician and then a student and then a professor.
Yes, that was the year prior to the time he actually entered graduate school? That was his first voyage in fact.
And that’s the only accident we ever had with the TNT. It’s amazing — thirty million miles and no one else got blown up. Bruce threw a lot of TNT overboard on the Atlantis. Ewing had devised the system and done it so that they eliminated the inefficiencies and mistakes and everything that didn’t make good records. They got the records in good shape and kept going. And then he sat on them. But that was some cruise. And that was when Bruce told John that he thought that Vema 15 was the beginning of the harassment. It might have been. I don’t know.
Did you see any other signs of difficulty between them? Was it difficult for Bruce for instance to be publishing with Ewing’s name on papers when sometimes Ewing was not that directly involved?
Well everyone had that problem.
Did it feel like a problem to most people or did people accept it?
Well, yes, but there wasn’t much you could do about it. It makes you wonder at the extensive bibliography of Dr. Ewing. You should take a real look at it and inspect the title and the co-authors. Then you’ll discover sometimes that Ewing’s name is on papers of different interpretations. I’d give the co-authors full credit. But he did have a terrific bibliography. Because he forced it. A lot of directors did I understand. So that wasn’t just with Bruce. Bruce took exception and had a big fight over what he called censorship when Ewing appointed a committee and ruled that everyone had to have their paper read and approved by a bunch of other guys in the department. Bruce didn’t like that at all. It smacked of censorship. He didn’t like that at all.
What had prompted that move in the first place?
I don’t know. Maybe it was that Bruce had written too many papers.
Did Bruce feel that it was directed against him? That rule?
Yes. He thought that was against him. Against academic freedom.
But it applied to all people at Lamont didn’t it?
I don’t know how broadly applied it was in actual fact. I could outline some recent examples and degrees of the harassment if I had known you were going to ask about that because I’d be back in ancient history in the basement of Schermerhorn and I hadn’t gotten that far.
I could do it quite accurately but I’d have to look it up.
Well perhaps we can leave it as a part of the tape where if you want to make an addition to it you can further update the sorts of things that you already authored on the interview tape itself.
I’d have to look it up to give you even a reasonable discussion. Now mind you all this time I was working at home. That’s one of the reasons I worked at home.
When did you start working at home?
1965 and I never went back. I didn’t buy this house to work in by the way. I wound up using it that way. I only had one room to work in.
At the time.
I had to protect his maps from being stolen by other people so I worked at home.
Which other people do you have in mind?
Oh Lamonters. Ewing. And so a lot of harassment went on at Lamont that I didn’t know about because I was protected.
By having worked at home for that time. After ‘65 when you started working at home, did you literally not get back to Lamont? Or were you very infrequently a visitor?
Well very infrequently. Just a visitor. I did the Indian Ocean at Lamont in the year ‘64. And then we went to India and when I came back I never went back. One thing led to another and it was best to stay home. I even got a dog. The first Inky dog I got was to guard the door in case someone from Lamont was coming. It gave me more peace of mind to not have to know somebody was at the door because the dog would tell me.
That indicated tensions were high enough that that sort of thing crossed your mind.
And Bruce and Charlie would come up here and work on their book a lot.
Did you have much contact directly with Ewing at that point?
No. I was scared of him. I never had much contact with him.
Generally who were the people who emerged as Bruce’s allies in the controversy?
I can’t remember exactly but I can look it up. Some of them even went down to Columbia and complained to the president.
About Ewing’s treatment of Bruce?
Yes. Some of his students went down and complained. It took the president a long time to catch on because Grayson Kirk had a lot of problems too that surfaced during the riots.
The student troubles were happening.
If you can find that book by Archibald Cox. It’s such a good background on Columbia at that time.
Wasn’t it Andy [Andrew Wellington] Cordier who took over for acting interim president?
I believe. First there was someone else — I don’t remember.
There might have been an acting person first and then Cordier.
And then Cordier was for quite a while and he was a good choice. Because he was a lawyer with experience on an international basis for solving disputes. They sure picked a good guy. He was quite fair. I could give you a lot more detail but I hadn’t even thought we’d get that far.
Well in a way I hadn’t expected to either. We’ve been moving through a number of different topics right now.
Well what you’ve got to do if we skipped over something is to go back over it. You still don’t have my book. There’s a lot of what we were doing describes in that book.
Maybe what we ought to do is bring this part of the interview to a close. We’re certainly going to be continuing this over a number of additional sessions. So let me do that and thank you again for your time in this long interview. And as before we won’t release the tape or its transcript before you receive more information directly from Columbia concerning the development of this project.
All right, good.