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Interview of James Hays by Ronald Doel on 1996 December 20, Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics, College Park, MD USA, www.aip.org/history-programs/niels-bohr-library/oral-histories/22905-2
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Born in Johnstown, NY on Dec. 26, 1933; discusses family life and childhood. Discusses his early interests in chemistry, physics, and astronomy; pursued scientific interests at Deerfield Academy. Describes his decision to go to Harvard during the McCarthy era; comments on his undergraduate education at Harvard, 1952-1956. Discusses his decision to major in geology; describes his geology coursework and summer field work in Colorado. Discusses his Navy service from 1956-58 and his travels during the International Geophysical Year; describes his decision to go to Ohio State for graduate school in geology. Comments on meeting other scientists through the Polar Institute; describes his growing interests in the Antarctic and how he came to his undergraduate thesis research. Discusses his post-graduate research at Columbia, Lamont, 196 1-1964; describes his coursework at Columbia and the teaching of Heezen, Wust, and Newell. Discusses how he became involved with the CLIMAP project; describes the collaborative nature of the CLIMAP research. Comments on the Emiliani/Ericson debate; compares the involvement of Lamont with Scripps and Woods Hole in the CLIMAP project.
This is Ron Doel, and this is a continuing interview with James Hays. Were recording this on the twentieth of December, 1996 at Lamont-Doherty in New York. In our first interview, we had spoken about your studies at Harvard… One of the things that we didn’t get to cover was your decision to go to Ohio State for graduate training. What were the options that you were considering? What had seemed possible at the time?
Well, I was — I went into the Navy and I was an officer in the Navy for two years after Harvard.
Was this ‘56 through ‘58 that we’re talking?
That’s right. While in the Navy I began to obviously think about what I might — what I would do next. I was certainly interested in the major that I’d had at Ohio State and I thought that would be, I mean sorry, at Harvard. So I thought maybe I might think about becoming a petroleum geologist. This is what — I mean that was a field of interest which I thought I would — I might find enjoyable. So I wrote back to Professor [Harry] Whiddington at Harvard who was a paleontology professor there and asked him to recommend some schools for petroleum, graduate schools for petroleum geology So he recommended primarily mid-western schools and suggested I avoid Texas, Oklahoma universities because they were little more than factories for petroleum geologists. But he felt the Big 10: Michigan, Ohio State, I think he mentioned Minnesota, I’m sure he mentioned University of Cincinnati. And I’m not sure what others. I think Illinois or Indiana. So I applied and decided to go to Ohio State and —
Do you remember how the decision came about for Ohio State versus the other possibilities?
Yes. Actually I don’t. I don’t know that I was accepted at all the places. I can’t remember that I was. I think I wasn’t. But I do know I was kind of weighing Cincinnati versus Ohio State, and I think also Michigan. I did talk to a few people and I got encouragement that Ohio State would be a good place. They had some good — they had a good stratigrapher there by the name of Edmund Speaker, and they thought that that was, it would be a good training ground for petroleum geology if that what’s I decided I wanted to do. So, I did decide to go to Ohio State. And then I got out of the Navy and went around the world, and came back in time to start Ohio State in the fall.
Left, see I was in Seattle, stationed in Seattle, and just went around the world. It took about three months.
That’s interesting. Were you traveling alone?
No, no. There was another officer who happened to be getting out about the same time. And we met one evening in the BOQ [Bachelors Officers Quarters], and I hadn’t met him before. And turned out he was being mustered out the same time I was. So we talked about what we were going to do. And I expressed my interest in going to the Orient since I sort of hoped to go there while in the Navy, but my ship didn’t cross the Pacific. So he said, well, he’d like to do that too. So we decided on the spot that we would just do it. Fortunately we ended up being reasonably good traveling companions so it was a successful trip. So we even spent quite a lot of time in Japan and Vietnam and Cambodia and India, so we sort of focused on that are — and then a little time in the Middle East — very little time in Europe.
I’m wondering where you overseas when the news of Sputnik came? Or was that earlier when you were still in the Navy?
No, I was in the. No, no, no, wait a minute. Sputnik.
Sputnik was the end of — was in November of. No, I’m going blank and I think it’s 1957 that Sputnik goes up.
Then I was in the Navy then. Somehow I had the feeling that it happened in the early sixties, but you’re probably right it didn’t.
Yes, yes, yes.
The IGY [International Geophysical Year] runs from June of ‘57 to the end of ‘58.
Right and it was an IGY project. So I was, I guess I was in the Navy. Don’t remember too much about it obviously. The Suez crisis had more effect because they redeployed us and we got all shuffled around. But the Sputnik launching. Yes I remember being very interested in our vanguard effort.
Which, indeed, is 1960 and thereafter.
Yes, I see. They just jumped the gun. But I thought we were — our task was to put up an orbiting satellite as part of IGY. But we failed. We didn’t make it and the Russians did. So our Vanguard business kept on going and eventually we got our satellite up as well. Well, it certainly had a profound effect, which I had no awareness at the time of what it would be — in terms of science and the rest of it — so it made a big difference, but I was unaware of the whole significance of this.
You know I was curious too both in your Navy career and when you were reflecting on what you might do, were there others who you spoke with in particular about a possible future career? Were there others that you knew were in the oil business?
No, I did not. I’d had this, you know, I’d had this long-term interest in science. I mean that goes back to my youth as we spoke. So the decision to go on with science was an easy one, but sort of what to do was not so clear. But I did feel that that was probably — that I needed more training than I’d had and then go on from there. So that’s why I did it. It was a little bit on the haphazard side looking back on it, but perhaps those things are at that age. To me they were.
What was the experience like at Ohio State?
I enjoyed it. And it was a — I think it was a very solid department and had a little different slant than Harvard had, but they had a good faculty and I feel I learned a lot. Now of course as a graduate student, you focus on, you know your field so it’s different than in a major. But it was there really that I began to be interested in the Antarctic because, as part of IGY — a person by the name of Richard Goldthwaithe who was there who started something called the Polar Institute — and this was, this was IGY’s Antarctic work. So there were young scientists who would come to Ohio State and then go down to the Antarctic. So there was a lot of interest in the Antarctic.
It was very interesting. Yes. That’s right. And indeed that was started just around the time that you were there.
That’s right. That’s right. And so I began to get — because I got to know these people because they were going back and forth to Antarctica and I was talking to them. I shared offices with them and so forth and so I got very interested in the Antarctic and really came here because Lamont had a collection of deep sea cores around Antarctica — and they didn’t have many, but they had some. And got much — had many more taken later — but my thought was that these people were going down and, you know, digging holes in the ice. Because they hadn’t drilled yet. So digging these pits and trying to understand something about the history about the Antarctic ice sheet. And I thought it might be easier to get a little, get a longer history by studying deep sea cores around Antarctica than by studying the ice directly. So I came here in order to do that and then, in fact, that’s what I did for my thesis.
Indeed, and you’re thinking particularly of your thesis when you got the Ph.D. at Columbia 1964. I’m curious; I wanted to stay with Ohio State for a moment. How well did you come to know Richard Goldthwaithe?
Oh quite well. Very well.
What sort of person was he?
Oh, I very much liked him. And in fact I think if I hadn’t kind of had this idea that I was going to, from when I came there to work with Edmund Speaker — because he uses a stratigrapher — I would have worked with Goldthwaithe. In fact he approached me. He wanted me to do something in Alaska and I had already sort of committed and you know I said no, I can’t do that. And I said; now I remember him, and I said and I remember telling him that I thought maybe I thought I would become a petroleum geologist. That’s the mind set I had. He said well you know it doesn’t make that much difference. Many of us are students who study [?] in Ohio and had gone on to be petroleum geologists and what not. And it would have been interested because the Alaska project he had seemed like an interesting one — but I was, I don’t know I was just a little. But I took a number of courses from him.
Do you remember which ones in particular?
Well he taught a course in geomorphology which I took. He taught a seminar in — I guess it was glacial geology or something like that. And I think I may have taken a course in glacial geology from him as well. But I remember in the geomorphology course he said that he felt that in, you know, twenty years from then that probably a geomorphology course would include — maybe half of it would be the geomorphology of the bottom of the ocean. And it was just at that time that [W. Maurice] Ewing and [Bruce C.] Heezen and people like that were, you know, beginning to publish papers on the ocean floor, topography and so forth. So that kind of alerted me to Columbia and then.
It was reading, yes, the papers that what you were doing at Ohio State.
Yes. We didn’t read that many of them, but we did read one or two and at least I began to connect Columbia with the bottom of the ocean and then Antarctica and then there were cores. It turned out — I don’t think anybody else did have many cores around Antarctica — that was at that time. Scripps [Institution of Oceanography was all out in the middle of the Pacific. There were some very early cores that the Europeans had, but that was sort of far away and there weren’t many and they weren’t doing anything at the time. But a lot was going on — or certainly — yes a fair amount was going on here.
Who else did you meet who was actually going down to Antarctica who came through the Institute?
Well, Dick [Richard] Cameron was one. John Hollin was another. John Hollin, you may or may not know of him. I don’t think there’d be any reason you’d know Dick. But one of the things John Hollin became obsessed with was an idea that an Australian, I think he’s Australian or Tasmanian, which is the same thing — man by the name of Wilson — which was that the Antarctic ice sheet had surged. And that the surging of the Antarctic ice sheet, in fact, in some way had, well had a big affect on, at least amplified the Ice Age signal. And that so, there was, maybe a natural oscillator up there that actually triggered northern hemisphere ice sheets. And he became interested in that, and it became an obsession with him and I think he spent his life thinking about surging Antarctic. So anyway he was very — but his enthusiasm for it was enough. So we had lots of discussions about this idea. And there was.
Did he mention the Ewing dung idea?
That came — I think that came a little later.
That may have been just a bit.
Not much, but a little bit later.
It’s right around that.
It was right about that time. In fact, maybe, it’s a good question. It may have been around; we may have discussed that too. Possible. And there was another fellow called Weston Blake, who wasn’t working in Antarctica, although he’d been down there. But he had done his work in Spittsburg and he worked in the Canadian Arctic. He eventually went to work for the Canadian survey where he spent his life. But he’d done a lot of work on raised beaches in the Arctic and raised beaches in Spittsburg and dating and measuring the elevations of beaches to measure glacial rebound and that kind of thing. Which is pretty exciting because of the amount and speed of the rebound that he was finding? So he was very interested in what he was doing. So, let’s see, there were some others now. A fellow by the name of [?] Mursky, but I didn’t — I don’t know that he actually went to Antarctica. And there were some others who I can’t remember their names. Somebody, I just don’t remember his name, who found the first glossoperie flora in Antarctica in the trans-Antarctic range. But people who are there now like [?] Elliott and so forth weren’t there at the time.
Was there a regular colloquium series associated with the Institute?
No, not at the time there wasn’t. They may have had that later, but not at the time.
But these were more encounters, private encounters that you had, people coming through the offices and such?
That’s right. Right. And they — you know, these people spent a lot of time because they came back to Ohio State to write up their work. And then some of them were almost permanent. They were kind of cycled back and forth, write up the results and then go back down again and dig more pits and so forth.
I was wondering if your thesis that you wrote there was unusual given that it crossed between petrology and paleontology? Was that?
Well, yes, it was.
Was that common or —?
It was. Because the people who worked with Speaker generally did just straight stratigraphic theses because that’s what he was — and he wasn’t a paleontologist. I was interested in having — trying to get some way of dating the sediments and also the petrological stuff which I did in kind of — I think looking back on it — in sort of an amateurish way. But again I was interested in trying to understand a little more about the history of the formation. And the fossils too, the pollen might give some clue as to what was living there at the time. And actually I got very fascinated by the pollen and with the fact that Jim [James] Schopf was at Ohio State and he was the coal geologist for the Ohio Survey. Ohio or USGS [United States Geological Survey] I guess, maybe, he was USGS, that’s right, but he was stationed in Columbus and he was a very stimulating guy. I spent a lot of time talking to him. And he was very, very influential. You know, he had — do you know — his name may not mean anything to you. He has had two quite famous sons, Tom and, maybe Jim. One’s a Precambrian specialist and the other one is a paleontologist, who I think — one of them died — I think that Tom died, but he was at Chicago I believe. That group. So they both did very well, and they both ended up being some kind of paleontologist. One studied with [Elso S.] Barghoorn at Harvard, and started working on Precambrian stuff that Barghoorn is interested in. He had done a lot of good work in the Precambrian.
Indeed. I’m curious if as you were learning paleontology, was that — and particularly what you did at Ohio State — was that work that you were doing largely independently or was that course work that also —?
No. It was independent work.
Were there others who shared your interest there, or did you feel that you were in some sense pioneering new ground?
Well, yes. Nobody’s doing pollen stuff. I mean Jim Schopf did it but he was working in the carbon primarily. So none of the students were working with him at the time. So there was, yes, yes. I think I liked that aspect. [Crosstalk]
Oh that’s — As you were, I meant to ask you too, did you have research support, fellowship support, teaching while you were out at Ohio State?
No. I did have some teaching support. But I think I had saved enough money while I was in the Navy to pay whatever tuition I needed to, so I think I got some support, but I didn’t have full support. I think I paid my own way because I had saved some money — as you can — in that you’re living on a ship.
Indeed. You mentioned a moment ago what alerted you to Columbia and the research going on here. Were there any other schools that you were considering for subsequent training?
No. No. I think I did, maybe I did apply. I may have applied to others. I probably did. I can’t remember. I really was focused on coming here — for some of the reasons I’ve already mentioned — so I really, I may have applied to other places just because you do that. But I think — I mean it doesn’t ring. I mean I can’t remember now having any great interest in other places. Clearly nothing else was standing out as an alternative.
Well I think actually maybe what I was thinking was that I had enjoyed what I was doing at Ohio State, and maybe if I couldn’t come, if I didn’t come here, I might just stay there.
Oh that’s an interesting –-
That would have been another alternative. I had a lot of ideas about things I might do for a Ph.D. And I decided after being at Ohio State that I enjoyed doing this research. So this was fun. And so I decided, that’s why I decided why I wanted to go on. This was just an enjoyable way to spend your time.
When you were making your applications then — did you know anybody at Lamont or Columbia? Had you been able to come out to meet the people?
I ran into a classmate from Harvard who had been a major at a meeting I think it was probably the Geological Society of America or something like that. He was at Columbia, and so he told me a little bit about what was going on at Lamont, so forth, at that time. So Lamont wasn’t that old. I mean, it had been bought I guess in ‘49, but this would have been ‘59. So it was — I think there was a geochemistry building.
There was. And everybody else was in Lamont Hall or the pool or something. So I did come and visit it. I came and had a meeting with Bruce [C.] Heezen. And I wrote to both Heezen and [W. Maurice] Ewing, but I couldn’t — somehow Ewing’s schedule — I couldn’t see him at that time, but I did see Bruce. And he had an office at that time in Lamont Hall. So, no, I think the only — just to answer your question, this fellow’s last name was Howard, I don’t remember his first name. But I’ll probably think of it — who was a classmate who told me a little bit about it. And said if I was interested, cores at Lamont would be the place, call up Heezen and ask him.
I’m curious what you recall from that first meeting here with Heezen.
Well he had an office in — I guess what was called the milk room, anyway — in Lamont Hall. And he was there and in a very tiny office. It was — it must have been a bathroom or something. I think that’s what it was. It had been a small room in the house. And he was — stuff was piled up to here — and he was keen on lots of subjects. He was interested in lots of things and not too interested in exactly what — I was thinking of using pollen in deep sea cores. I was working with pollen. And he said he didn’t know how much pollen there was in them, which wasn’t much. But he said that if I had done some petrological work — he said if you want a summer job this coming summer, we’re working on some cores and you can come and do some of that work. Because we could use that kind of work — turbidities or whatever. So I said that sounded interesting, maybe I would. But I decided to not do that, but rather to take an intensive Russian course so that I could kind of get that language. I had French, but I knew I was going to need another language so I took an intensive Russian course at Ohio State in the hopes of being able to get the languages out of the way right away and not have to worry about it.
Why did you choose Russian as the second foreign language?
Well, it — German is a likely one and many people, of course, did that. My thought was that the Russians at that time were so — seemed to be so active in many scientific disciplines — I thought more so than the Germans were. And it seemed that they certainly had ships that were out doing stuff in the deep sea and so forth. I don’t think I gave it a lot of thought, but I thought.
That’s interesting, it’s the ocean. I suspect there weren’t as many other people who had made that choice.
No, there weren’t. It was more — That’s true. So I took this intensive course which was fun, language is not my strong point. So, but I did — you do learn a lot doing it that way, but you also forget it quickly. So unfortunately I came here and I didn’t pass the test because we hadn’t read any scientific Russian. You read Turgenev and things like that. So I knew all about Russian peasants. I mean I knew that vocabulary just didn’t know the scientific vocabulary. So I had to take another semester here anyway, but then I did limp through it.
And this was the summer preceding your first year at Columbia?
That Bruce Heezen was talking about.
Right. That would have been the summer of 1960.
When you came out here, were you already accepted in the graduate program?
I think not. I think I was. I think I came over sort of winter break. And so I don’t think I was. I think that came later. Yes, I’m pretty sure that’s true.
I’m wondering what particularly you remember from the first year’s courses once you began — were you spending much of your time actually down at the main campus the first year?
Yes. I had this notion and it was perhaps left over from my Ohio State. But in a way I think the — Lamont was beginning to make an impact on the students, but there were probably more students who were studying with people who were housed in Schermerhorn than there were out here at that point.
People like Rhodes W. Fairbridge.
Yes. And Marshall Kay and Paul Kerr, and [Arthur] Strahler. [Fred] Donath was the structural geologist. [Walter] Bucher had just retired.
Did you have any classes with him?
Bucher? No I didn’t. I mean I just saw him kind of coming in and out of the building when he was emeritus — and came back to do some work — I’d seen the same thing at Ohio State with a professor by the name of Carman out there who was retired and kept coming back, you know, to write these papers. And it was kind of a sad sight. Didn’t think probably very much was getting done. And Bucher was a little bit the same way. But anyway, so I didn’t have any contact with him though. Just to meet him though was a –-
So I decided that I would live on campus which I did. I was unmarried at the time. Lived on campus. And had an office in Schermerhorn and just get the course work out of the way. For the first two years, up until my certifying exam. And that wasn’t really the case with most of — I mean many of the Lamont students at that time were out here. Denny [Dennis E.] Hayes, and Arnold Gordon, and Walter [C.] Pitman [III], Marc [Marcus] Langseth was all contemporaries indeed of mine. So they were all out here and I somehow stayed in. They came into it at a little — Marc, certainly Marc and Walter had been here previously on the ship or something like that so they had Lamont base.
These had longer associations at Lamont than you did.
And it also occurs to me looking at the list of your graduate student contemporaries that their interests were also a bit different.
Right. That’s right. That’s right. So I took samples and I separated them out, looked for pollen. I did all that down in Schermerhorn. I had an office that also was a lab so that I could work. And I looked through the microscope and 1 fostered them basically.
What sort of things were in your office lab? What kind of equipment was in it?
Well, it was one of these, kind of old-fashioned Schermerhorn labs with the sinks and shelves. And I didn’t need very much to do what I was doing. Some glassware and sieves and things like that. So it wasn’t very sophisticated. But it was all I needed. And it was a much bigger room than I needed, but that’s just the way it was. So I looked for pollen and found none, but I found other things. Radiolarian, and diatopes and so forth. And I decided that I’d focus on the radiolarian and see what I could learn from them.
I want to get to them in just a moment. I’m curious what kind of interactions you had with Dave [David] Ericson.
Not too much actually at that point. He was out here. And as I say, I didn’t really spend time out here until after my certifying exam. Actually, I guess I had an office out here and I did some things out here, but my center was on campus until after my certifying. Then I was out here. So, I did have contact with Dave later, but not at this -–
Not in these early years. I’m curious how it worked when the cores were stored here. How did you get the samples that you were actually studying when you were out at — did you come out here to get —?
Oh no, no, no. No, no. I didn’t do any work on the cores at Ohio State.
No, I’m talking about when you had begun your graduate work here at Columbia.
Okay. No, I just came out and sampled them. They were all in what was the garage, what is now called the old core lab. They were down in the garage part.
So you’d make the sample and then bring the sample back with you to your Columbia office.
Right. In a little dixie cup, and then we separated them. I separated them and looked at them.
What do you particularly remember from those first year courses, maybe the first two years taking? Were any of them particularly memorable or important?
Well, yes, actually I enjoyed Donath’s structural geology course. He was a young professor at the time — and he, not much, not much older than I was — and he was very interested in various kinds of folding and what not, and I enjoyed that course. And that was quite memorable. I very much enjoyed Strahler’s geomorphology course as well. And I enjoyed a course in petrology that I took from [Arie] Poldervaart. Then I took a course from Wally [Wallace S.] Broecker, in geochemistry which I also enjoyed. So, actually I liked most of them.
I’m curious about two things. How much were you learning considering the time that you were taking these courses, 60, I guess 1962.
First semester. Do you recall learning about some of the very recent developments like Keith [S. Keith] Runcorn’s work on pale magnetism? Was that something that you recall being taught in?
No. Wait a minute. Yes, there was. There was. Sure. Because there was a certain. Heezen was interested in continental drift and that sort of thing. I mean he was interested in that. And so he would sometimes talk about that. But I didn’t take a course in geophysics which I felt was kind of stupid that I hadn’t — when I got through — but I didn’t. So I didn’t take a course in which that necessarily would have been the focus. But I think in Bruce’s course, he taught somewhat about pale magnetism.
You mention global theories of the earth indirectly at least in talking about continental drift. Was Heezen interested in the idea of the expanding earth?
At that point. Was that something he spoke about?
Well, it was something that he didn’t, as I recall. He wasn’t a very good classroom teacher. He was much better as a seminar, one on one, that kind of thing. So he had a tendency to just kind of assign readings. It ended up — the class ended up being really more of a seminar than his lecturing. He didn’t really like to do that. So we read a bunch of things, but it was a marine geology course. So we read other people’s papers, read some of his papers, turbidities and those kinds of things that he was. You know, famous Grand Banks earthquake paper that he had — Ewing wrote. Later on when I was his student, we talked a little bit about that, and he was interested in that. Yes he was, that definitely was his interest.
When you mentioned that you didn’t take a course in geophysics, does that mean that you — the one that you were thinking about was Ewing’s?
No. He didn’t teach a course in geophysics. I mean, he did, but those courses at that time I think Joe [Joseph Lamar] Worzel taught geophysics course. Maybe George Sutton taught one and of course Jack [E.] Oliver. But I knew I wasn’t going to be a geophysicist, but I thought that. I mean it seemed to me I should have taken at least an introductory, which I never did.
Was Jack [John E.] Nafe teaching during those semesters?
Yes, he was. In fact, he may have taught — he would have been teaching some course in geophysics. I didn’t take a course from him. I’m sorry. Because he was apparently a superb teacher and I had a lot of contact with him later, and certainly he was a wonderful person. He was always a wonderful person to talk to, all the graduate students were very enthusiastic about him because he was so good at — you know, if you have a question about something or other — he was really good at very kind of quickly getting down to the essentials of being able to make a sort of back of the envelope calculation of –-
I imagine that was impressive to see that in action.
It was because it was so. It clarified things. You know, you kind of got what’s important and what’s not important quite quickly, and that was very good.
That’s very helpful.
So while I was doing research, I used to go to him [Nafe] for things like that too. Very helpful. Very helpful. So I’m sorry I never took a course from him, but I didn’t. So I think those are the courses that I recall. I didn’t take Marshall Kay’s course either which is another one that I shouldn’t have, I did take a course from Norman Newell. Took a seminar with Norman Newell. And I took a course from John Imbrie — that was, sure, he taught a course — and he was, at that point in the middle of doing some of his quantitative work, his factor analysis and so forth. And we did some of that. In fact, in my thesis I ended up doing that kind of work on my data. But I didn’t really. It didn’t shed much more light on my work, but I ended up going through the motions of doing it.
What course was Norman Newell teaching that you took?
It was a seminar that I took with him. And I don’t remember that I took a lecture course from him now. I thought I had, but I don’t think I did. I think it was just a seminar on paleontology of some sort. And he was quite good. But he — I think maybe it was because of the nature of the course, seminar, he was somewhat a little bit withdrawn because he — and I don’t mean that in a negative sense — but I mean he was trying to draw the students out as they were participating as opposed to his holding forth.
When you look back on it, were there major differences that you observed with the ideas that were taught at Columbia compared to Ohio State?
There was the — Columbia had at that time a global view and that was fundamentally different than Ohio State. Where Ohio State was interested in the geological things, but more in smaller areas generally speaking. So there was also at Columbia much more of a geophysical presence sort of in lots of things, and to some degree geochemistry, but certainly geophysics. So that that kind of got into many of the courses, which it didn’t at Ohio State. So those are two, I think fairly fundamental differences.
Those are very important differences.
How much contact did you have with Ewing in those early years?
Not any, really, none.
Were there any students, fellow graduate students that you became particularly close with that you came to know well?
Yes. Certainly Arnold Gordon. He had an office across the hall from me when we finally moved into the oceanography building. I started out — had an office in what’s now the administration building. Because Bruce [Heezen] moved there from Lamont Hall and then when they built the oceanography building we all moved up there, and Arnold was across the hall, and he was a student of [Georg] Wust who was visiting professor here.
I was curious about that because he was here just around the time that you were here as well, ‘61 through ‘64.
I took a course from him actually.
Did you? What was your impression of him?
What were your impressions of him and his work?
And his work?
Oh. Well, he was very German, which is okay, and he wasn’t speaking in his native language and he was quite formal as Germans tend to be anyway — particularly professors. So, he was very formal. And we — well, let’s put it this way, I learned quite a lot of oceanography in that course. I mean I really did get a feeling for how the oceans circulated and a little bit about the water masses and so forth which was his — he was very interested in that — and I think we used one of Dafont’s books as a text. So I think I learned quite a lot which is more than I can say from a course I took, but I think maybe I audited it, which also may explain it, from Columbus Iselin at Harvard. I did take an oceanography course at Harvard from Columbus Iselin and that was a very boring course. Whereas Wust was not boring. Because Iselin spent all his time talking about how you make these measurements and correct for measurements and all that stuff which was really — didn’t tell you much about it.
So it was technically oriented, instrument oriented.
Right. Now Wust did go into all of that about reversing thermometers and how they work and precision and all that. But still we learned about water masses and how the ocean circulates a little bit anyway, particularly the deep and bodenwasser. So it was a good course I think. Arnold [Gordon] was his student, and in fact, his only student. And so he was across the hall and we got to be very good friends. And, of course, we still are, but at that time we were really quite close. Used to have lunch together and stuff like that. And we both studied late and we worked late in the office so we were sort of — and came in on weekends, and so I got to know him very well. But I got to know the others as well. Walter [Pitman] and Marc [Langseth] and Charlie [Charles D.] Hollister.
I’m wondering who became particularly influential for you as you began thinking about defining your thesis. You mentioned Bruce Heezen of course as a major figure. Who else helped you when you began to think through what you wanted to do? I’m curious generally how you came to your thesis and dissertation talk?
Well I came here with the idea of trying to understand something about the history of Antarctica, specifically maybe when the ice formed, and when it became glaciated, by looking for cores. When I decided on the group — how I was going to do it — and decided on radiolarian, I had to do a lot of that on my own, really, because Bruce didn’t know anything about radiolarian. Nor can he be expected to. So I did a fair amount of that work just in terms of identifying them. He actually had a reprint of one of Bill [William] Riedel’s papers on the Antarctic. And that he’d done. And then I eventually went out to Scripps [Institution of Oceanography] and went over with Bill what I’d done, and actually I think I kind of floundered for a while, really, and it was partly the material I was looking at. Because the first cores that were taken down there were taken in the Atlantic and those were the ones that were here when I arrived. But while I was here, there were some cruises down there that went into the Indian Ocean and the Pacific. And the sediments in the Atlantic accumulate very rapidly and I wasn’t aware of that at the time. So I didn’t see much difference between what was at the top of the cores and what was at the bottom of the cores. All looked pretty much the same. So I wasn’t sure I even had a thesis which was a little bit discouraging, or at least a little anxiety provoking. Then I got some cores that were north of the Polar Front. And that was different. So at least I knew I could look at that — you know — there would be a difference between what was north and what was south. And I did see some evidence of fluctuations, changes in going down the cores, north of the Polar Front. Then I thought well that’s, that’s encouraging so maybe, maybe there is something here. Then some cores from the Indian Ocean, as I say, and Pacific ones were taken, and I found those differences as I went down the core which were, I felt, of stratigraphic significance. So then I was — then I was keen that I had a thesis. I could do something. I mean I could do something with this.
Right. Right. There are some very interesting issues that you just mentioned there. In terms of learning about radiolarian and the broader role of paleontology, the microfossils that you’re dealing with, how did you come to get that body of knowledge? Was it mostly reading on your own?
Were there any other resources that you had besides the people who were —?
Nobody in that, nobody in that group. I mean, I did go down and take a course from — I forget, he was at NYU [New York University]. He was a micro paleontologist at NYU and he put together all these talents, Ellis, yes Brooks Ellis. But it was a — I didn’t learn very much that I felt was helpful. I mean I think it was fine if you’re learning to identify foraminifera. If you were going to become a petroleum geologist and do foramstratigraphy, I think he taught you how to do that kind of thing. But at that point I was no longer thinking of becoming a petroleum geologist. And so I didn’t find his course was very helpful. A little bit maybe taxonomically sort of on how you — in terms of nomenclature, he went through that sort of stuff. So I got a little idea about how things get named, and, you know, the rules of the stratigraphic nomenclatural rules. So I picked up some –-
Some of the tools.
Yes, yes. Some of the tools. But as far as the group was concerned, I had to learn that myself. But then I could verify or be corrected by Bill Riedel, which I did. And so he was helpful. But it is something you have to do. I did on my own. But it’s something you can do on your own. You can, that’s not so — it’s a matter of pattern recognition. You know, these things have shapes — you can look at them long enough, you begin to see that you can figure out how much variation you should allow. It’s not so hard that you can’t do it. It may well be easier if you’re working with somebody who can shorten that process, but other than that it can be done.
But some people find it easier to do that kind of learning by oneself than others do.
Yes, that may be true.
I’m curious, too, what differences —? How long did you stay out at Scripps when you were working out there?
Oh, I don’t — I think it was a week or two.
It wasn’t that long.
I actually went out with a lot of photographs and ideas about what I’d done as a kind of a — I thought I was further along at that point than I was. So that’s okay.
Realizing you was there for just a short amount of time, were there any differences that particularly struck you between Scripps as an institution and Lamont?
Well, physically there were a lot of differences. I mean, it was sunny and on the beach, and, you know, a beautiful location. And in those days it wasn’t even built up anywhere nearly the way it is now. [Crosstalk]
The campus was just beginning to come to —
Right. And the campus was very definitely separated from La Jolla [California]. I mean there was countryside in between and now it’s all pretty solid. So there were those things. And I didn’t really — and, you know, people had their lunch outside overlooking the sea. And all of that was very nice. I got the feeling, interestingly enough; I mean I think it is true. But I could sense that people out there seemed to be a little more separate than they were here. This was more of a group here. That doesn’t mean everybody got along, but it did seem as if everybody was more aware of what everybody else was doing. And more interaction. There was much more interaction between people here than out there. And I think that has remained the characteristic of the two places. I personally favor the Lamont style over the independent empires, but that kind of thing depends on how it works.
What facilitated the interactions here? What made it possible?
Well I think it was the, I think [W. Maurice] Ewing’s personality was important. And Ewing’s decision that when people went to sea, they would take a whole suite, they would collect a whole suite of data whether they were interested in it or not. They would bring it back. So that’s what leads to the core collection. Not that many people, I mean Dave Ericson was studying cores. Basically, he was the only person who was interested in the cores. I mean other people, Ewing and Heezen and so forth, was all interested in cores, but they were, but most of the people going out to sea were geophysicists. They were Ewing’s students who stayed on. Chuck [Charles L.] Drake and other people like that. He had very broad interests, and I think he also thought about efficiency, and that it was much more efficient if the ship was out there anyway that you take a core, rather than just not. So all the equipment had to be running all the time. You didn’t just go out there and measure sediments or measure the magnetic field or measure gravity, you did it all. And I took cores and I took stations and everything. So that made everybody who went to sea aware at least of the other kinds of data. And then there was — I think partly because of his broad interest — he had a tendency to write papers which included data from all these areas. I mean the sediment thickness that we have the cores, give him some idea about sediment ages and what not. So I think there was that aspect too. So I think it was his [Ewing’s] strong leadership which kinds of willy nilly, like it or not, we are a group. And I think that made the difference. Whereas, I think at Scripps, Roger Revelle was a wonderful guy, but I think he allowed the independent strong scientists to kind of maintain, you know, build their little empires within the overall structure. Which didn’t — I mean it did happen here to some extent, but it didn’t happen here as much. From the beginning of my graduate days until I ended. You know, the field kind of went through a transition from being data poor to being data rich. When the field is data poor, then people fight over data which they did, and out there they had a tendency to take the data, keep it to themselves, and you know it was their data. Whereas here, Ewing prevented that from happening, but nevertheless they still fought about data. Later on, there were so many cores, so much data, there was much less of that, and people were much more interested in sharing and even eventually you know putting in the data. But that was not the mentality in the late 195Os or early 1960s. It was a different world then.
I’m wondering if you found the colloquia series here to be important as well for communicating these kinds of things.
Yes. It, I think it was. I do remember, I was particularly impressed with Chuck Drake’s, actually his thesis work which he’d done, you know, a few years before on Atlantic continental margin and comparing that with geosynclines, a la Marshall Kay. And I thought that was really a neat, I thought that was really a neat piece of work. I thought that was very exciting because really because of its implications. And you know this was before, obviously before sea floor spreading. But if in fact continental margins are geosyncline, that’s a whole. I mean I don’t know somehow that was, that was a new idea to me. We learned something about geosynclines although that was not one of Speaker’s great pet ideas. But maybe partly that’s because Columbia was more global, and these things were big structural features and appearing all over the globe. So geosynclines were Marshall Kay’s forte [and therefore] was part of Columbia. And Chuck Drake in a very beautiful way I think, crossed from geophysical measurements on continental margins which Ewing had come here to start. I mean he started that work. Some of what he did when he first arrived here, and it seemed to be in Chuck’s thesis that ended up being — it really pulled that together. So that was, I found that very, very, that was very stimulating. I think the other ones that I heard -– I’ll have to, you know, I’d have to recall. I think a lot of them were over my head as an incoming graduate student. I think that I remember [Cesare] Emiliani coming and that was — I had read his work when I was, I read his 1955 paper when I was at Ohio State, or I’d read the Scientific American article, I found that very interesting. I found that very stimulating. So he gave a talk here as well.
This was the talk on per iodization of the Ice Ages?
No, no, no. It wasn’t. He was — well he was — he was more interested. He was having a battle actually at that time with Ericson.
And he was saying that his isotopic curve was temperature, and Ericson was saying his [inaudible] was temperature. And they didn’t agree. And so there was a big battle going on. And Emiliani, unfortunately a very, very bright guy, got so defensive about his early ideas; it was hard for him to move on to other ones. But nevertheless that early work that he did was a masterful piece of work. So that was — it wasn’t so much the periodicity that he was emphasizing, but it was he felt he had some kind of a Pleistocene stratigraphy, and that’s what Ericson thought he had too. And so there was a whole lot of ferment over that. So I was beginning to do my work in the context of that battle.
Right. And very likely many of the colloquia presentations during those years were in fields of geophysics in which you simply had to have the course exposure.
Right. Many of them were. That was mostly what people would talk about.
I know we’re going to have to bring this segment of the interview to a close fairly soon. I did want to ask a few more questions on development of the thesis. I’m holding here a copy of the 1965 paper “Radiolarian [inaudible] in Quantitative History”. I presume this is based on your thesis.
When you were doing the work — you mentioned a few moments ago about deciphering the cores that were both north and south of the Antarctic Polar Front. Was this the first time that the front became apparent to researchers in terms of analyzing the sediment?
No, no. The German workers that had been down there, even at the turn of the century, and certainly in the twenties, and the discovery — they took cores — and they were aware that there was — I mean it’s a very important oceanographic boundary. So they were mostly down there doing physical oceanography and so they were very aware of it from that point of view. But they did take samples on either side. And they saw, they did look. They didn’t do detailed work, but they were able to see that.
It was close enough resolution in what they did, so that —
And it was a big enough difference so that they — No, that was known.
What wasn’t known was the rate of deposit in the Atlantic.
Or at least not commonly.
No, no. They didn’t have any way of knowing how fast things were being deposited. Because they didn’t, there’s very little, there’s no calcium carbonate south of the front, and so there’s no way, there was no Carbon 14 dating. There’d been very little Carbon 14 dating even north of the front at that point, so there wasn’t much sense of that. Although some of the Germans, and certainly Schocht, had seen what he felt were fluctuations north of the front, he didn’t have any sense of their timing either. He was basing it primarily on changes in calcium carbonate content, and he did see that - saw one of those anyway. But they were dealing with gravity cores, so they were short compared with what —.
Indeed, the piston core was getting down to much greater depths.
— And that came in and that was really the Swedes that invented that, [Brje] Kullenberg and they first used that in a big way in 1947.
In the Swedish expedition?
That’s right. The Albatross. So prior to that all that other, the work the Germans had done between the wars and the turn of the century, was all gravity work.
The Meteor expedition.
Clearly you were you had mentioned changes in climate as one of the interests that motivated you in the course of the study, and it comes clear in the abstract that you wrote here on — that the [inaudible] change in the Antarctic sediments was ultimately caused by the deterioration of climate conditions that eventually produced glaciation.
Right. I’m sure that’s now — I’m sure that’s wrong. Partly because I have to admit that. You know, because you find things you look for often –-
I’m curious as you were writing your thesis, who became those that you spoke most with in shaping your ideas? You’ve mentioned Heezen, you’ve mentioned — I’m looking here at the list. Of course, Bill Riedel at Scripps. Were those others who, when you think back, were influential in helping shape the ideas that you brought into the dissertation?
I’m sure I discussed it with Arnold Gordon. I mean there’s no question I did and he was a physical oceanographer — he was studying under Wust — and so I’m sure we may have, I’m sure we must have talked about what I was doing and how I was interpreting it relative to the physical oceanography. I’m sure I did. I don’t remember specifically. But we, you know, we had so many conversations that I’m sure we did. [long pause] I mean I didn’t have, as I said, I didn’t have any contact with Ewing until really very close to the end. But near the end of it, I did. And it was because I was afraid there might be a conflict with something I was doing and something he was doing. It didn’t turn out there was any. But I went to see him about it and that was fine. It was a very — it was actually a very positive meeting. But that was fairly close to the end of my research work. He was interested in ice rafting, and so he had somebody who was working — and I think they began to work on some of the cores I was working on. I began to get nervous I guess or something. So I went to see him. And he was not a — So let me think to answer your question. I think I may have spoken to Wally [Broecker] about some of it, but I don’t think very much. I don’t know. I don’t think so. I mean I had a lot of contact with him afterwards, but not during it.
And your contacts with Neil [D.] Opdyke come after?
That was after too. Right.
We need to cover that and developments that you were involved with at Lamont. There’s certainly quite a bit to cover, but I think we better save those for a later segment in the interview. Let me thank you very much.