C. Stuart Bowyer - Session II

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ORAL HISTORIES
Interviewed by
Richard Hirsh
Interview date
Location
NASA
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Interview of C. Stuart Bowyer by Richard Hirsh on 1978 March 10,
Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics,
College Park, MD USA,
www.aip.org/history-programs/niels-bohr-library/oral-histories/4526-2

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This telephone interview deals with Bowyer’s research in non-solar x-ray astronomy while he worked at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C. He discusses his functions as a member of a group of scientists, directed by Herbert Friedman, who performed numerous observations of cosmic x-ray sources in 1963 and after. Bowyer relates the competitive, spirit that existed between the NRL group and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology-American Science and Engineering, Inc. group that made the first conclusive observation of x-rays originating from outside the solar system.

Transcript

Hirsch:

When we talked on the phone way back about your early work at NRL, something that I noticed when I read through all those early papers, from ‘60 through ‘64 or so, ‘62 being Giaconni’s paper, and then your papers in ‘64 — immediately people are talking about neutron stars.

Bowyer:

Yeah, right.

Hirsch:

Of course, neutron stars were theorized years before, in 1938, ‘39. But it doesn’t seem like anyone is really picking up the idea seriously until you guys come out with observations of X-ray sources. Now, could you possibly tell me what the status of neutron stars was — the way people were thinking about them, and why, immediately after the first discoveries, people are thinking about them again?

Bowyer:

OK. The problem with doing this is that you’ll get my impressions, and it’s not clear that my impressions are really what’s valid. On the other hand, — I’ve had to say that, but I think we’ve got a fair chance of being right. They were postulated — neutron stars first came on by a guy named Zwicky, like in 1934 or something. Zwicky was marginally sane. I mean, everyone agrees he’s an egomaniac, and he may have been beyond that. I mean, he really may have been just slightly bananas. The guy was — I mean, the degree of his egomaniaism is hard to conceive of, unless –- people — I hardly knew the guy, but I would call him, I called Zwicky for a piece of information once, and he said, “I can’t give you that information, because I’m going to supply the epochal — you know the definitive work on this, very shortly.” I said, “Oh?” Then I checked around, and it turned out he’d been saying that for three years. So I thought, gee, that’s really… I called the guy back up, and he says, “Aw, those are my detractors.” He sort of sounded like Velikovsky or something, see. OK, so he suggested it first. But, given his personality, and also the fact that he was not a — given his personality, he was looked at as a wild man, sort of. Some of his stuff is right but some of it was garbage. So he suggested it — but, so what? OK? Then the next guy who did it was Oppenheimer. Now, Oppenheimer you know, outstanding guy, no one ever disputes that. On the other hand, he’s a physicist. And astronomers — certainly in the past, but even today, some of them are a little jealous or askance at physicists, OK? There’s a difference, physicists are — OK, so that’s what the background was. And there was no observational evidence. And in fact there’s some valid things about it.

Theory will provide lots of fascinating possibilities, of which nine-tenths aren’t — Mother Nature hasn’t decided to run the world that way. So, OK, then why did neutron stars pop up in things? I think that the reason it did was a combination of two things. There was a guy named H.W. Chu, who wrote a really, it may have been his PhD thesis paper or may have been the first paper after that, in which he had a really definitive study, and put a lot of stuff together. I’m not at all sure that it was that innovative. But it is really a 100 page document saying that you’re bound to have a neutron star, you’re really going to have a neutron star. OK, and that came out, a preprint, right about the time that –- Oh, he also predicted that there were X-rays, that you would get X-ray emission from it. OK, now his prediction was, you’d get X-ray emission from thermal, from the fact that it formed hot and was going to radiate that. OK, now, would that have had as big a splash? I’m not sure it would have a big impact at all, but the combination of, Friedman got a preprint of that and Friedman immediately started talking about neutron stars in terms of X-rays. And Friedman is a very splashy guy, he gets in the press and all that sort of stuff, and he talks as the layman scientist — I mean, he can talk, he can relate to the level of the layman easily. So I think it was the fact that Chu came up with this thing, and then Friedman grabbed it, and had some exciting new results, that nobody knew what the hell it was all about. And it was those two things, I think.

Hirsch:

I’m about Morton, D.C. Morton? He was also — the paper that followed your paper in NATURE, about your first discovery, right after that Morton had a paper on neutron stars also.

Bowyer:

Yes. Well, Don Morton was at the Naval Research Laboratory, and he might have gone — I guess he’d just left by then and gone to Princeton. But he is a more “standard” type of scientist, and very good. He was mainly an experimentalist, but he was good enough that he had a lot of theory capability, theoretical knowledge. And what he did was, make a computation based essentially on the core of White Dwarfs, as I recall what it was. But he was able to make a great leap forward, and get that instantaneous paper, really quite heavy, looked like a solid piece of work, based on Chu’s sort of wild ass speculation in this theoretical paper, and then Friedman’s observations relating to this, then Morton saw that it was a solid paper. So then what happens is — I think that was the beginning and a good impetus for the snowball effect, because then there were all kinds of people that said, “Look, it’s respectable to do this, in fact, it’s unexplored.” So somehow, if you write a paper, that’s a cheap paper, it’s a new area so it’s not that hard — in a new area, OK, it looks — if there’s no reason that that new area has any standing, then nobody pays any attention to it. But if there is some reason for it, why, then it becomes quite legitimate. So there were — guys like Salpeter was the next guy that leapt in, and he’s the heavy guy that does real high powered or is capable of doing real high powered theoretical work, and so it became a legitimate area because of all this new data, so you could do something in it, and it became easy to get a huge amount of stuff done. So then it came, SPLASH. But I think the combination was, what started the thing going was Friedman’s observational data, which made it respectable. But why didn’t that come out of Giaconni? Well, because Giaconni hadn’t had Chu’s paper, and didn’t relate the thing to a neutron star. I think it was Friedman’s thing that did that. And that’s what — fine. End.

Hirsch:

Am I wrong in assuming that neutron stars were not used in theory in other fields besides?

Bowyer:

They would occur. They would pop up. But very seldom, and it was all these — you don’t get that much respect for writing a paper on something that probably is ridiculous. So people don’t do it. Or they’ll do it from time to time, but nobody’ll pay any attention to it. It’s only when it becomes somehow legitimized. And it takes some trigger thing to legitimatize it. Take extraterrestrial life. That’s sort of science fiction, until — let me see if …(interruption)… OK, extraterrestrial life was science fiction, it was garbage — until a senior guy, Drake, … till Drake, who’s head of Aerocibo, professor at Cornell and head of Aerocibo, he came along and did this first listening with the Aerocibo telescope, OK. And he did it sort of — when the telescope first became available. And that legitimatized that. And then there was a huge rash of papers. That happened in the early sixties or late fifties. He made the measurement. Then it suddenly was legitimatized. Then there was a whole bunch of papers, because it was now a legitimate field and you could write papers easily, so the big blotch of papers, all the easy papers got done –- and then it went away. So now people don’t write that much about it any more, though they’re still interested in it. So it’s that pattern which occurs often. There’s also a faddishness about it, like the Stock Market — this kind of stock is hot, like vending machines and (?) stocks or something… So, to answer your question: were there neutron stars around (?)? Yes and no. They were around, but nobody was doing much, and maybe there was a paper or two, but —

Hirsch:

I imagine neutron stars were also attractive because you would observe them largely in the X-ray range, emissions.

Bowyer:

OK. In fact, see, what happened was that Chu, H.Y. Chu said, “You will observe them because of the thermal emission,” so it looked like that’s what it was. But in fact very rapidly it turned out that you wouldn’t.

Hirsch:

Why is that?

Bowyer:

Because they cool off too fast. They cool off fast. But that came out of that original theory stuff in a hurry, that they cool off very rapidly, and so you wouldn’t see them on a thermal emission effect. I don’t think anybody’s ever seen them on a thermal emission. The way you see them now is, the first suggestion as to why you might see them was advanced by Hayakawa or somebody, a Japanese guy, in the late sixties, and there were a couple of papers then, when he made this suggestion. Then that stopped, because it was a very — that’s a very difficult problem to handle, the problem of matter streaming from one star to another and then heating up, and there was no reason to believe that that was any more valid than anything else. So the suggestion, made in ‘68 or something, there was another paper or two and that was the end of it — until a couple of stars were observed which were binary stars, the first, second detection, which were really binary stars, and it was concluded that that’s really what it is. So then there was a huge amount of work that carried on, way way on, but it took something again to make that — it’s when you’re in research, you don’t want to spend your time unless you think there’s some possibility that it’s right. Oh, back on your question, weren’t they supposed to be X-ray emitters? Yea. But it was very rapidly shown that they weren’t. And then the true reason they came out — I guess it was the big splash at the beginning. That’s another thing, there was a big splash at the beginning there, due to X-ray sources, and that really produced a huge amount of theoretical work. Then, a second impetus came along, and that was the pulsars. So, Friedman thing was sort of a shot in the arm, and then it kind of, suddenly got much — then neutron stars, then pulsars came along, then that clearly legitimatized the field of study of neutron stars. I shouldn’t take away from that pulsar bit. The reason that I didn’t mention it before is clear, that I was thinking X-ray astronomy. But that came a little, in the sequence of things it came a little later. It had already been raised to a — I can remember going to a conference — yeah, that’s right, it was Giaconni, when we were (?) pieces, “What is this stuff about neutron stars?” He says, “I can’t believe it. There’s no real proof that this is what it is.” Salpeter was saying, “Oh yes, but they’re so much fun to do” and all that. So the point was that there was some legitimate reason for doing it, so theoreticians enjoyed it.

Hirsch:

Now, your occultation experiment in ‘64, that was designed specifically to see, to observe the neutron star. And you didn’t see a neutron star, or the evidence indicated that there was no neutron star because you had relatively diffuse X-ray emission. Why did you not see the neutron star?

Bowyer:

OK, the reason is that 90 percent of the flux is a — is diffuse, and only 10 percent is a point source, and there’s a certain amount of noise in any data. So when you looked at the whole Crab Nebula, you saw all the X-rays, neutron star plus the diffuse stuff. Then as the moon occulted more and more the diffuse stuff, why, you’d see less and less X-ray flux, until finally you get right to the center, and then at that one point, you lost, instead of just incremental amounts, you lost 10 percent. OK, OK — because that’s what the neutron star is. So if you had perfect statistics, if you had a very large counter and had perfect statistics, we would have seen a bigger step there. We would have seen – we’d have seen the same step, but the noise on the curve to it and after it would have been sufficiently lower that you could have seen this big drop. OK. And really, what the paper should have been — there’s no neutron star there that has flux more than X percent really. But it didn’t have that, right? So, Friedman was the guy — you know, he kind of averaged together chunks of the data, and it was clear that the thing fell off. So it was clear it wasn’t a neutron star — averaged along, and I know he never even thought about pulling the game of looking for the combination.

Hirsch:

Was he actually doing that reduction?

Bowyer:

That happened instantaneously, see. The thing flew at about 7 o’clock in the evening — I don’t know, something like that, maybe 8 or something. And there was this big long falloff. And so we really went to a room where there was a lot of table space, and just started plotting it out, right. And Friedman actually was doing most of the plotting, and I was helping him, and Brian was working at the sepia, the occult — the (?) I think, I’m not sure, maybe he was getting the altitude data, I’ve forgotten which, but anyway, it did happen right that night. Right that night.

Hirsch:

Is that unusual? To do it so quickly?

Bowyer:

Right. Right. Yeah.

Hirsch:

It was so exciting though.

Bowyer:

Yes, that’ right. It’s unusual, it’s also, on top of that, Friedman usually didn’t do that either. I mean, usually Brian was the guy who would do it or Chub or sometimes me, but since I was a graduate student, why, the typical thing would be, Brian, would be Chub would do it or Brian, but that was sufficiently exciting that Friedman just did it.

Hirsch:

The first time, I think it was the first time that attitude control system was used?

Bowyer:

Oh no, not yet, it was the first one of those that was noticeable but in fact, I might even have told you this before, but if I didn’t, they had flown about 30 of these things, and — but they usually were done for some other, they were usually done for air glow or stuff like that, but I think they might have been done for astronomy before, but the system was very marginal. Very marginal.

Hirsch:

Right. Even after that — well, sometimes they were used, sometimes they were not, at ACS?

Bowyer:

Yeah. Yeah. That’s correct. In fact, at the beginning, see, if you wanted to make a survey of the sky, why, you left the thing alone and it would wander around. So it depended upon the group, what they were trying to do, and history of how they got their data analyzed, because if you let a rocket go up there and just wander around, why, to tell where it pointed as a function of time turned out to be a tricky thing to do. Not particularly tricky, but it was fairly time consuming and took a lot of screwing around to determine where the thing was pointing. Also, a lot of people just looked at individual sources. But clearly for X-ray astronomy, you want to look at the whole sky, so — so they weren’t used by NRL, because it had the capability of figuring out where the rocket looked at as a function of time, and they wanted to make an all-sky scan.

Hirsch:

There were other mechanisms that were thought about, discussed, at that time, right?

Bowyer:

Emission mechanisms?

Hirsch:

Right. What was the status of the different ones? Of course it varied for each source — you have the synchrotron radiation from the Crab Nebula, and then there was the inverse Compton effect —

Bowyer:

Yeah. The inverse Compton effect, I don’t think was thought of until later in the game. And in fact, see, when I first — I might have told you this too, but that’s all right — I went in to Friedman with a one page — you have a one page thing and you go in and say, you have to fill out the school thing, “what are you going to do for your PhD?” and you put your name down, your thesis advisor and what your topic’s going to be and how that’s related to the previous work, or something like that, and I put in there, you know, each of those things, and I said, “I’m going to look for X-rays in the sky, and relate these to theories of X-ray emission in the galaxy.” Friedman laughed and said, “You can’t do that, because there aren’t any theories for X-ray production in the galaxy.” So that was the first status. But then very soon on, — there was an initial period of confusion, OK. Then very soon on after that, why, there was one of these theoretical papers, came out, but was again a cheap theoretical paper.

By that I mean it’s easy, see, in which somebody, I think it was Burbage, made the point that, in counter distinction to radio astronomy, where no one knew what the emission mechanism was, there were lots of possibilities, and there was a long period of confusion before it was determined what the emission mechanisms really were that were operative in the galaxy. In X-ray astronomy, there were only a limited number of X-ray production mechanisms, and they were already well established and well understood physically, and they were thermal emission, which is neutron star, something like that, and (?)and … (interruption) There were those three, (?) synchrotron emission, and thermal emission, and in fact, it wasn’t until — I’m pretty sure it was Burbage said, “Gee, that’s all there is.” So then inverse Compton came in later. In fact, that wasn’t all there was. But still the point was good, that there were only a limited number of fundamental emission mechanisms, and they were well understood. But what was not understood was, what the models were that produced what was the actual mechanism, that produced this kind of — but the physical process was well understood. So in terms of this initial discussion, initial thing, there was this dichotomy: whatever was the emission mechanism was understood. It was either thermal or — it was one of these three basic mechanisms — and it was almost assuredly — except almost everybody thought that they were (?) from almost everything except say for example the Crab or a few things that were synchrotron emission. What the model was that was producing it was a complete puzzle.

That didn’t get squared away, as I said, until ‘68 was the first suggestion. But since there wasn’t any observational evidence, why, that kind of became a possible model. I don’t even know what the other possible models were. Maybe I can, maybe I can’t. But it seems to me like there were nuclear reactions on the surface of stars and things like that. But it doesn’t make any difference, because — well, it does to you but not to me — the point was that there were other ones around, but there weren’t any strong — it was sort of fumbling around. That was the whole feeling about what the model was, until there was concrete evidence that they were binary systems. And that probably didn’t occur until ‘70 at a guess, considerably longer.

Hirsch:

Well, I went through a lot of papers about Skullex(?) I for example. People are continuously trying to fit the data to a curve of (?) at a certain temperature.

Bowyer:

Yes.

Hirsch:

So obviously (?) is a big thing.

Bowyer:

Yes, and that’s because it’s clearly not a synchrotron source. You can look at it, and it’s not a synchrotron source. So you know it has to be (?). So then the first thing is to try to fit it, fit a model in there, fit the emission mechanism, but then, how do you get the model?

Hirsch:

You know it’s not synchrotron? It’s what, not polarized?

Bowyer:

Well, but the thing is, it wasn’t, you could never — it would have to be measured, whether it’s polarized or not, and that is a difficult measurement, and still today is only done for one source and a half. But if it’s synchrotron emission, then you’re going to have cosmic, you’re going to have pretty high energy electrons zipping around, and you ought to see it as, in other parts of the spectrum. Also it’s extremely difficult to get synchrotron to come from a point source, from a star, and it was really wrong but Skullux I was seen as a star, so you just can’t contain the high energy electrons, so you’d see a thing like the Crab Nebula. Clearly Skull was not the Crab, so by default, it was the other guy, maybe —

Hirsch:

There was a lot of problem, many problems with fitting the model to Skullex I, even though it was the first seen, the brightest — you did some work trying to correlate radio and optical fluxes of Skullex I, and lots of other people were doing that, correlating with X-ray fluxes, and yet, models were hard to make for it.

Bowyer:

Yes.

Hirsch:

It’s the most observed source, it appears, but it’s not very well understood.

Bowyer:

Yes. OK, there’s a whole bunch of things to say. First, as I say, even trying to fit the (?) to it turns out not to be very good, because, now it’s known that it’s a binary source, and what you’re seeing is, you’re seeing the main start, the optical star, the cooler temperature optical star, but what you’re seeing is the combination of heating from the X-ray star, and reflection, off of the main star. You never see the main star at all, and you’re never seeing the X-ray. You’re seeing the X-rays all right, you’re seeing the X-ray from the X-ray star, but in the optical star, you’re never seeing the optical star. You’re seeing the optical star as heated, and the X-rays reprocessed from it. So, that makes it extremely difficult. That makes an extraordinarily ridiculous spectrum. And the radio emission, stuff like that, is coming from someplace else altogether. I don’t think there is a good model for where the radio stuff comes from, even now. So what that means is, that although the basic mechanism says, “Hey, it has to be (?)”, that’s coming from the X-rays — then the optical stuff is really a mish mash, and it makes a really messy model. So that’s why.

Hirsch:

So what you identified as the source, the blue star, 13th magnitude, that is Just the large companion star to the X-ray star?

Bowyer:

— that’s right, and even now, you don’t know what kind of star it is.

Hirsch:

What, the optical?

Bowyer:

The 13th magnitude star, because of all this distortion. You never see — and you have to get around the other side of it, and see it when it’s, you really have to weigh it, or get around and see its undistorted side. Lots of other stars, optical counterparts now, you will see, they’ll be rotating, and when the X-ray source gets on the far side, you’re looking at the back side of the optical star, and you say, “Ah, it’s such and such kind of star.” Then when the X-ray source comes on the front side, you see mish mash, you see garbage, you’re seeing this reflection. But because you get the undistorted side, you can see what it is. So there are lots of stars like that. But in the case of Skull, you never see it, so you don’t know what kind of star it is really. That isn’t crucial. You know, there are lots of stars that are puzzles, and usually you don’t give a damn about, in the long term you don’t give a damn about one individual star. What you want to do is, you want to use an individual stars to try and give you the answer to an overall puzzle, and the overall puzzle is clearly answered.

Hirsch:

Speaking of Skullex I, there are lots of other people of course doing work on it, since it was the brightest.

Bowyer:

Yes, right.

Hirsch:

And perhaps most problematical source, including the people —

Bowyer:

— first identified, too. That was, that’s what started you on the work to begin with, hoping that it would be the Rosetta Stone — which it didn’t turn out to be. But anyway, go ahead.

Hirsch:

People at Lawrence Radiation Lab in Livermore were doing also lots of work determining the spectrum of Skullex-I.

Bowyer:

Yes.

Hirsch:

I was over there yesterday, and I asked them, “Look, what happened? It doesn’t seem like people are really picking up your data, doing much with it,” and they gave me the explanation that they were not perceived as being real astronomers, and therefore though they had all this data, no one really did anything with it. Did you have any relationship with the Livermore people?

Bowyer:

Yeah, in fact — see, you made a statement I would like to make lots of comments on. The second thing is, you asked a question, which is quite different. OK, now, they’re not doing X-ray astronomy, and so that’s why nobody has anything to do with their data now. But even more, they didn’t before, it’s worth discussing, have more to do with Livermore people, the guy… (off tape ) You made a statement I would like to make lots of comments on. The second thing is, you asked a question, which is quite different. OK. Now, they’re not doing X-ray astronomy.

Hirsch:

Right.

Bowyer:

It’s worth discussing why they didn’t have more to do with Livermore people. The guy — when I showed up there, I was there one day, and there was a guy named — he then became director of NASA, Hans Mark — so I was there like one day, and Hans Mark called me up and said, he was then head of the nuclear engineering department down here, and so he said, “I’d like to talk to you.” It’s a strange place, full of high powered people and all, so I went down to talk to him, and he suggested a collaboration in which I give him a bunch of equipment that I have, and then we share all the data, and he pull it off. OK? It looked to me like I was getting swamped in this thing. I came back and asked Kinsey Anderson, who’s now director here, and said, I — I might have asked somebody else, too, I asked George Shield –- “I can’t tell what’s going on, I’m just a beginner here and I don’t know what’s going on. What is this? Is this something I should do? And I was tipped off that Hans Mark, by all these guys, that Hans Mark is in fact a real opportunist, and that he saw me as somebody coming in that he could use to zip along. Kinsey had some experiments with him in which he, Kinsey, was much more established, but he also was — he broke off the relationship. Mark was a real climber. You can see, he was, to start off with, I think — I’m not sure where he was at first, but he became head of the department here, then he became full time out there, was considered the director for the state science lab here, and funny, because he wasn’t that big a deal in state research, but he was making giant leaps above what you would have thought he would. He got stopped here because of some people who were concerned about what he was really interested in — was he really interested in the laboratory or was he really interested in it as a stepping stone? Next thing you know he’s director over there and now he’s undersecretary to the Air Force. So Mark, — did I have any interaction with him? My interaction was that, really, I lucked in, and then, befuddled by not knowing what to do, and then I check around and I’m told, “Look out, he’ll eat you alive.” So OK, that was my interaction with him.

Hirsch:

How about the other people?

Bowyer:

Well, they were all in that group, see. After that, they had — after that there were some good guys there. They weren’t, they didn’t have a reputation as being really out — being really — in the in-group, what they typically did was had — they would report observations. And they wouldn’t go much beyond that. They were one of the few groups in X-ray astronomy, but they weren’t ones that were really pace setters or something, and they’d done solo things, but when you would go talk to them, the leaders in the group — there was Hans Mark, OK, and in fact, some of the data they got were influential in a crucial area. In fact, he would go around and give talks, and emphasize how influential they were, and I’ll give you an example of a talk, and I was told by one of the members in our department who doesn’t such care for, who didn’t want to hire me in the first place and really would just as soon have gotten rid of me — still, now he’s happy that I’m here and all that, except that in his mind, he still doesn’t understand why we got into X-ray astronomy, OK? A very influential guy in the department here.

Hirsch:

His name? Bayer: Naw, too touchy. But anyway, he considered me a (?) except that as recently as three or four years ago, he got drunk at a party and was telling me, like he didn’t even know he was talking to me, because he says, “George Field got here, he insisted we get in X-ray astronomy, and it’s ridiculous.” Something like that. You could tell, he must not have been thinking he was talking to me, but there it is, it tells you, gives you the mental set of the guy, see. OK, he went and heard Hans Mark. Hans Mark was talking at (?) over here and said, “Look, we were the first people to measure the temperature, the thermal temperature of Skullex I, and you can extrapolate the thermal (?) back, and you get a 13th magnitude star, and this was the key element when Giaconni and Sandage and that group — Giaconni got the position, then Sandage looked at the sky and found these two stars and one of them was 13th magnitude, so that’s the identification.” This guy is saying “Look how good Hans Mark is,” which was half, a compliment to Hans Mark, and half: “Why aren’t you doing something, Bower?” Well, in fact, I just gave you a talk about what Hans Mark looked at. It had nothing to do with this 13th magnitude star. Just a star.

It happened to be there were two stars in the airbox, the other star was excluded because it looked like a very normal star — it was like 15th magnitude, as I recall — but why was this one 13th magnitude? Well, it was like 13th magnitude because it happened to be putting out an optical radiation, and because it’s getting all this reflection and reprocessing, see. And he isn’t looking at the (?) at all, he’s getting this reprocessed stuff. It’s really — So anyway, what is Hans Mark doing? Hans Mark — but it still is true that he did have this influence, saying, “Look, this ties in with the Livermore group’s stuff.” So that was an influence. OK, then after Mark became more supervisory and stuff like that, why, it would — the subsequent work they did was, they built these very thin window detectors, and they would go off and fly, and they would look for soft X-ray mirrors, and they would find things like the remnants of supernova radiation, OK? Well, it’s good work and all. But after the Crab Nebula and stuff like this, you knew, and with a little bit of theory which had already been done, you knew that X-ray sources, are going to be, I mean, supernova remnants are going to be X-ray sources. So what they did was, found some of these, and that’s good work, but somehow it isn’t a pace setter thing. It isn’t a new, wow, fantastic — eye opener. In addition, these guys are not particularly, their personalities — there were some guys there that were very — it ranged from very unimpressive. You go talk to them and they had a number of people in their group who were professionals, and shared in the professional level, but whose only thing was — capable of building these very thin windows. Well, an astronomer or theoretician would go talk to them — you know, like talking to one of the crew of — intellectually — a technician. Some other guys, their personalities just weren’t very strong and dominant. So they weren’t pace setters either in the work they did, or in their personalities. OK? That’s two — two responses to your question.

Hirsch:

Right, one question and a statement. How about your relations with NRL after you came here in ‘67?

Bowyer:

OK. When I — first I left NRL, went to Catholic U, OK, and immediately, there was a problem, in that Friedman doesn’t like competition. I might have made some comment about Giaconni, and Giaconni is a pretty Machiavellian guy. I mean, he’s very good, and outstanding guy, knows what to do in organizing, but the guy is pretty Machiavellian, you can’t get around that. So it’s easy, if you’re competing with him, to — Friedman is not quite as Machiavellian, but he’s extraordinarily competitive, and although you don’t think so if you talk to the guy — OK, when I went to Catholic U, see, I was going to stay at NRL, and he would have preferred that I stay at NRL, OK. But I went to Catholic U, and immediately became competition. I wasn’t very much competition, but any competition he doesn’t care for, OK. Next thing he did was, I got some guys who were buddies there to help me, as consultants, OK. It seemed fine to me, like the mechanical engineer I got had six consulting businesses on the side, and another guy I went and asked, a very nice guy who’s a close personal friend, and he was heavy on the electronics.

Now, Friedman felt somehow that was terrible, that I was using his people, and I can’t — see, I can’t tell you why. See, he’s very competitive and he’s not, he wasn’t in the tradition of being an academician. Academician isn’t a good word. Professorial. For instance, somebody comes out of here with a PhD, and I want to make sure, I have a bias, I want him to succeed, because in the bigger scale things, it reflects on me favorably, both in the Great Book in the Sky, and also emotionally, if they do well. Friedman — and it’s because, that’s what a university’s supposed to do, it’s supposed to turnout good students, see. But Friedman, see, didn’t have that attitude, maybe because he was in a research lab or maybe because he was just competitive. But he was incensed that I’d done this, OK? So our relations were extraordinarily poor. Not extraordinarily poor, but they were quite strained. He also, interestingly enough, was not that supportive of me getting a job out here. I mean, his letter of recommendation was weak. Letters of recommendation are supposed to be confidential. In fact they are. But again, you’ll be at a party, and somebody will get drunk, and they’ll say, “It’s funny that Friedman wrote such a weak letter on your behalf.” See? So anyway, that was — I can’t tell you all Friedman’s motivations, but I can tell you that they were — The next thing that happened was, there, up on the wall there, you see that? The entire (?) A — OK — NG 51 28 — I made a rocket flight and discovered X-rays from there.

Hirsch:

That’s while you were here?

Bowyer:

Yes. I think the flight occurred before — yes, it was while I was here. So that ticked Friedman off, because he had discovered X-rays from there. He also discovered X-rays from 3T 2 73, OK, except that, his measurement was consistent with noise. It was a one sigma detection, but he had a mistake in his air analysis. He’d done a couple of double smoothings, and he thought it was a big detection. This one there, he thought he’d detected but didn’t publish it. OK? I detected them from this thing. I detected them from 3 T 273, also from this, and published it, OK? That I’m sure didn’t sit well with him. In fact, on 3 T 273, his one sigma detection was a valid detection. But that doesn’t count in the big — although he thinks it counts — in fact, on their preprint pages, they have 3 C 273, a picture of that, but in fact, in the intellectual community, that doesn’t count. A one sigma detection. Sometimes in the references, you’ll see 3 C 273 in a reference, Friedman and Bowyer, Friedman’s paper and Bowyer’s Paper, but more often, just mine, because you have to know — you have to be someone who knew that Friedman’s was a spurious detection. This one here, he got if from the lows, not from the center, and see, they come from the center. In fact, they come from the galaxy, in the inside there, and this thing from the lows was action, inalterably spurious. Again, he made a statistical error, in which he had scanned across the thing, and then, he had processed his data in so many different combinations that if you added them all up, it looked like 100 or so, and then one of them turned out to be a 3 sigma bump. But the likelihood of getting a 3 sigma bump out of a 100 different permutations is finite. You have one chance in three of getting a bump, and he did, and it was off one of the lows, not off the center. Anyway, all that — there was a thing which could be interpreted — I was real competition at that point, and got an answer that was wrong or wasn’t giving his answer due respect, see, I don’t know which you prefer — Anyway, at this stage of the game, where the relationship is again good, I mean, I’d been on the block long enough, and …

Hirsch:

Now the relationship is better?

Bowyer:

I’d say, yea.

Hirsch:

How about this debate you had in the literature, about the diffuse background, soft X-ray background, 40, 46 angstroms — changes —

Bowyer:

Yea. OK; there was another one, in which he won, just by dint of his power as a senior scientist. What they had done, was, they had made a measurement — The question is, here’s this background. Do you want to ask this question, what is its intensity? That’s the first thing you want to ask. Then having measured it, then you want to say: where does it come from? OK. They looked at one part of the sky, one place, that was maybe three-fourths of the way from the galactic plane, the galactic pole. They made a measurement at this one spot. Then they said, “Ah, since there’s more hydrogen on the plane than there is at the pole, it must be attenuated,” so they made a correction based on this one spot that they had, to the pole, and then said, “This is what it is outside our galaxy.” And they said, “Look, this is much higher than an extrapolation of the flux that is seen at higher energies, so this must be some cosmological background, and in fact it must be” — then the next step after that was, “It’s probably thermal emission from an intergalactic medium, then there is this much intergalactic medium, and that’s enough intergalactic medium to close the universe.” Fantastic result – here’s your result — just amazing. OK. You’ve got to go clear back to the beginning, and you find that they looked at one spot in the sky, and made this extrapolation to the pole. OK, just about the same time, I made an all sky map, found out that you couldn’t make an extrapolation like that, that it wasn’t — although there was more at the poles than there was down a ways, that it didn’t go as the hydrogen con density.

It went as a fraction of the hydrogen con density, which is very puzzling — which then, if you made — I actually measured it at the pole, and the number was less than what Friedman had – OK, and I made — OK, I made a judgmental error. I made several, but one of them was, that, it looked marginally like it could be consistent with the high energy stuff. OK. Now, what happened eventually was that mine was a factor of, my measurement actually was, I had a number, plus or minus one sigma air bars. And the true number that eventually evolved, as coming near the poles, where I measured it, is within my air bars, one sigma air bars. It’s a factor of four below Friedman’s actual measurement, or three below Friedman’s actual measurement, and it’s ten below his extrapolation. OK? However, — and all the subsequent things, in Friedman’s chain, are wrong. Mine was wrong in that the number that I had is marginally above what you would see if you extrapolated up from the higher, the lower, energies, although it’s very close. I’m just too conservative. I should have taken my number exactly. But the number wasn’t that good, see. The only reason Friedman’s was so good is because he got a number that was a factor of 3 too high. I don’t know why he got the number too high. And then he made this extrapolation, so, another factor of 3, so it’s an order of magnitude too high, so clearly it was this big number. So, I had the solid measurement. I had the solid measurement and an extensive measurement — you know, I covered the whole sky. Friedman had this one source, and then one direction, OK. So then, — but Friedman got all the — he was getting all the — in fact, I’m not sure, we might even have gotten ours off first, I’m not sure, but he didn’t reference ours, with nothing else like that. So there was a lot of — I can’t remember for sure, but it’s very conceivable we sent him a preprint and they published theirs and didn’t mention ours, or something.

I can’t — historically what happened was that our number turned out to be right. It turns out that it’s still argued, whether there’s any extragalactic or not, that it’s, whether the correlation that Friedman used, which was hydrogen con density, is not a valid correlation — the correlation we measured is valid for where we measured it, but it turned out, that’s just chance, and when you look in the Southern Hemisphere, it doesn’t occur there. OK, so all that those steps that Friedman had were wrong. My measurement is still right, OK, but what was upsetting to me, and the question of controversy, was that we weren’t getting our just due out of this, see OK, without a doubt. There were also some other things. Field, who’s a — you may have known George Field?

Hirsch:

I’ve met him, read the papers.

Bowyer:

OK, well, he’s now head of Harvard Smithsonian, and he’s an outstanding theoretician. He did the theoretical analysis part. Also he’s conservative, and he doesn’t want to – he’s not conservative as an individual, but he wants to be sure he’s right, so, I couldn’t get him to say that maybe even the stuff is extragalactic, which is what you guys were saying, plus many more things beyond that, see. It turns out he also made a mistake in one part of the — by a factor of 1 over the square root of 3 or something — and so, when we made a rebuttal to their paper, why, then they came back and pointed out that we were wrong by — our analysis was wrong. Well, numerically, it was nothing, but if you have anything wrong, why, that makes you suspect. So we lost a little there. Yeah, that one was — it was the second thing we’d — the things I’d done were, ‘62, ‘73, and (?) and then the background, those were the big — I think the background was first. And I was busy trying to establish myself, and I wound up in this, that my results were insignificant in comparison with the master bit, see — so,

Hirsch:

How about your relationship with Lockheed? I remember in the early sixties, there was some dispute over —

Bowyer:

— oh yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah.

Hirsch:

Can you tell us something about —?

Bowyer:

Yeah, sure. Phil Fisher, fascinating, fascinating situation, Phil Fisher was — it’s fascinating what makes a success in the scientific community. Giaconni goes off, gets money for a hairbrained, absolutely ridiculous experiment, does — what? C-rays reflected from the moon. Yes. Ridiculous experiment. You know, you could only sell it to the Air Force, because only they would be stupid enough to do it. You know, get outstanding results — the guy’s clever enough, he runs with the ball and does outstanding stuff. OK. Fine. Friedman, sharp enough that he sees Giaconni doing this, you know, makes the measurement — he immediately leaps on, marshals his forces, becomes — it’s a real fight between the two of them, as to who is Mr. X-ray Astronomy, see. Now I’d say no doubt Giaconni has the upper hand, but for a long while, it was not clear. Even so, both of them are very senior high powered scientists. Only, we haven’t mentioned Phil Fisher — Phil Fisher, the only bastard that really said, “Here’s an unexplored band of the spectrum. Maybe we ought to do something. We’ll go build a bunch of detectors, and do this.” So he had that idea. He went hard to work. He went and sold it to NASA. NASA was very reluctant to do it, God knows why — but anyway, here was a guy that started on the ground floor, and did it the way a scientist is supposed to do it — did about three things wrong and fucked up completely. What he did wrong was he put three or four detectors, five or six detectors, little tiny ones, then the next thing, even though they were little tiny, one of them was big enough that if he happened to fly six months when he didn’t fly, Skull would have been up, he would have seen it, OK. If he’d have flown on time, he’d have been vindicated, he was vindicated. But there he was, he had the wrong — you know, he didn’t do the right thing on a number of — size of detectors — didn’t do the obvious thing of trying to get maximum sensitivity. Then he flew at the wrong time. He couldn’t help that, you know, pure chance. Then he got negative answers. Instead of saying, fly it the other six months, he felt he had to justify his answers. He had to get positive results. So he came up with a paper that says, “I’ve seen all these sources.” And OK, it was — there was the guy, and it was garbage. And it was clear to almost everybody that it was garbage.

Hirsch:

Why was that?

Bowyer:

Well, because — there’s a whole series of things. One is, that he said, “Look, I’ve seen them” — he shook some data. That was a mistake, — but you’ve got to, no, it wasn’t a mistake — you’ve gotta do that — he wouldn’t have gotten it by a referee anyway. Anyway, showed the data, it had all these jiggly lines, OK, and then he’d say, “Here, this jiggly point here, that’s” — you know — “such and such a star,” which you’d look up and say, it’s an M, an F Giant, OK? And you go look and you find out, that’s the only F giant he saw, he saw four more F giants but didn’t see them from then, and you go through and “Oh, that’s a so and so star he says he saw,” and you go look, and you find he didn’t see any of those, so — It was just a totally inconstructive data set. On top of that, you could just take his data, and run along and make a mean of it, and then say, “What is the one standard deviation?” and find out that it was, that these things were all statistical variations. He had done, on a most crude level, he’d done the analysis wrong. And in Cleveland when I saw him, he made the comment that Friedman did the analysis wrong. (Or: Friedman, when I saw him, I made the comment that Friedman did the analysis wrong.) It was subtler. He had slewed the data twice, in essence, and you’re allowed, that’s a clever thing, you’re not allowed you’re supposed to do just standard statistical tests, which keep you from getting in trouble. But Friedman in fact had slewed the data. You can smooth the data once, and not get in too much trouble, but he had unknowingly smoothed it twice, so — but what Friedman did that got him in trouble on these other things, was a trap sort of thing.

Hirsch:

This is on Friedman, now.

Bowyer:

Friedman. But Fisher just absolutely, just violated the whole basic rules of data analysts. He went along and said, “Here’s all these jagged lines, let’s take all the bottom ones here and call that the background.” You just don’t do that. I mean, you know, anybody — it wasn’t a trap, it was stupid. OK, and everybody realized that it was garbage, OK, except that, there was Bowyer busy saying, “Gee, I’ve got to get ahead in the world, I’ll write down all the reasons that it’s garbage, and then I’ll get that published.” So I did. OK. So that was that one. Since then, I think I told you but maybe not, Phil Fisher has gone bananas. Nuts. Zonked. He started off, you know, almost being — he could have been king of X-ray astronomy, see, THE originator, X-ray astronomy. Instead, he made some mistakes. Then, after that, he almost won another one. He was one of the first keyholes with a great big detector. He would have done a thing like, he would have done a third of a (?). The thing fell in the sea.

Hirsch:

When was that?

Bowyer:

That was like the second or third — no, the thing was like the Copernicus, it was like the second or first one, probably the first one, I guess it was the second one — just dumped in the ocean. And then the thing after that, he lost — really, I guess the guy — well, it’s hard to tell how clever he was. Maybe he wasn’t that clever and that’s why he got in these traps. The next thing he did, he apparently — I don’t know. Well, anyway. Maybe the fact that he was mentally unstable also prevented him from being successful earlier on. But then, I don’t know, about five years ago, he went completely bananas, went off to a mental institution, is now, I think last I heard he was head of his own company doing consulting, and they would put in proposals to NASA, which were bananas proposals, bizarre proposals — still at this stage, marginal, in and out of sanity — So, what about Phil Fisher? Yes. Amazing.

Hirsch:

Did you have anything to do with the other people at Lockheed?

Bowyer:

Oh yes, yes. The, Warren Afton(?) is a guy he hired, and has now taken over when Fisher went away, and we have talked about joint proposals. We have I think put in joint proposals. You know, a normal working — as you would with any other scientific community. It’s not a close, it’s not — well, they almost hired one of my students. In fact they offered one of my students a job two weeks ago. So…

Hirsch:

Let me finish off this line of questioning about relationships with other groups. How about… How about AS and E, Cambridge or Smithsonian group?

Bowyer:

Yes. You know, I don’t really have — in terms of collaboration, collaborating with them is sort of like collaborating with a shark. They’re happy to do it, but you always support their work, it’s clear. The second thing beyond that is, early on, I probably wasn’t in great odeur with Giaconni. But I’m not sure the basis of why, other than, I was at NRL, because after NRL I came out here. I didn’t have anything to do with Giaconni and that bunch. OK then later on, why, we started — we had — one of my students, Bruce (?) is very extremely aggressive, and he found they’d made an error in some of their stuff, and pointed it out in a very aggressive way, and that didn’t set too well with American Science and Engineering. We also didn’t toe the line on, we were always openly skeptical of Cygnus X-I being a black hole, and that doesn’t set well with — Giaconni wants it to be a black hole for a whole bunch of reasons, and — You know, we didn’t have many relations with them. But other than this criticism of Margon’s(?) of this thing, and some of our open — and that we weren’t part of the in-group following along, OK — Then it got, sort of reached a peak of hostility, when we claimed that their data, that the statistics they were using, and everybody else was using for that matter, but it most grossly affected them — that the statistics were all wrong. And that — but Giaconni wasn’t that pleased with me even before that point, but that one, I know, was really extraordinarily — It turned out we were right on that one. So, there are people there at AS and E — it depends very much on the people. For example, Gersky, I get along fine with Gersky. I think that Gersky thinks we’re doing fine and that sort of thing. There’s a general — Giaconni really doesn’t like us, but it’s funny, I can’t tell you — oh, I know a father reason now. I’d forgotten. I’ve gotten very sensitive to Giaconni now. It’s that he wants an X-ray Institute. Have you read about an X-ray Institute? OK. It’s part of the way the world goes, is that after you become king of a field, what do you then do next? You then want to become enthroned. So he wants to be an X-ray Institute.

The X-ray Institute he has envisioned, as supported by NASA, has 200 people in it, things like that — visions of giant, Bureau of Standards, something — and he would be the director of this. He never mentions this but in fact he will be, OK? So he will call, couple of years back, called a meeting, everybody come and discuss this at Cambridge. I didn’t go. And I was the only guy that opposes this verbally. OK. Outspokenly, OK. Other people will oppose it tremendously, but not in public to him. They will call me up, say, “Gee, you ought to — this is really terrible, what shall we do? you ought to do something.” Then they will go and tell Giaconni that it’s a great idea. So this probably is THE single biggest sore point between us at this point, that I openly oppose his X-ray Astronomy Institute. Anyway, what about AS and E? It depends on the people. Giaconni has been, for a long time, my only relation with Giaconni was prior to NRL, and Giaconni and Friedman were very antagonistic, but on a very subtle level. And I was just part of the NRL team, that’s all. And I came out here, and then, whereas Friedman, we were having a very direct controversy with Friedman on the background and on 3C 273 and the others, Giaconni was … didn’t pay any attention, didn’t know what… But then, there was this thing with Margon first, aggressively pointing out that he had something wrong, which in fact he did, and then, the statistics thing, then the X-ray Institute story. Giaconni and I, I would say — Giaconni doesn’t care for me at all. But other guys there, like Gerky, get along fine. It’s a funny game. Another one, Gorenstein(?) I happen to know, thinks we stole one of his pieces of data. He took an X-ray detector, he’s going to establish – he’s building a very good piece of X-ray, a new piece of equipment — one that took a picture of Perseus cluster. Well, we had already — OK, simultaneously (?), we had gotten data, with a cruder instrument, which, if you use proper computer analysis, you can get a picture, you can build a picture, and it’s equally valid, it’s just not a taken picture, it’s a doped picture, OK? Gorenstein gave a talk, but didn’t publish his data. He sat on his data for like two years. But he gave a talk about it.

Well, we after wards published our data, and had this first picture in. Well, he was incensed over this. Someone I know, one of my students, went there, and he says, “Gorenstein is incensed with you, and he blamed me” — the student, his name is Pat Henry, Gorenstein blamed Henry, saying that Henry told us that he had this picture and then we went and did it. In fact, he gave a public talk. But the point is, what it amounts to is, when you get very clever people competing on very high levels, most of what they’re doing are clearly the next level at which you can — you can always — the next step is pretty close to see, for most of the club. It wasn’t for Phil Fisher. So he went away. But for all these other people, the next step — like me doing 3 C 273 and Centauris A — it was clear, that was the thing to do, so it was a question — actually, for various reasons, that hung around, and nobody did any more like that until (?) came along, for a good long period of time — but it was clear, that was a good move to make, see. So anyway — but then, it happens you get a guy that so stands out that he’s way — you know, there are people that make things that are four years ahead of the crowd, OK? But on all these little ones, it’s pretty clear that, this is the next step. So then you get a whole lot of competitive and tense feelings. And it means a great deal to people. You know — it adds to the excitement of the world. I’m also aggressive. And I’ve had a couple of, one student in particularly, Bruce Margon, who’s extraordinarily aggressive. To quote Pat Henry, my student who’s now at NRS, at AS and E, he feels that I should leave, that I lost by having Bruce Margon, because he did nothing but set us up as the perennial enemy. But I don’t know — I might have been the perennial enemy anyway.

Hirsch:

When you came here, did you have a well defined research project?

Bowyer:

I’m not sure what you mean by “well defined.” I had a NASA rocket grant. But about, what was I going to do with it? — the X-ray astronomy —

Hirsch:

Nothing, no real program of studying one, or the diffuse background —

Bowyer:

— no, no, no, no — it was opportunistic. In fact, the thing I did was, I had — I said I was going to look for 2C 273, the entire (?) — the extragalactic ones. So yes, it was just opportunistic, the thing that could be done that would have potential, would potentially be — well, you know, maybe 3C 273 wouldn’t have been an X-ray source, but what looks good and try and do that.

Hirsch:

Right. What do you think the major developments were, the most significant developments in the sixties for X-ray astronomy? Major discoveries, theoretical developments?

Bowyer:

In the sixties? Well, — OK, let’s say the discovery of a number X-ray sources. The identification of some with stars, OK, that important. The fact that supernova remnants, some delineation of supernova remnants as being X—ray sources, and I guess the soft X-ray background had a bigger impact than the hard X-ray background. The hard X-ray background, it’s coming from out there, nobody knows where it’s coming from, that ends it. But the soft X-ray background has more controversy with it, still does. And I guess the discovery that there were actually extragalactic X-ray sources, which were at a sensitivity level consistent with current technology. I mean, there’s always — the trouble really with that stuff is that you know that there’s going to be a few X-rays coming from everything. There’s one every, time scale longer than the age of the universe, there’s an X-ray comes from that wall. It’s just not significant. So that you know that X-ray, extragalactic X-ray sources exist, the question is: are they significant at the level of technology that exists at any time, so they’re something that can be argued about, studied, controversies can arise over, and so on. Let’s see. Those are experimental observations.

See, in the sixties, I think theory didn’t have that big an impact — you know, although the suggestion of an underlying source mechanism came up in the late sixties, it really didn’t start to blossom until the seventies, and then the X-ray holds this possibility, that’s clearly — the fact that Cygnus X-1 is, it depends on your bias and how you view it, and really it depends, it’s like religion, it depends on your emotions more than anything, but if anything we know as an X-ray source is a black hole, that’s the best one, OK? But the fact that there was concrete evidence that made that a legitimate study — there was another one, see. What about black holes and all that? Well, they existed in theory, but nobody messed with them, until there was something, some experimental data that, even if it’s — the strongest skeptics would say, “Look, it’s overblown, it can be explained other ways” — the point is that it is strong indication that this is a possibility. You can say at least that, OK? Some people would say, “It’s guaranteed that it’s a black hole.” So that’s the range of opinion. But the point is that there is now data, so now you can say it’s a legitimate field for theoretical work, so — but that didn’t come up until, I think, in the seventies. If it came up in the sixties, then it was one of the biggest things in the sixties, because what it did was then, legitimatize the X-ray, the black hole game — which then brought in a huge number of the world’s outstanding theorists. It was so exciting that that focused… them on it, and any time you move the world’s outstanding geniuses into an area, that’s clearly an extraordinarily significant event.

Hirsch:

Well, the Russian theorists —

Bowyer:

Yes, there’s Gersky, there’s (?) and (?). So — every time you move those guys into any of those, that has to be –- And actually, Giaconni was to Cygnus X-1 as a black hole, as Friedman was to neutron stars. Things that happened — but in Friedman’s case the theoretical justification went away, as we discussed before. But then it got reintroduced, the neutron star got reintroduced by the pulsars. But in Giaconni and Cygnus X-1, it’s never gone away. The ultimate theory has continued to look good. Giaconni — on that basis, then, Giaconni’s discovery of or pushing on that is a huge event, and — in science — because it brought all these people in. It gave a basis for bringing in the highest powered minds. Every time you focus the highest powered minds on something, it’s clearly a noteworthy event. Giaconni, the previous comment about him wanting to be a black hole — rumor has it, you know, that that’s his mental, he wants, he envisions himself getting the Nobel Prize, some possibility of that, on the basis of it really being a black hole. Well, maybe it is or maybe it isn’t.

Hirsch:

Do you have a copy of that picture, extra ones?

Bowyer:

No. I’ll give it to you if you want to make a copy. You’ve got to be sure and send it back, that’s all.

Hirsch:

Well, I was thinking, the Smithsonian, it’s very easy to get copies of pictures made.

Bowyer:

Yes. Well, I could give it to a guy here, he’d make a copy, then I would send you one. Or I can give it to you and you can take it down to a drugstore and make a copy and then send it to me. Either way. If you want a copy, we can arrange a copy.

Hirsch:

I would like that, right.

Bowyer:

You have to give me your address.

Hirsch:

OK. In Russia… Moscow, 1974…

Bowyer:

A variable star symposium, is what it was.

Hirsch:

Let me ask a general question that’s a flashback. The last paragraph of your dissertation, you write: “The field of X-ray astronomy is new and results are unexpected, perhaps even startling. A great deal of knowledge can be expected to be gained from research in this field. Unfortunately, because of the nature of the work, this knowledge will not come quickly nor will it be obtained at a cheap price.” Thirteen years later, how do you feel about that statement?

Bowyer:

Well, it came a lot easier than I thought, and the reason — in terms of my own — the reason was that it got to be such hot stuff that, it got to be such hot stuff that there were a number of groups that did work in it, and then, the second thing that happened was that there were enough startling things that all the, that the theorists, these high powered people I’m talking about, moved into that field. See, in previous years, they said, “Look at the history of X-ray astronomy in solar work.” That was exciting, but it wasn’t quite as startling, and it didn’t turn the world on end, and you didn’t have — also, the sun is so well understood, so much about the sun, you can’t start making huge new discoveries in it like you can, like you could in X-ray astronomy. So it didn’t turn the world upside down. One had huge advances in knowledge. There had more, been more advances in knowledge of the sun, but — So the point is that, there were some answers in X-ray astronomy because of all the excitement and all the outside people who came into it and were doing things. Now, from my own point of view, my own personal point of view, it was as hard as I thought it was when I was in there. I mean, there were all these — it was hard as hell to get a grant out of NASA. When I finally got an outstanding discovery, why, NRL swiped it away, with spurious results, and here I was, part of the people in the department thinking I wasn’t going to get tenure.

It was very close, whether I got tenure or not. For a while, there were people thinking I was going to get dumped. You know, sort of a –- Looking back on it, if I had to start over again, now at this age, — you know, say that for some reason or other right now I got transported back to then -– I don’t know if I’d do it. I might go off and quit the university and go to work in business, or something. Because I’m not –- I’m tireder now than I was then, you know? To me, it was traumatic. Personally. I was lucky that it all worked, you know. There were X-rays from 3C 273, and — and yeah. So, fascinating chapter. We’ll read that and think of it nostalgically, I’m sure, in 20 years. But for the whole community, it was easier than I’d thought, for that stage of the game, for me personally, and I didn’t realize, the difficulties for some of us. Now, now it’s easy. I mean, I sit here with sufficient support. I mean, you can’t tell this to NASA, because the only way to get sufficient support is if you go and tell them you don’t have. I mean, Giaconni, with his program, moans that he doesn’t get support, but the guy’s got unbelievable amounts of money, yet he goes on, “I don’t have any money,” you know, and does all kinds of things to get more, you know. At this stage of the game, I have enough so I can really be — you know, I’ve got clever students that are working like mad, and we’re, couple of places we’re really king of, and not so much X-ray astronomy, we’re just one of the groups in X-ray astronomy, but we’re acknowledged to be doing really good work, I think, in X-ray astronomy now, and we — in the field of soft X-ray astronomy, extreme ultraviolet astronomy, we’re the only group in the world. I mean, you haven’t studied anything about that? (crosstalk) See, but here — here, this is a NASA planning document. Every time you go and you get some master — I was just in this X-ray meeting, OK, yesterday. I just came up, you see and here, what do we have here? Thrusts in… This is what NASA is doing in astrophysics, you see (Thrusts in astrophysics) and here’s the approach, fields of study, just some areas that — first cut, crude survey, details, nature — all right, look, X-rays, field of study, neutron stars, black holes. See? OK, you know — what can NASA think of as the splashiest thing? First cut. Rocket. Crude Survey, Uhuro, Hurray, OK, detailed study, Huro B, then here’s 1.2 meters, see, OK? OK, soft X-ray, OK – here’s a new one, extreme ultraviolet. OK. First cut, ASTP, that was my — I’m the only guy who’s doing it.

My group is the only one that’s doing this. We argued that on. One — What about this one? Crude survey, that’s us, that’s our satellite. So you look at these other ones. Here all these people are, you know, all these people around and stuff in these fields. Here I’ve got one that I invented — my own. Now, it’s not as exciting as X-rays, if you want to know the truth. But in the end — well, there aren’t that many fields left to invent. On top of that, there aren’t many fields on here where there’s, one guy and his group fill that block, then I’m going to fill this block, and I’m going to have a hell of a lot to do with that block. So, we’re also, we’re not giving up in X-ray astronomy, but anyway, the point is, that we’ve got enough things going that, it’s now a ball, OK. I mean, it’s —

Hirsch:

What would you say that Giaconni is now worth? You can see now that Giaconni really was the big person in X-ray astronomy. You said at the time there was —

Bowyer:

— this tie struggle between Giaconni and — it started off when Giaconni made the discovery. Then Friedman dominated for a while. Then Giaconni now is clearly — Friedman has peaked and gone.

Hirsch:

When did Giaconni take the lead, do you think? Or how?

Bowyer:

How it is, I think he is — I think he’s brighter. Not that Friedman is dumb or anything, but I think Giaconni is brighter, and he is even more clever than Friedman in figuring out, what is the best thing to do. And most important is that he is a better benevolent dictator than Friedman. Friedman, as a benevolent — how do you get a group of scientists to work together and direct them and all? Friedman doesn’t provide that much direction, and tolerates guys that are really pretty incompetent. And Giaconni absolutely does not. I mean, the people that he has supporting him are all — now, some are weaker than others, but it’s still on a level that, all of his Giaconni clearly dominates that group, and he won’t let anybody else even — you know, they all have to pay homage on a weekly basis, OK. His next level down are all very sharp guys. And Friedman’s next level down is very spotty. Some of them are really poor. OK, then in concrete things, Giaconni started pushing on X-ray telescopes.

I can remember Friedman telling me that this was garbage, that these little tiny things with no collecting area, just garbage. It wasn’t going to get him anywhere. And so, that is why Giaconni dominates. Now, on top of that, Friedman gets tripped up with some of his — his approach was more, “Get a bulldozer, get big detectors,” and his highest point was Heeo-A(?) where he has these seven detectors on, seven giant detectors; that was planned five years ago, but that was the statement that “We’re going to give this to Friedman as his due.” “Heeo, B — we’re going to give this to Giaconni as his due.” OK — what is the difference between the two? Heeo-B is going to have unbelievably higher impact on the field than Heeo-A. Heeo-A even, and much more innovative and everything else, Heeo-A is Friedman’s, not only is it just more of what was done before, it also was a technical disaster. He gave it to a guy and that guy fucked it up. The counters were breaking right and left. He’s down to two now, I think, out of the seven. Within — immediately when they were launched, they were off one. (They lost one) You don’t hear this, it was, you know, “There were some problems. We’re still getting good data.” That means, “we can still see that there are some photons in this shit, but we’re not going to analyze the data because it’s garbage.” Within a month they lost another one, and they lost another one and stabilized, and they lost another one now. The things are just falling apart.

So now they’ve got two, out of the seven. So, you don’t know that because it’s not something NASA talks about, because you don’t want to say to Congress, “WE gave this to this group, and the main experiment fell apart on us.” And in fact they’ll still get good data out of the thing, but they haven’t processed it yet. They’re way behind on that, way behind, and in fact, we’re the only bunch that are getting real papers out. We’re way ahead of everybody else, an — on that one — from a smaller experiment. But I’ll also tell you that it seems to me inescapable that Friedman will never get a major experiment from NASA again. I mean, not like Heeo-A. He may get experiments, but nothing like Heeo-A, because if you’re at NASA, if you give somebody that thing, and you came that close to disaster, you can’t afford that. But Giaconni, his Heeo-B will work. I’ll tell you.

Hirsch:

Right. With the telescope.

Bowyer:

Yes. It will work.

Hirsch:

I’m not at NASA any more. I notice that I have this sticker on which says NASA.

Bowyer:

Oh yeah, don’t worry about it, that’s right.

Hirsch:

No. I’m not going to report that.

Bowyer:

Right. Well, NASA knows. It’s Congress that doesn’t know, see. Congress and the public. I mean, NASA is a little worried about things — and as I say — at the managing level in NASA headquarters, why, they’re very, they’re sharp people. I don’t know, who did you deal with there?

Hirsch:

Well, I was in the history office, but I talked to Nancy Roman and —

Bowyer:

Yeah, she’s a sharp gal. Those are all sharp people. In fact it’s amazing how both Friedan and Giaconni really put them down. It’s because they don’t like somebody tell them what to do. And choosing one of them over the other one. They can’t stand it. And, they might make some mistakes here and there, but they’re sharp people. Yes.

Hirsch:

Well, I could go on for hours, but —

Bowyer:

Oh yes, yes,…