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Credit: Joanna Behrman
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Interview of Margaret Kivelson by Joanna Behrman on February 14, 2020,Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics,College Park, MD USA,www.aip.org/history-programs/niels-bohr-library/oral-histories/44810
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In this interview, Joanna Behrman, Assistant Public Historian for AIP, interviews Margaret Kivelson, Distinguished Professor Emerita of Space Physics at the University of California, Los Angeles. Kivelson recounts her childhood in New York City and her decision to attend Radcliffe College. She describes her experiences attending graduate school at Harvard University and working with Julian Schwinger. Kivelson explains her decision to move out to California, to work at the RAND Corporation, and her efforts to secure a position at UCLA. Kivelson describes how UCLA became a hub for space physics research and her work on the magnetometers for various projects including OGO-5, Pioneer 11, and Galileo. Kivelson also discusses her work to improve the status of women in academia on the Harvard Board of Overseers and at UCLA.
Today is February the 14th of 2020. This is Joanna Behrman. I'm here in Dr. Margaret Kivelson’s office in Los Angeles to conduct an oral history. Dr. Kivelson, perhaps we could start at the beginning and work chronologically. Could you tell me about your childhood?
Well, I grew up in New York City, in fact in the center of New York—in Manhattan. I went to a school that was run by Teachers College of Columbia University. So I've been in a university all my life! It was a school where they were demonstrating new teaching techniques, one of which was learning to read without phonics. And so the only way you learned to read a word is by having seen it before, which is a very slow way of learning to read. If you had never seen the word before, you don’t have a clue what it is. So it took me a long time to learn to read, but once I did learn to read, I suspect I read a little faster than I might have if I had been exposed to a different learning technique. So from a very early stage, I was a voracious reader. And I don’t remember loving math until I got to high school, but once we started doing algebra, I think, I began to think that math was a lot of fun. And I think that perhaps got me part—was part of why I went into science.
But there was another special aspect of my background. My father was a physician, and my mother had started as a physics major when she went to university. But she was from an earlier generation, obviously, where the idea of a woman completing a university degree was not taken very seriously, and she was taken out of college to take care of an aunt who had had a nervous breakdown. And she never finished her degree, but she had started studying physics. I had no idea what physics was, but I knew it was something good, because my mother had tried to be a physicist. So why did I go into physics? It was really that I liked math, and I thought that it was a good idea to go into a field where math was fundamental. So I chose to major in physics when I got to college.
Did your parents encourage your interest in science?
My parents were very enthusiastic about my interest in science. And I was lucky, because my parents were open to the idea of a woman becoming a professional, although my father was very clear that he didn't think I should go into medicine because it wasn’t a good field for a woman. But he did like the idea of my going into some professional direction, and my mother was encouraging, too. So that was probably a little unusual for the time.
Mmhmm. And you have a sister, correct?
I had a sister, yes. And she also majored in math. She had a more challenging situation—family situation—than I did, so she ended up as a high school math teacher, but had a very distinguished career as a high school math teacher. Got an award for having had every one of the students in her senior year math class get the top possible grade on some high school exam. I forget what the exam was called. But it was a record that had never been achieved—that year after year, every student in her class got the top marks. And that was because she was just a fantastic teacher.
Wow. Did you have any secondary school teachers that particularly influenced you?
I would say yes. In my senior year, our math teacher was actually also teaching at Columbia University, and he taught us—he introduced calculus in the senior year, which in my day—I graduated from high school in 1946, so this is ’45, ’46, and high school curricula did not include calculus. And he came over from Columbia and he taught us calculus. And I still remember being utterly fascinated by the idea of a limit—taking a limit—and how that gave you so much control over the math. Yeah, he was a very—his name was Merrick. I don’t suppose I ever knew his first name. But he was Mr. Merrick and he really made math come alive. I also remember a French teacher who was very inspiring, despite the fact that the class was right before noon, and she would always talk about food. [laugh]
But she was really a very special teacher.
That’s really wonderful. Was it expected, then, that you were going to go to college?
Oh, yeah. I mean, I never had any doubt that I would go to college. And in those days, I suspect colleges were less competitive than they are today. But we didn't apply to a dozen or 20 colleges. I applied to Radcliffe and Wellesley. Radcliffe of course was in those days the women’s branch of Harvard. And I applied to those two, and then very late in the college application cycle, I panicked, and I applied to one more school, which turned me down by return mail, but I think it was probably that they somehow figured out from my application that I wasn’t really serious about them. And I got into both Harvard—Radcliffe and Wellesley, and I remember having a very hard time deciding between the two. Wellesley had this beautiful campus, and Radcliffe was in the middle of the city and didn't have the same charm. But then I remember looking over the catalogs of both colleges and realizing Radcliffe never had its own faculty. Radcliffe students took Harvard classes, so it was really Harvard faculty and Harvard courses were available to us. And their physics offerings went far beyond what Wellesley had to offer, and I realized that that was probably going to be a good thing for me, so I chose Radcliffe over Wellesley. And I think for a physicist at the time, it was not a bad decision.
Did you meet any of the physics professors at Wellesley when you visited?
No, I didn't meet any professors. I don’t remember meeting—the only person I remember meeting was the—I think she was the president of Wellesley. Her name was something like Wilma Kerby-Miller. But I know that she then ended up as a dean at Radcliffe, and I got to see her again. I don’t know; she may not have been the president; she may have been a dean there. But I do remember meeting somebody there. And at Radcliffe, I was interviewed by a dean named Kathleen Overmyer-Elliott. She was a Latin scholar, and spent more of the time interviewing my father than me, so—
—very strange. But whatever it was, I got in.
When did you decide you wanted to major in physics?
OK, so first place, I should say that when I got to Radcliffe, this was the Fall of 1946, and in the previous years, the university had sort of changed its structure, because many of the faculty were either in military service or in like the Los Alamos lab, because it was during World War II. Prior to World War II, Radcliffe women were taught by Harvard professors in separate classrooms, so the classes were given twice by Harvard professors—once for their male students and then they would cross the Common, give the same class for the women students. And during World War II, there just weren’t enough faculty to continue that, and so they had allowed the women to come into the classes with the men. When I arrived in the Fall of ’46, they decided they should go back to the old arrangement. And I remember my—I signed up to take freshman physics. My advisor was Kathleen Elliott, who was a Latin scholar and didn't know anything about physics. And the prerequisite in the catalog called for—the serious freshman physics class required a high school physics course, and I had never taken physics in high school. So she had me sign up for what I subsequently called Physics for Poets, which did not use calculus. So this is sort of a digression to say it, but I never understood the physics in that class. It wasn’t until I took another class the next year that went over all the introductory material with calculus—that was the first time I really understood what was going on.
But the professor of my Physics for Poets class was a very lovely man, and the first class was held on the Radcliffe campus. And I remember he started the class by saying, “Today you are meeting at 10:00 in Jefferson Lab. Tomorrow you will come at 11:00—” No, excuse me, it wasn’t Jefferson; it was Lyman Lab. “Tomorrow you will come at 11:00 to Jefferson Lab.” And he integrated the class. So the next day, I walked in with nine other Radcliffe students into a classroom with 400 men. And that was the kind of proportion that was the largest ratio of women I encountered [laugh] in my entire physics career. So they very quickly gave up this separate instruction, although my freshman year, I had a couple of classes that were provided in the old way. But by the second year, all of the classes were joint with Harvard.
Were the laboratory components separate as well as the lecture components?
Interesting question. I don’t think I—yes. Yes, they were. In my freshman chemistry class, we had a separate lab. And I remember that even in classes that were integrated—Harvard/Radcliffe classes that were integrated—the sections were sometimes separate for the Radcliffe women. And later in my career, when I became a graduate student, I wanted to be a teaching assistant, and they were very discouraging, because there was only one assignment for a woman teaching assistant, which was to teach the women in the freshman physics class. And they already had somebody who was a couple of years ahead of me in graduate school, so they said I couldn't have a teaching assistantship. And I sort of pushed, and they decided to allow me to be a grader in a quantum mechanics class, and give me the title of teaching assistant.
Which professors would you say were particularly influential or encouraging of you in the physics department?
Interesting question. So I think that my freshman physics teacher, who was not one of the—I think he was a—not one of the regular faculty—he was—I forget what—Harvard has a title like preceptor or something like that. His name was Clark. I mean, surname was Clark. I forget what his first name was. I think that was his name. And he was very encouraging. He really seemed to be very welcoming to the women in his class, and very—he knew that we needed extra encouragement. I don’t think he was a terribly good teacher, but he was very encouraging. And then Wendell Furry was—F-U-double R-Y—was my advisor, and he was a really very kind person and always made me feel different as a woman, but he was always very encouraging. So there were some good things and bad things about that. I remember enjoying classes from other faculty but not having a particularly close interaction. I mean, I remember taking a class from Percy Bridgman who was most inspiring. He was thermodynamics and statistical mechanics, and he just made those subjects come alive. I still remember Gerry Holton coming in and teaching classes when some of my professors were either traveling or indisposed, and he was a very exciting teacher. I've still, over the years, run into him occasionally, and he’s really a very important person in my life, even though I never took a full course from him. Norman Ramsey I knew personally, and he was—I don’t think he particularly noticed that I was a woman. He was very kind to me and taught classes that were very fundamental.
And then of course when I went into graduate work, I started taking courses from Julian Schwinger. Oh, I know somebody else—and Julian was, you know, very—very influential and always very kind to me. And Bob Karplus—K-A-R-P-L-U-S—was probably—I took a couple of—I think it was a reading class I took from him, on group theory, which I loved. Van Vleck, I remember taking—I don’t remember if I actually took a course from him or just attended some of his lectures. We used to go to lectures in classes that we weren’t signed up for. So I do remember going to Van Vleck’s class. And Van Vleck would start by saying, “Mr. so-and-so, would you remind us what we did in the last lecture? What we covered in the last lecture?” And then Mr. so-and-so saying, “Yes, we started by asking what we had done in the previous lecture.” [laugh]
Yeah. So, I mean, I really did have personal interactions with a lot of the very big names in the field. It was a very exciting place to be.
You mentioned that the department was a bit discouraging when you asked to become a teaching assistant.
Were there individuals or other instances you can recall when people were less than encouraging?
No, I don’t really remember it being—I mean, I was aware that I was an oddball. One of my classmates was Nancy Rabi, whose father was an extremely famous physicist at Columbia. And I remember that when he came to visit, he asked me what I thought I was doing in physics as a woman. He was not very [laugh] encouraging. But he was not one of my faculty. I mean, the Harvard faculty were—it was almost—I sort of had a feeling that I was being treated as a pet. A very much appreciated pet, but different from everybody else. So it was both—I was singled out, as well one can understand. Because I figure that that ratio of one in 40 from my first physics class was the highest ratio of women in my career at Harvard. When I entered graduate school, I think there were about 60 in each new year in graduate school, and so I was one in 60. And quite a few of the women who started did not finish at Harvard. Some of them dropped out, and others simply moved. I mean, if they got married and their husband got an appointment somewhere else, they would leave Harvard. And I didn't know whether they finished or not. Some of them did, and some of them didn't. But I have the impression that when I was in graduate school, roughly one in two of the women who started actually finished. So the ratio kept getting smaller and smaller.
Were there any other physics majors at Radcliffe at the time that you were there?
Yeah, there were—as I said, there were ten who took physics with me in the freshman year, and I would say probably half of them ended up as physics majors. Women didn't take physics unless they really wanted to go into the sciences. I think about half of them ended up as physics majors. I've lost track of all of them, I think, but I don’t really know how many of them actually continued in the field.
Did you have a study group that you worked with?
That is a really good question, because I think it’s a very important element of scientific training. I remember my freshman year, I would—in those days, the women at Radcliffe lived in separate housing from the men, and it was on the Radcliffe quad, away from—well away from the Harvard houses. And we had parietal rules that required we be back in the dorm by 10:00 unless we had signed out for some special reason. And you know how it is when you're a student; you put off your homework until the last possible minute. And there was nobody around who could help me work out my physics problems or my math problems. But in April of my freshman year, I met Dan Kivelson, and we became an instant item. And he was also a physics major. He was a physical chemistry major. And he always used to say that a physical chemist is somebody who pretends to be a physicist when he’s talking to a chemist, and a chemist when he’s talking to a physicist.
But he had a group of friends, all of whom were taking science courses, and I found that they welcomed me into their study group. So in the last quarter of my freshman year, I found the study group that I really got involved with. And then when I got into graduate school and I was one of the large number of students working with Julian Schwinger, we all had desks in a small office area. It was in the basement. And we spent many hours every day—not mornings, but afternoons and late into the night—and that was a group where there was a lot of interaction, a lot of helping each other. In particular, I remember Stan Deser, Alex—hmm!—I can’t remember his surname. But there was a group there that was very interactive.
At what point did you decide you wanted to go to graduate school?
I don’t remember a point when I decided. It just—it was quite clear to me that if you want to be a physicist, it wouldn't do to end with an undergraduate physics degree. That there was so much more to learn in order to do any sort of new physics. I don’t know when that happened, but I just found out sort of gradually that there was a lot more to learn, and it was time to—it was not a good idea to quit until I had an advanced degree. And then of course Julian Schwinger was, you know, a phenomenon, and everybody knew about it. And the idea—that was the exciting work that was going on at the time. And I don’t know why it never occurred to me that he would say no when I asked if I could work with him. But he did accept me. But I was the only woman among his 73 PhD students. He certainly never gave me the feeling that that affected his thinking about me.
Was he your first choice when you were thinking about advisors?
Absolutely. Yeah. And it was a very good choice. I learned a lot from him, and I must say that saying that I had been a Schwinger student opened a lot of doors for me. Sometimes it’s hard to get your foot in the door, and I had an opening that helped a lot.
What was his mentoring style?
Very distant, but very intense when it occurred. When I was a PhD student, he had—13 is the number I remember—13 students working with him. And he came in very infrequently. He came into the office on—he came into Harvard three days a week: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. On Monday, he would come in and teach a class and then go off to lunch at the faculty center and then come back to a faculty meeting, and then go home. And Friday, he would come in and teach his class and go out to lunch with his postdocs and colleagues. And that’s the way I remember it. And Wednesday, he would go out to lunch after class, but he would come back and have office hours. And there were 13 students, and you waited for months to be the one who got in on that Wednesday afternoon. But when you got in, you had his attention—full attention—and he would see what was causing you troubles. He would help you figure out new ways of attacking the problem. And I always said I saw him maybe once every four months, five months, but he always gave me enough insight to keep me going for another four or five months. So it was a very unusual kind of mentoring, and quite different from the approach I used with my students. [laugh]
[laugh] Were there other professors that mentored you during your time in graduate school?
Nothing that I would particularly call targeted mentoring. I mean, they were very—I had the feeling that the faculty were very accessible to students, very open to talking to students. But I didn’t get the feeling that there was one who was particularly interested in figuring out how I could best advance.
How did you come by your dissertation topic?
Well, I remember—Schwinger gave me the topic. I mean, he identified an area that was interesting, which was using basically a new mathematical tool to solve quantum electrodynamics problems. So he identified the topic of—it was an interesting problem. For very, very high energy electrons, the bremsstrahlung cross-section peaks in the forward direction. So if the electron is accelerating in a particular direction, the emissions are very concentrated in the direction in which the electron is moving. And Schwinger came up with the idea that instead of solving for the cross-section in powers of the coupling constant—e -squared over h-bar c (e^2/?c)—that it would be possible to expand the cross-section expressions in small angles and add up contributions from all orders of the coupling constant, which was a very interesting approach. My dissertation is over 60 pages, and most of them are just filled with integrals.
So I was doing—I was working out this expansion in the small angle approximation, and I defended my dissertation, and then went up to the library to look at the latest issue of Physical Review, and there was a paper doing—with a different mathematical technique, but the same kind of analysis, by a student of Bethe—Hans Bethe. I don’t remember the student’s name, but I remember that Bethe was a coauthor, and somebody with a name like Maximon or something1. And to me, it was quite remarkable, that I had been chugging through all these integrals on my own, and I got the same answer as they did. And obviously—using a different technique. And I certainly should have written up my dissertation and published it, but I was an idealistic young scientist, and I thought that the answer was now published. So I never published my dissertation, and it was only decades later that Julian Schwinger realized that I hadn’t ever published my dissertation and was very surprised. But he never told me that I should do it, anyhow. So I don’t know, I just didn't know how the game was played at that time. So I've always regretted that I didn't publish my dissertation.
Did you have any publications coming out of graduate school?
Was the cross-section the only research project you really worked on?
Yeah. Just that. It was quite a—I mean, it was a big project. A single big project.
It certainly sounds like it.
Yeah. But I still regret that I never published it.
How did you support yourself as a graduate student?
I got little bits of money from Radcliffe. Various named fellowships that gave very little money. But of course in those days, expenses were a lot less. When I entered Radcliffe, the tuition was $400 a year. A year! And room and board was roughly $400 a year. Salaries were—I suspect the professors were getting [laugh] five, six thousand a year.
I mean, it was—so it’s sort of hard to put it into a context that you can understand today. But my parents paid most of the expenses for college. And I don’t remember how we paid for graduate—supplemented the graduate expenses. My husband had a teaching fellowship all the way through. And he also went right through Harvard. It was one of these things—he was a year ahead of me. We got married in the summer after my junior year. He had graduated by that time. So he started with a teaching fellowship and stayed at Harvard, because I still had another year. And then he had started, so I stayed at Harvard, because he was already going. So we just stayed right through.
You also had your first child while you were still at Harvard in graduate school.
Right. I graduated as an undergraduate in 1950, and started graduate school. My first child was born in ’54. And in ’55, Daniel, my husband, took a job at UCLA, and we moved to California. And moving to California in 1955 was much more of a barrier to communication than it is today. [laugh] We didn't have internet. Telephone calls were very expensive. Airfare was—there were no jet planes. It took forever to get across the country. So I didn't have very much interaction with Julian after ’55. And so I completed the last two years with very little interaction with him. And then I went back in May of ’57 and had my thesis defense. But I was already pregnant with my second child. And Clarice Schwinger had invited me to dinner that night, and I put on my maternity clothes after having defended [laugh]. And that was a very exciting evening, because J. Robert Oppenheimer was one of the guests.
So that was very exciting, to have dinner as a newly minted PhD, with Oppenheimer.
That must have been quite something!
It was. Yeah.
Did Julian Schwinger have some sort of reaction to the fact that you did become pregnant in graduate school?
It didn't seem to influence our relationship at all. And, you know, I was very lucky—my son was born in May, at the very end of the academic year. And by the time autumn came, I was back—I mean, it was really good timing. I had the summer to learn to be a new mother and to develop a routine and to find somebody to take care of my baby when I was not around. And so when I started in the autumn, I don’t think he was even aware that I had a child. [laugh]
[laugh] That’s very fortunate timing in many ways.
Very good timing. Right, right.
So when you finished your dissertation—and you had moved out to California by that time—you started work at the RAND Corporation, correct?
At the RAND Corporation, right.
How did that come about?
Well, in the first place, Daniel had—he finished his PhD in ’53 and then taught as an instructor at MIT for two years, and then he started looking for a more permanent position, and chose to come to UCLA, I would say, for two reasons. One was it was quite clear that UCLA, which was not a very distinguished university at the time, was on a very, very rapid upward trajectory. The state was giving a lot of money to build it up. The department was looking for really good new faculty. He was in the chemistry department. So that was one thing he liked about UCLA. The other thing we liked about UCLA was that there were lots of jobs for physicists in the Los Angeles area because of the aerospace industry. And so it’s not totally accidental that I ended up with a job in an aerospace-related establishment.
So we came out here, and I started—first I hoped I could get a half-time teaching job at UCLA, but the physics department didn't have any interest in that. And then I looked at a couple of other teaching universities in the area, and it turned out that there were heavy, heavy teaching loads that clearly wouldn't give me an opportunity to do any research. And so then I started inquiring at aerospace companies and the RAND Corporation. I'm sure it was Julian Schwinger’s name that got me an interview and a job. They were hiring well-trained young physicists without requiring any specialized knowledge in the areas that they were interested in. But the group that hired me were supported by the Atomic Energy Commission. And the thing that—that wasn’t a knock, was it?
No, I don’t think so.
It was just noise in the corridor. They assigned me—this was before I had finished my PhD. I mean, we moved in ’55, and I still had two more years of work. So two things that were great were one was that they let me spend time working on my dissertation, and in fact, they paid to have it typed, which in those days was a big deal. We didn't have typewriters with equation symbols, so you had to fill in the spaces by hand—I mean, the equations—by hand. And then they asked me to look into the equation of state of hydrogen at megabar pressures. And obviously the interest was for hydrogen bombs, but it turned out that the research that had been done on hydrogen at megabar pressures was being done by people who were interested in the center of Jupiter, which is mostly—I mean, until you get to the very, very center, it’s mostly hydrogen, and it is at megabar pressure. So that was my introduction to Jupiter. I was learning about what was known about the properties of the system at that temperature. I mean, at that pressure. So they were really very good to me.
Who was your supervisor when you joined?
At the RAND Corporation?
Well, the head of the group when I joined was a man named Milton Plesset, who was also a Caltech professor and very encouraging. Yeah, I think he was—you know, I don’t remember a very organized management structure. I mean, he was my supervisor or he was the person who hired me. I still remember he told me that until my atomic energy secrecy clearance came through, I wouldn't have an office with the rest of the group, that I would be a pariah. And I didn't know that word, and I remember rushing home to look up what in the devil was a pariah. [laugh] But it took some months before the clearance came through, so I had an office in a remote area and wasn’t really interacting with the rest of them. And then later, Al Latter came. I can’t remember—there were two Latters —Dick Latter and Al Latter. I think they were sequentially heads of the group.
But it was while I was at RAND that I met another member of this AEC-sponsored group, Don DuBois—D-U-B-O-I-S. And he was a freshly minted PhD from Caltech. I think Murray Gell-Mann had been his advisor. And he came up with the idea of using the mathematics of quantum electrodynamics to solve some problems in plasma physics. And I wasn’t at all interested in plasma physics, but I was very interested in applying the mathematical tools. And so we wrote a couple of papers, maybe three papers, looking at ways in which you could solve problems, one of which I remember was the first order correction to Landau damping of plasma waves. And so that was how I got started working on plasmas. The plasmas we worked on didn't have any magnetic fields. We just were working on the idea of how an unmagnetized plasma would respond. So this got the word “plasma” into my publication list, and that had very significant consequences. Because let’s see, I worked at RAND for about a decade. And then Daniel had a sabbatical, and we decided to go to—let’s see, which—this was—
The first one you went to was to Radcliffe, I think?
Went back to Cambridge.
Right. We went to Cambridge. And I had this Radcliffe Institute Fellowship. In those days, it was called Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and the stipends were given to help support women who had not been progressing in their professional careers, whether they were poets or artists or scientists, and needed a little chance to get a boost, to get a sort of new start. And they paid me enough to pay for a full-time babysitter. It was not a great deal of money, but it was very helpful. And it got me an office in the Harvard physics group. And it was really a wonderful year for me. I remember writing some papers. I can’t remember which ones I wrote there. But the main thing was it made me realize that I was much happier in a university environment than I had been doing classified work at RAND. And so when I came back to Los Angeles, I just came to UCLA and started asking anybody who would talk to me whether they had a research job for a physicist. And Bill Libby, who was at that time the director of the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics—I don’t think he was actually the director. There was a man named Gordon McDonald who was director and left very shortly after I arrived, and then Libby became director. But Libby did have grants to support work with space physics students, and he saw that I had been publishing about plasmas. Didn't realize that I didn't know anything about space physics—
—and decided to hire me. And hired me at an entry level. And this is a decade after I started as a physics PhD, and he gave me the lowest possible appointment. But I was just so determined to get back to the university that that didn't really matter to me. I started at the very bottom. And he asked me to advise two graduate students, one of whom was looking at plasma wave emissions from the Alouette spacecraft. And I don’t think I was ever very helpful to him. And the other of whom was looking at radio emissions controlled by Jupiter’s moon, Io. Radio frequency emissions in the decametric band. And all of a sudden, I got really excited about Jupiter. And these two students would come and they’d ask me questions, formulated in the language that any space physicist knows. So they would come in and they'd say, you know, “I'm trying to understand this energetic electron that’s drifting and conserving mu and J.” And I just didn't know what they were talking about. And I would say, “Let me think about that. Come back tomorrow.” And I would run up to the library and try to find out what the language that they had been using—what it meant. And then we would talk the next day, and they would come up with some other question that I couldn't answer. But I managed to stay sort of half a step ahead of them and learned a lot of space physics very quickly. [laugh] And then after a few—and I think that I made some useful contributions to the student who was working on radio emissions from Io, but—controlled by Io. The emissions come from Jupiter.
What do you think goes into being a good advisor?
Ah. [laugh] Well, I think the first thing is not only to be accessible, but to remind the students frequently that you are accessible. Somebody at the meeting on the Europa Clipper that I attended yesterday made a comment, said, “It’s not enough to have office hours. It’s important to post where those office hours are, and particularly useful to provide a telephone number.” And I think that that’s a really great thing to remind yourself of—that students know that there are office hours, but they don’t take advantage of it. And what I have done, not from the very beginning, but shortly after I started being a faculty member, is to hold a group meeting every single week, and to make it quite clear that I expect students to come and to talk about their work. If you make it totally routine and everybody does it, it’s a little bit less intimidating to come and say, “I'm stuck on this problem” because everybody else has also come at one time or another to say, “I'm stuck.”
So to me, that has been a very useful tool. But I think the big problem is many students are intimidated about talking to faculty. And that’s what we're there for. So you do have to set up some mechanism that basically forces the students to come and start talking. And once they get used to doing that, then you can provide help and be a mentor. But I did—with these students who—of Bill Libby’s—I was not intimidating, I don’t think. Maybe it does help to be a woman. Maybe I was less intimidating. Or maybe it just helps to be very young, which I still was. But after a couple of years, the students finished and left, and Libby no longer had any space physics interest, so he kind of introduced me to somebody in the group that was doing—putting instruments on spacecraft. And I started working for a man named Tom Farley—F-A-R-L-E-Y—who had the energetic electron detector on [pause]—on the OGO 5 spacecraft.
So at that point, I really seriously started learning details of how to deal with space plasmas, and started learning how to look at data and extract interesting results out of data. His instrument had a feature that had never been put in space before. It had back-to-back detectors, so that you could see electrons which in magnetic fields normally stream up and down the field line, and you could look at them going up and down and see if there was any discrepancy between the two. If it was in a region where discrepancies between up and down were extremely improbable, then you could use that for calibrating the detector. And if it was in a region where you could think of a good reason why up and down would look different, you could use it as a probe. I really had a lot of fun with that instrument. And that really got me started in this space physics group here at UCLA.
Were you also working with Paul Coleman at this time?
Well, Paul was the leader of the group, and the founder of the group, and he was extremely influential, and very helpful to me. There was quite a big group here, and Paul loved new missions. He loved anything that hadn’t been done before. And he was extremely successful in getting instruments onto spacecraft. And he didn't seem to have the same enthusiasm for using the data—
—that came from the instruments. He was always interested in the next new thing. So after I had been here for a year or two and working mostly with Tom Farley, he came to me one day, and he said, “You know, I'm a co-investigator on the Pioneer-10 and -11 spacecraft, and I wonder if you would like to take over the leadership of our UCLA part of that team.” And he said, “You'd better think about it very carefully, because it’s going to be a lot of work, and a lot of stress. So don’t say yes until you've thought about it.” And I did say yes, and that was a really good move. He had an instrument on spacecraft ATS-5. It was an AT&T communications spacecraft, but he had managed to put a magnetometer on several of those communication spacecraft.
And he turned over the responsibility for that to my colleague Bob McPherron, who is also part of this group. And then he had the magnetometers on the OGO 5 spacecraft, and he turned over the responsibility for that to my colleague Chris Russell. So he was just marvelous about getting instruments onto spacecraft and then generous about letting his colleagues have the fun of collecting the data and interpreting it. So I ended up working with Chris on OGO 5 because he had the magnetometer responsibility, and I had the energetic electron detector, which was very complementary, very interesting.
Chris—what was his last name?
Russell. R-U-S-S-E-double L. Yeah. So that really—that launched me into being both a spacecraft investigator and a Jupiter aficionado.
[laugh] UCLA in the 1970s sounds like it was really quite a hub for space physics at the time.
It was. So in my department, which—let’s see—in the ‘70s. In the early ‘70s, in the—let’s see, how did it start? There were multiple administrative subunits at UCLA that had space physicists on the faculty and the research staff. So the earliest one was called the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, and that was a multi-campus research unit that had branches at UC San Diego, UCLA, and Riverside, as far as I remember, at the time. And almost all the space physics related research was done through IGPP. It was through IGPP, I believe, that this building, Slichter Hall, was built by NASA. NASA provided the funds for building this building, which appropriately doesn't have a ground floor; it’s all up in the air. Then there was another department, very small department, called the Department of Planetary and Space Science. We had in that department people who were doing solar system formation and meteorite studies and solid Earth geophysics, as well as the space physicists. And after a few years, that department changed its name to Geophysics and Space Physics.
And then in 1975, the dean decided that it was too small a department to be separate, and he tried to get that department, meteorology, which was doing atmospheric science, and geology to merge into a single department. And I remember the Geophysics and Space Physics faculty recognized that it was a good idea to join a department that had quite a few undergraduates. We had very few undergraduates, and we realized that there would be pressure on a department that didn't have an undergraduate program. So we agreed and became part of what was then called [pause]—I think we called it Earth and Space Sciences. Names change so often. But meanwhile, there was a space physics group in Meteorology, which later become Atmospheric Sciences, and then became Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences. But it was George Siscoe, Richard Thorne - there was quite a group of very outstanding space physicists in that department. And then at the same time, the Physics department had at least three very distinguished space physicists—Charlie Kennel—K-E-double N-E-L; Ferd Coroniti—C-O-R-O-N-I-T-I—and John Cornwall—C-O-R-N-W-A-double L. They were all doing theory—space physics theory. And it was just a wonderfully exciting place to be. [laugh] And very, very distinguished. Unfortunately—there still is one space physicist in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences. And Ferd is still in the Physics department but doesn't seem to be doing any more space physics. And our group in Earth and Space Science—Earth, Planetary, and Space now—has diminished in size and strength.
I think the dean is aware of this and is going to help us try to build up again. We still have an amazingly productive space physics group. We still have many, many spacecraft projects that we're doing. We run a weekly space physics seminar that is attended by typically 20 to 50 people, and probably one of the liveliest space physics seminars in the country. We could use a few more faculty appointments, but we still have a good group.
Where have been some of the other centers for space physics besides UCLA?
Well, of course you know I—after I retired, I took a part-time appointment at University of Michigan, and they have a really lively and very good space physics group. Colorado University has a terrific space physics group, and they're very much helped by having a very big lab, the Laboratory for Astrophysics and Space Physics—LASP. And they’ve been very, very successful in getting missions and having good people. Boston University has a good group. There are smaller groups elsewhere, but I think those are the places that come to mind as the—Berkeley has the Space Sciences Lab. That’s very good, too. I'm sure I'm leaving out lots that are good. But space physics is not present in all universities, and sometimes it’s represented by one or two people, and that’s really not a critical mass. You really need people. You need a group.
What was it that you really missed about working in a university environment?
I think it was a mixture of much more open communication. I think the communication was probably the main thing. That people who got excited about their work—at RAND, people didn't seem to have—at least they weren’t interested in what I was interested in. And when I went to Harvard, people wanted to talk about their work. There was much more interaction. And then I liked being with students. I liked the environment of, again, communication with students.
Turning back to the research work that you were conducting during the 1970s, what were some of the surprising or interesting things that came out of your work with OGO 5 or with the Pioneer spacecraft?
OK, so we'll start with OGO 5. I think probably the most exciting thing that—there were two really exciting things that we did with OGO 5 data. One was using data from multiple instruments. I mean, that was one of the things that was I think just sort of being exploited, was using multiple instruments to try to understand what was going on. And what had not been sorted out was the role of the solar wind in the dynamics of the magnetosphere. So we knew that the solar wind was a plasma that was flowing radially away from the sun at speeds of 400 kilometers per second plus or minus a few hundred kilometers per second. And that distorted the magnetic field of the Earth and formed this sort of bubble in the solar wind that we call the magnetosphere. But we didn't quite understand how the solar wind interacted with the Earth’s magnetic field and the plasma that was trapped in it, in the magnetosphere. And there was some theoretical work that had suggested that the magnetic field of the solar wind could, under the right circumstances, reconnect with the field of the Earth, and that that would account for a lot of the magnetic configuration that was familiar, - had been established. But there was no real experimental evidence of this.
And what we were able to do was to find an interval where there was evidence that the density and the flow velocity of the solar wind remained constant, but the orientation of the magnetic field changed in distinct steps. It started being largely northward, it rotated to something close to perpendicular to that, and then rotated to southward. And what we were able to show was the boundary between the solar wind and the magnetosphere, which we call the magnetopause, moved in, in steps, as the magnetic field rotated, but everything else stayed the same. And that provided really very compelling evidence that magnetic reconnection was playing a role. That if you reconnect, you pull off—sort of you pull off the outer layers, and the part that is connected to the Earth at both ends retreats. It was a very important paper. It’s still cited today.
These were pretty discrete steps that you could see, not—?
Not a continuous change?
Right. Not a continuous change. They were steps. So that was very nice. And then we also put together a workshop where people who had the data from ground stations, magnetic tracking stations, and spacecraft measurements, got together for—I think it was maybe a two-day workshop. And we chose a particular dynamic event where OGO 5 had been in the magnetotail, in the anti-solar direction from the Earth, and had seen a lot of dynamical changes. And we had a group of maybe 20 people, I think, with different data sets, including measurements of the aurora, and from different spacecraft instruments, and we put together a set of nine papers trying to understand the phenomenon that we call a substorm at Earth. Bob McPherron, my colleague, I think was one of the prime movers in that - and Chris Russell. But I was involved in several of the papers. So we studied a substorm that had taken place on August 15th—but what year was it?—I guess 1968? I don’t remember. But it gave, I think, a very significant advance in our understanding of the dynamics of substorms and how the solar wind magnetic reconnection played a role in initiating the instability, and how the magnetotail responded. I think it was a really important set of papers. And that was really exciting.
How did people receive these results when you published them?
Well, I would say the bulk of the field sort of accepted it, and there was a subset of the field that absolutely rejected everything about it. And even to this day, there’s still people who don’t see the dynamics of the magnetosphere the way I do. But I think they're slowly finding that there’s a lot of validity to the substorm picture that we built up. But there are still people who don’t accept—the magnetosphere is an enormous object, and spacecraft are localized in measurements. And you have to do a lot of guessing to figure out what’s going on globally if—we've been very much helped by computer simulations, and they're getting good enough that I almost begin to think that we can use them to learn things that we—not just to validate ideas that we've developed, but actually to give us new ideas of what’s going on. I just saw a simulation last Friday that I think provides a deeper understanding of this substorm model that we came up with in the ‘70s.
So you haven't worked very much with modeling throughout your career with these simulations, until fairly recently?
Well I don’t know—“fairly recently”—I mean, it [laugh]—the—my student Jon Linker started doing computer simulations—oh, it goes way back. When Ray Walker was a student here, he was a student of Tom Farley’s, but I worked very closely with him, and he was doing the earliest computer simulations. And that would have been—when was Ray a student? So I came to UCLA in the ‘60s; I would think it was in the mid-‘70s? And so I was working with him already in the mid-‘70s doing simulations. And then my student Jon Linker was probably doing his simulations in the late ‘80s, and he was doing simulations of Io. And then I worked with Xianzhe Jia, who was here, on simulations of Europa and Ganymede - I think his dissertation was on Ganymede. So I've been involved with simulations for a long time. But it’s just that the simulations are getting more and more realistic. And it’s not because we weren’t smart enough to do it in those days, but we didn't have big enough computers to do it. And now you can start following at a spatial and temporal scale that is really pertinent to allowing the system to behave like the real world does. There’s still a long way to go, but the tools that have been developed in recent years really radically change what you can do with simulations. And they're now at a point where I think we're learning a lot from them.
So how about with the Pioneer-11 work? What was your role, again, working on Pioneer, and what sort of research questions were you interested in?
Well, I'm trying to think. I did do a lot with Pioneer data. I'm trying to think what was the most interesting. I mean, we didn't know anything about Jupiter from in situ measurements until Pioneer-10 and -11 got there. What we did know, and I had been tracking, was something about its radio frequency emissions. So we did know that there had to be energetic electrons because there was radiation in the decimetric frequency band that was quite clearly bremsstrahlung from energetic electrons, and we could tell that they were trapped near the equator, because the plane of polarization rocked with the rotation of the planet. We had figured out from the cutoff on the decametric radiation a very good approximation to the surface field strength of Jupiter. We knew that Io had to have some electromagnetic coupling with Jupiter because we had—when I say we, I don’t mean me; I mean people—had discovered that the radiation from the power in the decametric radiation varied with Io’s position in its orbit around Jupiter.
So we knew a lot, but—so Pioneer came along, and I remember writing a paper with Ray Walker about just the nature of the plasma trapped near the equator. That it had characteristics that made it clear that the pressure due to particles was larger than the pressure due to the magnetic field. I remember writing a paper about showing that the what we called the plasma sheet, the near equatorial region of high plasma density, flapped up and down, but that there was a delay with radial distance, and that we could understand that in terms of which natural wave modes of the system were carrying the information that the dipole had changed its orientation. What else did we do?
Was this this layer you called magnetic turbulence?
I wrote a paper about the nature of the fluctuations in the field at different radial distances in different places in the—different radial distances and different latitudes away from the plasma sheet. But then I think Io was always my special interest. And this is a time when I had started working with David Southwood of the Imperial College. He and I met—he was a postdoc. He had done his dissertation with James Dungey at Imperial College—D-U-N-G-E-Y—and he came to spend a year at UCLA working with Charlie Kennel. And he and I met only at the very end of—I mean, we had met, but we started talking science only at the very end of his visit here. And we decided we had a lot of mutual interests, and so that’s what inspired me to propose for a Guggenheim Fellowship to spend a year at Imperial College, which I did in ’73, ’74. And actually during that time, David and I started writing papers. They were not about Jupiter. They were about the terrestrial magnetosphere, and they—that’s where—I told you earlier that I'm writing a history paper for AGU that will describe what we were doing then. But one of the first things we did was to take seriously the fact that a flowing plasma implies the presence of an electric field, and that if particles move through an electric field, they change their energy. And nobody had really exploited that to understand how the—this as a mechanism for accounting for gain of energy and energetic particles.
So that was some work that we did that year. And then we both got interested in Io, and we wrote some papers about—we wrote one paper called “Magnetospheres of Galilean Satellites,” in which we took the idea that some of the Galilean satellites might have intrinsic magnetic fields. There had been a paper by Fritz Neubauer—N-E-U-B-A-U-E-R—estimating how big a magnetic field could plausibly be generated in the Galilean satellites. Nobody was really taking this very seriously, but it was kind of a fun paper. And so we took off from that and tried to describe what the magnetospheres of these bodies would look like, and we concluded that there was a very good chance that Io was magnetized because of this very strong coupling to Jupiter’s ionosphere. But we thought that it was unlikely that Ganymede was magnetized because there was no such coupling. And of course the answer is there really is such coupling, but it just hadn’t been observed yet. But it also turns out that you don’t need that coupling to account for—I mean, you don’t need a magnetic field to account for the coupling. So, you know, we had some interesting ideas, many of which were wrong.
But they were fun to pursue. So we wrote that paper, and then we wrote another paper that was more specifically about Io. I'm having trouble remembering what—we talked about how Io would interact with Jupiter’s ionosphere just based on magnetohydrodynamic principles. But I think that it was still—Neubauer wrote a paper on that, too. I think those ideas were still quite new. And I think that that may have come out before—I can’t remember what the timing is relative to the Voyager fly-by of Io, but I know we were working on it at the time that Voyager was encountering Io.
That would be in 1979 or thereabouts?
Yeah. But what I can’t remember—I know we were working on the problem, because I remember two things. I remember we had worked out that the interaction was mediated by Alfvén waves, and that that meant that the perturbations associated with the interaction between the magnetospheric plasma and Io would appear further and further downstream as you went farther and farther north-south from Io’s position. And I had discovered that the Voyager spacecraft—I was not on the Voyager team—and that the Voyager was targeting going by Io on the Io flux tube, about ten—I can’t remember whether it was radii or diameter—but well south of Io. And I realized that the perturbations that were the dominant perturbations would not be where Voyager was flying by, but significantly beyond that position.
And I remember calling some of the people on the spacecraft team. In those days, I didn't know anything about spacecraft, but I was thinking they could retarget the spacecraft, which is ridiculous to think about. But I couldn't understand why they had decided to go by where they were going by, when it would be much more interesting to go by a little farther downstream in the flow. But I remember going down to give a seminar at UC San Diego and being very excited that they had discovered these volcanoes on Io and we had recognized what that would do to the system. But the details of when our paper came out, I cannot remember. But it came out around that time. I think we understood a lot about how the magnetospheric flowing plasma would interact with Io, but we kept thinking Io should be magnetized and looking for evidence that it might be magnetized. There was certainly nothing from the Voyager data that allowed you to know, one way or the other.
Must have been very, exciting, then, when you started working on Galileo.
So I started working on Galileo—I wrote the proposal in 1976. So this is before the Voyager fly-by. In those days, it was called the Jupiter Orbiter Probe. I proposed both for the probe, to put a magnetometer on the probe, and to put a magnetometer on the spacecraft. And I had a team that was all UCLA. It was a small team, and there were certainly advantages to that. Today, teams are very, very big. But it was Coleman, McPherron, Russell, Kennel, and Coroniti, and me. So that’s six people. So I think it was me and five co-Is. And we proposed magnetometers for both the orbiter, which turned out to be the Galileo orbiter, and the probe, which went into the cloud tops. And I think I figured that between the time that they would turn on the magnetometer on the probe and the time it would burn up in the atmosphere, we would get 128 data points per co-I. [laugh]
It would have been very exciting, but they didn't put a magnetometer—it was not a primary—you know, when NASA puts out an AO, they indicate what are the primary instruments, but they accept proposals for other instruments. And the magnetometer was not primary for the probe. It was primary for the orbiter. And the deadline for the probe proposal was earlier than the deadline for the orbiter. And I remember I had no idea how long it took to write a spacecraft proposal. The orbiter proposal went in, and it was not in perfect form. I was not surprised we didn't get selected. But then I had another month to work on the proposal to put a magnetometer on the orbiter, and we were selected. It was actually protested by Norman Ness of—the selection was protested by Norman Ness of the Goddard Space Flight Center, who recognized that there was a totally inexperienced PI on the UCLA proposal. But fortunately, nobody accepted that objection.
So we got the opportunity to put a magnetometer on the Galileo. On what became Galileo. And at the time we proposed, there was supposed to be a direct trajectory. It was supposed to be launched. So we proposed it in ’76, we were selected in ’77, and the spacecraft was supposed to launch in I think ’81 on a direct—maybe ’82—on a direct trajectory to Jupiter and to arrive in 1984. And you know George Orwell had chosen 1984 as a very ominous date, and I was always worried about the arrival of 1984, and with good reason. So there were lots and lots of delays. And let’s see, how did it work? The delays, I think, were just development delays. And finally, we were ready to launch. The spacecraft was sent to the Cape in either the Fall of ‘85 or just the very beginning of ’86. No, I think it went in the Fall of ’85. I may be wrong. And we were testing at the Cape. We had a wonderful team. We had a few great engineers here at UCLA—Bob Snare—S-N-A-R-E—and Joe Means—M-E-A-N-S—who were—I mean, Bob had been building spacecraft for Paul Coleman for decades and really understood and was wonderful at explaining how the thing worked, and what the problems were. And Joe Means was brilliant at coding and developed extraordinary efficient techniques for taking the data on board and averaging it, and with computers that were, you know, about—had capabilities not much greater than handheld calculators. I mean, they were so limited. We had like 2,800 bytes or something like that to do everything—store, process. It was just amazing what he did.
And so we delivered, and we were testing on the Cape, and that was when the Challenger disaster occurred. The whole space shuttle—it was a time when projects were forced to launch using the space shuttle. And that terminated all launches for three years, and they sent the spacecraft back to JPL. And it turned out that as a consequence of the terrible accident, they put all kinds of additional safety requirements on the shuttle, one of which was that it had to be able to land in Spain if something went wrong on the initial launch. There were many other changes, all of which reduced the maximum load that the shuttle could place into orbit. It looked as if the Galileo mission would have to be canceled. And then the navigation team at JPL, to whom I give the greatest credit, figured out that if they launched on the shuttle and started by going inward to Venus, used Venus for gravitational assist, came out—I think that there was an Earth—yeah, an Earth gravitational assist, back in, and a second Earth gravitational assist, and then on to Jupiter, on a six-year trajectory, rather than something a little over two years, that they could still deliver us. So we finally were able to launch in ’89, and we got our first data from the Jupiter magnetosphere in December of ’95. And so that was close to 20 years after I had written my proposal. So I always say that if you want to be in the area of outer planet magnetospheres, you’d better know how to be patient.
But on the way to Jupiter, we had these two passes by Earth and one pass by Venus, and we got good science out of those. And they also found asteroids for us to encounter on the way through the asteroid belt, so we got some interesting science there. So it wasn’t completely a blank. And then we got to Jupiter, and boy, that was really fun.
Yeah, the asteroids Gaspra and Ida, correct?
Those were the ones you flew by?
Gaspra and Ida, right.
That must have been pretty surprising, that Gaspra has a pretty significant magnetic moment, and Ida is a conducting body.
Yeah. We believed that those measurements were meaningful. You know, the big problem with having a totally unknown—a body of unknown magnetic properties and flying by while you're embedded in the solar wind, which is fluctuating—so it’s—we assumed it was more than coincidence that we got significant signatures as the spacecraft flew by these bodies, but we could never rule out unambiguously that we had just seen some phenomenon in the solar wind. On the other hand, the coincidence in time and the spatial scale of the perturbations being consistent with having been imposed by these bodies makes me think that we were not overinterpreting. But it’s not unambiguous. I think there are spacecraft projects that are going to asteroids all the time now, and we're going to find out.
Were other people skeptical at the time, of your findings?
Well, it depended. I think people who like magnetic fields were very excited and liked the idea. We did have some idea of the range of remnant magnetization that is plausible for different kinds of meteorites. So I got a lot of support on this, but a lot of criticism, too. I'm still waiting for some—for more asteroid information. [laugh]
So when Galileo finally got to Jupiter’s moons, there must have been a bit of a shock or uncertainty with regards to when you finally were able to measure Io to see if it had its own magnetic field.
Well, there was a very close pass by Io on the very first entry into the Jupiter system, because it was being used for a gravitational assist in going into a capture orbit. There was also what they refer to as the 400 Newton engine, which fired and actually was probably the dominant contributor to putting us into a capture orbit. But the signatures, the magnetic signatures, in the vicinity of Io, were absolutely fascinating. Really very, very—[beeping sound] I know that’s a reminder of an event that is not taking place. [laugh] I usually have a—I have a weekly telecon with the Europa Clipper magnetometer team at noon on Friday, but we've had a full four days of meetings at JPL this week, so we've cancelled the telecon for today. So there were lots of flips and changes of field magnitude as we approached Io, and the field we measured as we flew very, very close to Io on the downstream side of the flowing plasma were the biggest perturbations I've seen anywhere. They were really enormous. The energetic particle instrument saw streams of—beams of energetic electrons going up and down the field line. The plasma instrument saw big changes in the flow velocity. But it was extremely complicated.
And we all reported our results, and I decided that it didn't rule out a magnetic field, an intrinsic magnetic field of Io. I was still convinced that Io should have a magnetic field. So I think that the paper we wrote describing what we had observed during that pass still holds the possibility that Io has a magnetic field. And then for a few years, there were no passes by Io. And then later in the mission, there were passes near Io, but in regions where regardless of whether the interaction was with a magnetized object or an unmagnetized object, the signatures would be very similar. And I remember writing a paper with the title—something about magnetic field remains uncertain after these two fly-bys. And then finally, the last two passes we had were over the poles, where the answer was unambiguous: It didn't have a magnetic field.
But in the meantime, we had had fly-bys of Ganymede, and there—that blew our minds, because the field strength near Ganymede in the environment is of the order of I think like 100 nanotesla, and over the poles, we were measuring, I don’t know, 1,200, 1,400, 1,500. I can’t remember. It didn't take sophisticated analysis to see that Ganymede was magnetized. That was really exciting. Oh, the first pass by Ganymede wasn’t over the pole, and I think it went only to like 800, 700, something like that. Because of course the dipole field is twice as strong at its pole as at the equator, and we were near the equator. But it was pretty unambiguous that we had—and Don Gurnett—G-U-R-N-E-T-T—was at the same time measuring radio frequency emissions, plasma waves, and he saw the significance of the electron gyrofrequency which is proportional to magnetic field strength, increase, as he got closer and closer to Ganymede. He inferred the presence of the magnetic field at the same time we did, so that was fun.
[laugh] That must have been quite exciting!
Yeah, that was really exciting. I remember very excited phone calls.
There must have been quite a lot of excitement also around Europa, although that took a little bit of extra to sort of figure out what was going on there.
Right. I mean, the first pass was just very puzzling. The magnetic perturbations were very significant, but they didn't look at all like what we anticipated from either a magnetized or an unmagnetized Europa. And then we began to realize that what we were seeing—a good deal of what we were seeing—not everything, but a good deal of what we were seeing could be accounted for if Europa had a weak dipole field with its pole in the equatorial region sort of pointing toward or away from Jupiter. I can’t remember; I think it was toward Jupiter. And then working with Krishan Khurana—Krishan is K-R-I-S-H-A-N. Khurana—K-H-U-R-A-N-A. We realized that the significance could be accounted for as an inductive response to the time varying field that it results from the fact that the plasma sheet flaps up and down over the moons, and that it’s first—that there’s a time-varying part where the field points either away from or toward Jupiter. And that you could account for the—what we were seeing—if Europa was responding as a conducting sphere.
But of course we had subsequent passes, but each one of the subsequent passes occurred during the same phase of this time-varying component of Jupiter’s magnetic field, so couldn't be really distinguished from a permanent dipole. So we started working with the project navigation team and got them to add—either to add or to change a pass; I can’t remember. But to have a pass by Europa - which was on the 26th orbit around Jupiter - at the opposite phase of the inductive driving field. So at that point, if it had been a permanent magnet, the direction in which the pole pointed would have been the same as what we had seen before, and if it were an inductive response, it would have reversed direction. That’s a pretty dramatic change. It was totally unambiguous that the field had—the perturbation field had reversed its direction. And that was the first time we felt really confident in saying that there was an inductive response.
And of course then we had to ask, “How come this body that has an ice shell of about 100 kilometers and then beneath that is rocky all the way down to maybe 25% of the radius—?” And indeed it has a conducting core, but even if you impose the maximum effect of induction on that driving—on the core—it would have been so low in magnitude by the time you made the measurement above the surface that it couldn't have been driven in the conducting core. So we had to find a conductor near the surface. And ice is a terrible conductor, but sea water is a pretty respectable conductor, so we inferred that there just had to be—the only way we could account for our signature was if there was an ocean under the ice. And that sure got people’s attention.
And a new project that I'm really excited about.
Do you want to go right in and tell me about that?
Segue into the—?
Yeah, tell me about it.
Well, the Europa Clipper, of course, is designed to—the Europa Clipper has a long genesis. What we really thought we would like to do is to go into orbit around Europa and just stay there and watch—every 11 hours, watch the field flip. But it turns out that there are very serious problems trying to get a spacecraft into orbit around Europa. It’s a small body. Its gravity is not much help in getting you captured into an orbit around Europa from an orbit around Jupiter. And so a lot of people did a lot of work—and I think Khurana, again, was very instrumental in that work—to show that if you had multiple fly-bys of Europa and remained in Jupiter orbit but kept coming by Europa at different phases of Jupiter’s rotation, that you could extract the inductive response to a high degree of precision. And so that was the basis of the Europa Clipper project. I'm now leading the science team for the Europa Clipper magnetometer, and we're trying to understand how you put together these multiple small segments of data, and they are taken at different points around Europa’s orbit. And Europa is in a slightly elliptical orbit; it has an eccentricity that is enough to have it move radially in and out in a way that produces a signal at the orbital period of very low amplitude. The amplitude of the signal at the synodic period of Jupiter at Europa.
So the apparent period of Jupiter as measured from an object in orbit is different from the period relative to an inertial coordinate system. So we have a signal of about 240 nanotesla at the synodic period of Jupiter due to Jupiter’s rotation. And we have a signal of about 14 nanotesla amplitude at the period of Europa’s orbit. At Europa’s orbital period. And that’s 85 hours, roughly. So we now have two frequencies and a lot of lower amplitude signals at other periods, but those are the dominant periods. And from the measurements made at those two different periods or two different frequencies, we're looking at signals that penetrate different depths into Europa. And so we can learn a great deal about the structure. How deeply buried is the ocean beneath the ice, and what’s the depth of the ocean and what’s its conductivity? It’s pretty subtle, and it requires putting together many, many—data from many passes. We figure we need a minimum of about 33, 35 passes—
—to nail the parameters we're trying to determine. But we believe that putting this all together, that we can tell how buried the ocean is, and how thick it is, and its conductivity. And then if you want to know other things about it, you put that together with data from other instruments on the spacecraft. So it’s going to be really exciting.
It seems like your findings on Europa have sparked a whole interest in the field of astrobiology, and people who are looking for extraterrestrial life and—
Well, they were looking for it before.
Well, yes. [laugh]
So it has given—they jumped onto it. I swear that when we first released the information that we had identified signatures of a buried ocean at Europa, they tried to make me put whales in it. So—
[laugh] But yeah, it has certainly given a lot of boost to astrobiology. And of course the interesting thing is that since we discovered that Europa had an ocean, we have really suggestive evidence that Ganymede has an ocean. We think that it probably does, too. And there’s evidence that Callisto has an ocean. And there’s no question that Enceladus has an ocean.
And Titan has an ocean. And they've just chosen the Trident mission for study—as a Discovery mission, and people are quite enthusiastic about the idea that Triton may have an ocean. So [laugh] it’s a big change in the way we view these moons.
It seems to have become quite the fashionable thing, for moons to have oceans. [laugh]
Fashionable, yes. Right, right.
What do you think is really the value, perhaps, besides finding oceans and cool things like that, but in studying magnetospheres of planets and moons that aren’t necessarily the Earth’s magnetosphere?
Well, I'm a great enthusiast for outer planet magnetosphere exploration because I think that we've done a lot of studying of the Earth’s magnetosphere. It helps in trying to understand a dynamical system to look at it over a range of values of, let’s say, the control parameters. So when you get out to the outer planets, the solar wind density has gone way, way down. The solar wind magnetic field strength has gone way, way down. So you have a magnetosphere embedded in a different kind of plasma. You have scale sizes that are very different from the scale size of Earth, and rotation periods that are twice as fast as—or more than twice as fast as the Earth’s rotation on a spatial scale that’s ten times Earth’s dimensions, so the effect of rotational stresses becomes really dominant. And so you can start understanding how the system is affected by different ratios. I mean, to me, it’s really important that at Earth, the rotation period is very long compared to the time it takes the solar wind to travel from the nose of the magnetosphere to the end of the important part of the tail. At Jupiter, it takes—in the time of one rotational period, the solar wind goes only sort of twice the distance to the nose of the magnetosphere. So in ten hours, the solar wind travels just as far downstream of Jupiter as the upstream boundary. So the rotation becomes the dominant parameter that determines the property of the magnetosphere. And by looking at a system in which something like rotation is dominant, you can go back then and understand the very small effects of rotation at Earth, and look for phenomena at Earth that have dramatic parallels at Jupiter and very subtle expression at Earth.
I think just from the physics point of view, there’s a lot to be said for looking at systems with very, very different parameters. Control parameters. And also I think that people like to think about what was it like during times when the dipole was reversing and disappeared. And you can go and look at Uranus, which has a field that is—it’s often described as an offset dipole, but it’s very, very different from anything we've looked at, at Earth. And you could imagine—of course Uranus has its pole pointed in a peculiar direction, but let’s say Neptune, you can get an idea of what a very non-dipolar field would look like if it were making a magnetosphere around Earth during a reversal. So I think you get a lot of good physics out of it. In addition, it’s just fun! [laugh]
[laugh] That’s certainly also very true! [laugh] You say you've been a very strong advocate for it, though. Do you think your views on the value of outer planetary magnetospheres are not as much appreciated as they should be?
I think that we've done—I think that the choice of missions both by NASA and by ESA shows that there’s a lot of support for exploration of the outer planets and the small bodies. No, I think it’s—I mean, I think that it may be that you have a—you have more help in getting support for work that has direct day-to-day application like space weather. If you want to study space weather, you've got a larger contingent of not only scientists but people who need to understand space weather in order to control military operations, to control communications, to control electrical power lines. There are people in the power business who have to understand space weather in order to run their activities. So you have a bigger community encouraging research in space weather. But there are a lot of people who support us in investigation of outer planets, of exoplanets. I don’t think we lack for—and you know, to me, it’s always interesting—people all over the world—children, adults—when they hear I'm doing space physics, they immediately ask me, “Why is Pluto not a planet?” And they're really upset about it. To me, that’s a very positive message that people do care about more than just practical things.
When did you get involved with Cassini, speaking of studying the outer planets?
I can’t remember. It was an adiabatic phenomenon, I think. [laugh]
I was not officially a co-I on any of the Cassini missions, but my colleagues in Imperial College were kind of used to working with me and invited me to join a lot of their activities. And the data were just so fascinating that I got involved as soon as I had access to the data.
Was it David Southwood again?
Well, David became magnetometer PI at the start and was responsible for the construction and delivery of the instrument, but he stepped down from the PI-ship just as Cassini reached Saturn and turned it over to Michele Dougherty. So it was both of them. I think by the time I got involved, it was more Michele than Southwood. Do you know how to spell Dougherty? D-O-U-G-H-E-R-T-Y. Why is it that all my friends have such difficult names? [laugh]
I'm taking them down to help the transcriber later. [laugh] That’s very helpful. Thank you.
So your involvement there was more with respect to data analysis than it was with instrument design?
Yeah, I had nothing to do with the development of the instrument or the planning of the mission, but once they started getting data, I got involved. Michele and her team, and Southwood, were very generous about letting me be part of it. And I loved it. [laugh]
How about Cluster and THEMIS?
Cluster and THEMIS, yeah. I was on the Cluster magnetometer team, and I'm part—I think THEMIS doesn't have—I mean, THEMIS is the whole thing. Both wonderful missions doing multi-point measurements for the first time in Earth orbit. We did nice work on data from Cluster and data from THEMIS. I don’t know what you—
Oh, I—it’s a little bit different kind of work. You're coming back to studying the Earth’s magnetosphere.
Coming back to—yeah. We did some interesting work with—I particularly enjoyed working with a postdoc from China named Hui—H-U-I—Zhang—Z-H-A-N-G—who took data—well, these are both THEMIS investigations that were really nice. He found an event in which the five THEMIS spacecraft were sort of spaced at different positions in a small-scale structure that we describe as a flux rope. He was able to take data from multiple positions within a small-scale structure. When I say small-scale, it was like an Earth radius in cross section, and the spacecraft were spaced out through that dimension. And we were able to characterize both the structure and the temporal evolution of this structure by using multiple spacecraft measurements. Very pretty piece of work. I must say he was just brilliant at extracting the relevant data and helping us interpret it. Then he also did a most amazing study in a later stage of the THEMIS mission. Vassilis Angelopoulos, the PI—so Vassilis is V-A-[laugh]—
It’s OK. We can also work out the—
OK. Angelopoulos, I can spell. Vassilis is V-A-double S-A—I mean—I-L-I-S. And Angelopoulos—A-N-G-E-L-O-U-P-O-L-O-U-S. At least it’s close enough that when you look it up, you'll find the right person.
So Vassilis had this brilliant idea of taking two of the spacecraft and redirecting them into an orbit around the Moon. He called that new effort the Artemis mission. A-R-T-E-M-I-S. The Artemis mission. And Hui Zhang put together the data from many, many orbits around the moon to show the structure of the interaction region in ways that I think really illuminated how the moon interacts with the solar wind. And it’s just a beautiful piece of work, and I felt very pleased to be involved with that work. That was really exciting.
That’s very, very nice. You've done a fair number of international collaborations, though, not only with David Southwood and Hui Zhang, but you went to France for a while as well, and even to China.
Right. I was lucky—let’s start with China, because that was really very significant. In the late ‘70s, you may remember that Nixon opened up relations with China as president. And I think he stepped down in ’74, so this means it was before ’74. I can’t remember exactly what year. And a few years later, they had just emerged from the Cultural Revolution. And during the Cultural Revolution, scientists were sent to work on farms, completely cut off from the scientific community, so that when things began to normalize and they threw out the Gang of Four and tried to recover from some of the harm that had been done during that period, they realized that their scientists had sort of lost touch with what was going on in the scientific international scientific community. So they set up a program where they sent some of their youngish faculty who had lost out because of the Cultural Revolution to spend a couple of years in Europe or the U.S. And I still don’t know how I was so lucky, but I was asked to host a visitor named Zuyin—Z-U-Y-I-N—Pu—P-U. And he came and he spent two years here, and he and I wrote a couple of really very nice papers together on an instability of the magnetopause called the Kelvin-Helmholtz Instability. And we became very good friends. And then he went back to China and he was at Peking University, which is often described as the Harvard of China. And a few years later, he invited me—he arranged with the university and the Academy of Science to invite me to spend six weeks in China with my husband, and we were both invited to give lectures. And we met some of his students, one of whom was my first Chinese graduate student [Xiaoming Zhu]. I’m just going blank at the moment. Oh, dear. I can see him in front of me. It’ll come.
But so that—ever since then, first place, I've visited China repeatedly, sometimes just as a tourist, but professionally I've visited Pu’s group again, and each time, he has arranged for me to meet scientists at other institutions and interact with students. And we've got a pipeline, and a lot of the Chinese students that I mentored came from Peking University, and I always knew I could count on Pu to tell me which ones would thrive in this environment. So that was an extremely important link, and I still keep up with him. He’s not well enough to travel anymore, but we still keep in touch with each other. And France, it was really sort of an accident, because my husband had a colleague at one of the universities in Paris, and so we were always looking for excuses to go to Paris. I think my first visit was organized—hmm. I'm losing a name. Chris somebody-or-other [Chris Harvey]. In any case, I was organized to go to the observatory of Paris at Maudon. And when I was there, I met just a wonderful group of scientists. I wrote papers with a couple of them and found that that group was really a first-rate group. Then I went another time and visited a group at—I think it was called—I mean, it was at Vélizy, but it was called the Center—Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales. Something like that. That was a second group of scientists with whom I wrote papers. That’s one of the wonderful things about science: you talk the same language independent of what language you're talking in. And you can get enthusiastic about doing things together even if—I have to admit; I do speak French, but when I was working on science, we always spoke English. But I worked with quite a few of my French colleagues on—I think I have a lot of papers with French colleagues.
When did you learn to speak French?
Well, I studied French in high school, but I think I learned—in ’59, Daniel had a sabbatical, and at that point, I was at the RAND Corporation. They didn't give sabbaticals, so I took a leave of absence. And that’s the only time I didn't work. I spent the better part of a year not working and just enjoying being in Paris and learning to talk less literary French [laugh]. And that was a very exciting year. He was working at Saclay and I was not working at all. [laugh] But I had a good time.
[laugh] If you don’t mind, I want to switch gears for a minute and talk about some of your work outside science with the various advisory committees and the work that you've done in those directions. You've done quite a bit.
Yeah, I have.
With the Division of Atmospheric Sciences at the NSF, or the Department of Energy, or—it’s a fairly long list.
Yeah. Well, Division of Atmospheric Sciences was really fun. I was very, very—the first research support I got was from NSF, not from NASA. And that got me into the NSF environment. They had a program in magnetospheric physics, but it was limited to Earth. They have never had a program that supported outer planet magnetospheres. So that’s more or less why at some point I stopped getting my support from NSF. But my earliest support came from NSF, and that was what allowed me to continue working with David Southwood. Because they accepted the idea that he would come for a month every summer to work with me on ultralow frequency waves in the magnetosphere and on various transport problems. We did a lot of Earth-related work and supported by NSF. And then they invited me to serve on the advisory committee for the Division of Atmospheric Sciences. I ultimately became chair of that advisory committee. I think of all the advisory committees I have been on, that was the one that gave me the greatest sense that it mattered. That they really wanted to hear what their outside advisors had to say about what they were doing effectively and where they might consider making changes. They were very responsive. They were very open with us.
I have to tell you, because I just love this story—there was a year when the budget was very tight, and the division director, whose name at the moment I can’t—oh, the student I was referring to, my first Chinese student, was Xiaoming Zhu. So Xiaoming is X-I-A-O-M-I-N-G, and Zhu is Z-H-U. And so the division director came to our first meeting of the—you know, the first get-together of the two- or three-day meeting, and he said, “You know, we've been giving you a small honorarium for coming to these meetings, but our budget is very tight this year, and we're thinking of not giving you the honorariums anymore.” And Jim Anderson of Harvard, who is the most diplomatic person I've ever met, said, “You know, Gene—” His name was Gene Bierly—G-E-N-E—and I don’t know—B-I-E-R-L-Y or something like that. He said, “You know, Gene, we don’t come for the money, but it gives us a warm feeling!”
[laugh] And that was the last anybody said about [laugh]—about eliminating the honorarium. That was not the only reason that I liked particularly going to NSF—[laugh]
—but maybe the warm feeling was playing a part. Anyhow, I then moved on to their—the next level up, whatever they call it—the Geosciences Directorate, I think it was called. And I served on that for a few years. But never succeeded in getting them to add outer planets. So that was the committee I really enjoyed being on. Then I was on a while—the Department of Energy, that was—the undersecretary, John Deutch, was a personal friend, and I think that was the main reason [laugh] I ended up on that committee. He knew me, and I think he thought I’d do a good job. But I don’t think anybody would have thought to reach out to somebody in space physics if he hadn’t known me. That was a completely different set of problems that we dealt with, and I think I learned more than I contributed. But I'm a responsible person, so I tried to learn a lot about what we were talking about. And I remember at one point a meeting at which we broke up in different subgroups asked to deal with different problems that the Department was wrestling with, and I was asked to look into fracking!
And when would this have been? I don’t remember when I was on that. It’s a long time ago. Probably the ‘80s; I don’t know. And I remember learning a great deal about fracking and [laugh] giving a report on what were the pros and cons. It was not yet being implemented. But then I was on endless National Research Council committees. One that I remember with particular interest was called the Paradox Report, and it was a time when there was widespread discontent among space physicists with funding problems. The Academy was asked to do a report and it turned out that the amount of funding had not—research funding—hadn’t decreased significantly, but the community was not happy with the way they were being funded. And it’s hard for me to remember exactly what we said in that report, but basically I think we were saying that the research projects were being funded with smaller and smaller amounts of funding per FTE, which was causing people to have to write more and more proposals to get the adequate funding to support their—a lot of people in our field are on soft money, and you just have to bring in enough money to cover your salary.
And if the success rate is dropping, that means—all that means is that people write more proposals. So they were succeeding in getting the same amount of money but doing two and three times as much work to get it. NASA did not like the report at all. They never acted on it, and they never—they were really very upset by it. But I think there was a structural problem. And it’s true again today. We have a very large field of researchers on soft money, and they haven't really solved the problem of how to reduce the number of proposals one has to submit to get enough money to support oneself. So it’s still a problem today. So that was one of the committees I remember. I've been on decadal surveys. I've been on—there were—I don’t know if there are now—there were standing committees on different subareas of space. So there’s CSSP, the Committee on Solar and Space Physics. I think I chaired that for a while. There’s a committee on planetary science. I was on that for a while. And now I'm chairing the Space Studies Board, and I'm discovering that there’s—in some ways, it’s frustrating, because in order to be compatible with FACA, the rules on federal advisory committees, the Space Studies Board is allowed to initiate studies to be done by other groups, but we're not allowed to do our own studies.
And that’s a little bit frustrating. But it’s kind of fun. I'm learning a lot.
You were also on the Board of Overseers of Harvard College, which is a very interesting turn. You've been at Harvard in so many different capacities—undergraduate, all the way to Board of Advisors.
Right, right. That was very exciting for me. I was on that for six years. And you know, the structure at Harvard, the administrative—the people with the real administrative authority are called the Fellows. That’s a small group. And they interact very directly with the president, and they are the ones who actually okay expenditures and that kind of thing. The Board of Overseers is much more of a group that listens and suggests but doesn't have any—I mean, the Board of Overseers has to approve all appointments, but I don’t recall any appointment that was turned down during my six years of being on the Board. But it was very interesting, because the president would come to every meeting and give a report and let us know—he was very open with us and would let us know what kinds of issues he was dealing with. And there were many times during that six-year period—we met every two months, so it was a lot of meetings, which I didn't mind, because my kids were in Cambridge at the time, so I was very happy to have an excuse to go to Cambridge every two months. But he would come, and he was very open-minded. And he would say, “I'm wrestling with this problem. I'm thinking of making this decision.” And he would actually listen to the reaction of the overseers. So it was not that we had any authority, but we had a lot of influence. And if we saw something that we thought was worrisome, we could set up a committee to investigate.
And at a university, it’s I think a great deal of what goes on results from talking about it. The problems are often complex, and it helps to have many different points of view brought forward. And both at UCLA and at Harvard, I've seen very receptive response of upper-level administrators to hearing what other people think. And certainly the overseers were taken very seriously. And since we're going to document this, I love to tell my major legacy on the Board of Overseers is what women wear to graduation. Women overseers. When I joined the Board of Overseers, there had been women on the board for only a very few years. Not many of them. And Harvard takes its commencement exercises very, very seriously. And they barricade the yard, and if you don’t have a ticket, you don’t get in. But Overseers were allowed in without tickets, because they would show up in what’s called a morning suit—you know, the gray with—the gray outfit with tails and a top hat. And so the Overseers were allowed in because the guards could look and see that it was an Overseer and let them in. But the women Overseers—one of them was barred from entering the---what they called the Tricentennial Theatre, the yard during graduation.
And so when I arrived on the Board of Overseers, at the very first meeting, the president said, “We've got to figure out what women Overseers are going to wear to graduation.” He appointed one of the Overseers as chair of a committee that was the women who were on the Board. The chair was a man, and his claim to the job was that he owned a department store in New York and knew all about women’s clothing. And time passed. As I said, we met every two months. Commencement is in June. And by March, he had never called a meeting of this committee that was to deal with this very profound question. And so I got together with the other women Overseers. And you know, it’s a real problem. Women don’t wear uniforms. And so what—you can’t say all women have to wear a particular dress. So I decided that maybe what we should do is to say women would wear black and white, a significant hat—most people by that time were not wearing hats, so that was distinctive—and white gloves. And that that was probably enough that nobody else would be dressed in black and white, with a significant hat, and white gloves. And I was really very interested—about ten years ago I went to a function at Harvard graduation, and I met some of the women Overseers, and they were wearing black and white with significant hats. So—[laugh]
So that was fun.
That’s really marvelous.
Do you happen to recall the remarks that Larry Summers gave, speaking of Harvard presidents and women?
Yeah. I can’t remember just what he said, but I—I thought perhaps that was blown up out of proportion. I mean, I don’t really—I suspect he didn't have the kind of open mind one would like, but I think it was unnecessary to make such a big fuss over it. [laugh] Do you remember what he said?
He ascribed the reason that there aren’t very many women in science to, I think, three things, one being perhaps they just don’t really have that inclination to go into science. Perhaps they don’t have a professional drive. And then discrimination is—
Maybe they don’t have the mathematical skills, yeah.
That sort of thing.
Yeah. Well, I mean, you know, I guess I—I just don’t let myself get riled up about things like that. I think probably—in many ways, you do better by proving that they're wrong rather than arguing. [laugh]
[laugh] You have done a lot for female students and faculty and such at UCLA, though, in your time here, as well.
Yes. That was really a lot of fun. When I came to UCLA, there was a group that no longer exists, and I'm kind of sorry it doesn't. It was called the Association of Academic Women, and it was open to membership from women faculty, researchers, librarians, and people who worked directly with students. I found in my department there were very few women here. When I came, there were two other women on the faculty of—what was—in Earth and Space Sciences, which was after I came. But I was in IGPP; there were no women that I recall. There may have been, but I wasn’t aware of any. And I was the only woman in the space physics group. The other people I knew were all men. So when I heard about this group, I thought it would be really nice to meet some women academics, and I joined it as an assistant research geophysicist. But I was really enthusiastic, so I got to be a—I think I had the title of professional relations chair. And so that gave me the go-ahead to try to talk to administrators about what was going on with women on campus. And I remember suggesting to the chancellor—with the enormous title of professional relations chair of the Association of Academic Women that he probably hadn’t ever heard of—that he should set up an advisory committee on the status of women. And I think this is probably about the time that MIT was doing its famous study.
But I was very aware of the absence of women in the sciences and the limited number of women, period, on the campus. And I think he actually set up the committee before Title IX was passed. And when Title IX was passed, a directive came from the head of the nine-campus University of California that every campus had to set up a committee. I think our committee was set up before. And it was chaired by a woman who had the title which no longer exists—dean of women. I mean, there was a dean of women on campus. There were deans, and then there was a dean of women. There was no dean of men. And she chaired it, but I was extremely active in that committee, and I took over the—we set up—it was a committee that had faculty, researchers, staff, and student representatives. So we set up subcommittees on students, on staff, and on faculty. And there was no data on how many women there were, so I remember going through the catalog and just counting every female name, and then putting question marks beside the few names where I couldn't figure it out from—and came up with really interesting statistics. I think it was 12% of assistant professors and 6% of associate professors and 4% of full professors were women.
And then I looked to see what departments they were in, and it turned out that most of them were—25%—we have 70 departments on campus, and 25% of the women were in four departments—dance, women’s physical education, nursing, and social—I don’t even remember what it was called—social sciences or something like that. And it turned out—oh no, maybe it was—I can’t remember—I don’t think it was social sciences; I think it was public health. And I found out that they had absorbed the Department of Home Economics, and that was why we had so many women in that school. I mean, it was appalling. And on the staff study, we found that there were job titles—the one I remember most vividly—bookbinder and female bookbinder, and they had exactly the same qualifications and different pay. And the other thing I remember is that we discovered that—you know, in-state tuition—there was no in-state tuition in those days. There were just fees. So if you were a woman who was a resident of the state and you married a man who was not a resident of the state, he got—whoops, excuse me—if you were a man who was a resident of the state and you married a woman who was outside the state, she immediately was qualified for in-state tuition waiver. If you were a woman who was a resident of the state and you married a man who was from outside the state, you lost your status.
I mean, you were the property of your husband, and you had the privileges of your husband, as soon as you got married. They changed that before our report came out. But it was really—it’s hard to believe how many problems there were for women in those days. So it was fun. And I have to say that the UCLA administration was extremely supportive and very receptive to doing things. It’s taking—it’s still going on. Nothing happens quickly. If you projected at that stage how many women there would be on the faculty today, just assuming that they had equal chance if they graduated with their degree at the same time as a man, we would have many more women [laugh] on the faculty today than we do.
But people are paying attention to it, and it is changing. And the evidence is that once you get to a sort of critical mass, like a third, people are less sensitive to saying, “Oh, you can’t add her because she’s a woman.” Or, “You should add her because she’s a woman.”
Are there any changes you think still need to be made to get or retain more women in the sciences?
In the sciences? Well, yeah. I think probably, but I think it start…I don’t know, but my colleague Fran Bagenal at University of—Colorado University—B-A-G-E-N-A-L—has been studying what’s going on. She seems to feel that we lose a lot of our potential physics majors in the four years of college. And she has documented this. I'm really—I find it surprising, but she says that when they graduate from high school, the differences are not great between the women and the women, but that they come in to undergraduate physics and they drop out. And the percentage of women—AIP has done statistics, and it has been going down, the percentage of women, since about 2015. I can’t—to me, it’s baffling. I don’t know what it is that’s leading to that. But I think we have work to do.
At least we don’t have “physicist” and “female physicist” as job titles. [laugh]
As job titles, right.
Speaking of undergraduate education, though, it’s also quite interesting that you, in addition to everything else you've done, you wrote a textbook [laugh], Introduction to Space Physics.
What inspired you to write one?
Well, I think I have to give credit to Chris Russell, who was the inspiration that we—there really was no good space physics textbook. It’s hard to believe—when I was a graduate student at Harvard, my E&M textbook for the first half of the course was a translation of a German textbook, and for the second half of the course was the untranslated part two of the German textbook. So, I mean, textbooks were not always there. And when I was a student, most of the textbooks were still the German textbooks that had been written a couple of decades earlier. So when I came onto the faculty, Chris pointed out there was no real textbook in space physics. And we put together a course in space physics where we had—we gave quite a few of the lectures, but we had colleagues from other institutions come and talk about their specialization and the things they were particularly known for, and then we asked them to write up their material as a chapter in a book. And so the book—then Chris and I spent a lot of time trying to integrate the chapters and to eliminate the worst—the most prominent differences in style. But it is just a collection. But it was needed. There was nothing else. It was comprehensive. And at least many of the chapters were really very well written and covered the material really quite well. So I think it was a combination of—I think the coverage is not uniform, but it’s quite comprehensive. And it was timely. And almost everybody I meet who’s younger than Chris and me studied space physics from our textbook. And it’s just such fun. I mean, it was adopted all over the world. It was translated into Chinese. I don’t think it was translated into a lot of European languages, because English is the language of science, so people study science in English. I don’t think it got translated into other languages. But even my Chinese students studied from our textbook. So that was really very gratifying, that we got that book—I mean, it clearly—even today people tell me they still hang on to their copy.
What was it like working with academic publishers on a textbook?
We worked with Cambridge University Press. And incidentally, we turned over the proceeds to the Department, so never made any fortune out of it. Which I think was the right thing to do. But what did you ask me?
Oh, working with the publishers.
Oh, the publishers. They were fine. They didn't give us an awful lot of trouble, but the one thing I had been unaware of was that I had to get releases from the original publisher for every image in the book. And that took an enormous amount of time that I didn't appreciate. [laugh]
But we had no trouble. I don’t even remember having trouble with editors or anything.
Well, we've certainly covered a lot of ground in this interview. Is there anything that we haven't talked about that you would like to speak on?
I'm sure there are a lot of things we haven't talked about. [laugh] No. I guess I should say that my enthusiasm for science led one of my two children to become a scientist. I have one physicist child. But the other one just—she liked science, but she went into history. But they both went into academia, so it’s fun.
[laugh] That’s a very nice note to end on.
1: The reference was probably to:
Olsen, Maximon, and Wergeland, Theory of High-Energy Bremsstrahlung and Pair Production in a Screened Field, Phys. Rev. 106, 27 (1957)
They refer to:
H. A. Bethe and L. C. Maximon, Theory of Bremsstrahlung and Pair Production. I. Differential Cross Section, Phys. Rev. 93, 768 (1954)