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In footnotes or endnotes please cite AIP interviews like this:
Interview of Frank K. Edmondson by David DeVorkin on 1997 April 21,
Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics,
College Park, MD USA,
For multiple citations, "AIP" is the preferred abbreviation for the location.
Early home life in Indiana, and early schooling. Origins of his interest in astronomy and the influence of both family and teachers. College years at Indiana University and contacts with members of the astronomy department there (E.C. and Vesto M. Slipher). Discussion of history of Indiana University Astronomy Department, and its contact with the Lowell Observatory. Graduate school at Harvard University, Peter van de Kamp's influence, work in stellar kinematics, impressions of atmosphere at Harvard. Faculty position at Indiana University, 1937 to present. Origins of Goethe Link Observatory, and the growth of the department. Organizational work in the American Astronomical Society (AAS). Work at National Science Foundation (NSF) as scientific officer for astronomy, 1956, and development of National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO); NSF and AUI; NRAO directors; Sputnik; Kitt Peak Observatory site survey, NSF and Associated Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA); Aden Meinel; John B. Irwin's proposal for a photoelectric observatory; Flagstaff Conference; Robert McMath Panel; structure of Kitt Peak staff; Chilean observatory and development of Cerro Tololo; Gerard Kuiper's role in southern observatory; European Southern Observatory (ESO), Carnegie Southern Observatory (CARSO) and AURA joint Paris meeting; Russian interests in southern observatory; CARSO application to Ford Foundation; agreements between AURA and CARSO; building telescopes at Kitt Peak and Cerro Tololoth︣e WISCO dispute; policy problems; AURA Board meetings; demise of Space Division at Kitt Peak; Whitford Panel; White Sands rocket project; astronomy and teaching at Indiana. Also prominently mentioned are: Jorge Alessandri Rodríguez, Lawrence Hugh Aller, Bart Jan Bok, William A. Cogshall, James Cuffey, H. T. Davis, Arthur Foley, Paul Herget, Helen Sawyer Hogg, Virgil Hunt, Geoffrey Keller, C. O. Lampland, Robert Reynolds McMath, Edward Arthur Milne, Samuel A. Mitchell, William Wilson Morgan, Jason John Nassau, Henry Norris Russell, Frederico Rutllant, Charles Donald Shane, Harlow Shapley, Jurgen Stock, Otto Struve, Merle Antony Tuve, Herman B. Wells, K. P. Williams, Marshall Wrubel; Associated Universities, Inc., Ford Foundation, Indiana Higher Education Telecommunication System, Lick Observatory, McDonald Observatory, and Yerkes Observatory.
Dr. Edmondson, could you say just a few words so I can test the instrument here?
OK. Well, my few words will be to congratulate you on saying correctly "Indiana University" and not "University of Indiana," as so many people say incorrectly. Indiana University is right.
OK. That's very good.
I know you were born in Milwaukee, but I don't know anything else about your family. Who were your parents? What did they do?
Sure. Well, first we'll get the Milwaukee thing straight. Maybe I've told this to you before. Being born in Milwaukee makes me like Schlitz I'm the beard that made Milwaukee famous. (laughter)
OK, well, my father was employed by the Wells-Fargo Company. I guess it was called back in those days, the predecessor of Railway Express Agency, and he was employed by them when we were living in Milwaukee where I was born.
Actually, he was born and raised in southern Ohio, as was my mother, and employment was what took them to Milwaukee. My mother's folks were farm people, from around Clarksville and Xenia, Ohio, but my Grandfather Kelley had retired, and then moved to Springfield. So all my memories of Grampa Kelley are all in Springfield, not down on the farm. My middle name is Kelley. I'm Frank Kelley Edmondson, after my grandfather, Frank Kelley -- KELLEY, by the way.
What was your father's full name?
My father's full name was Clarence Edward Edmondson. And there was sort of a rotation in the family. His father was Edward Clarence Edmondson. And so on. So, C.E. Edmondson, Clarence Edward Edmondson.
And your mother?
My mother was Marie Kelley.
Just as a sideline, this has something to do with the naming of our twin granddaughters. At the time they were born, their four greatgrandmothers were all still living, and those four names were incorporated in the names of the twins. Catherine May -- Catherine for the French grandmother and May for Mrs. Russell -- and Yvonne Marie, Yvonne, one of the French grandmothers, and Marie for my mother.
That's remarkable. That's very nice.
What did your father do exactly at Wells Fargo?
Well, at any rate, we moved to Seymour, Indiana, when I was five, and so the work he did that I really knew about was what he did after we moved to Southern Indiana -- to Seymour. You go south from Bloomington to Bedford, 20 miles, and about 30 miles east, so Seymour is not far from here.
He was what was called a route agent in those days. In other words, he visited all the Express offices between Cincinnati and St. Louis. It was his job to see that the offices along the B&O Railroad between Cincinnati and St. Louis were all being run properly. He made periodic regular routine visits to them, and whatever other trouble shooting had to be done.
Was he transferred down here?
This I don't know. At five years old, there are a lot of things you don't remember at five. My memories of Milwaukee are pretty faint, by the way.
I can appreciate that. Then you grew up in Seymour?
Grew up in Seymour, Indiana. Then I did my undergraduate work here in Indiana University.
Well, before we get to that, how about your early education and the influences upon you?
Well, early education was standard, for those days: grade school, junior high and high school. I think that the teachers back then taught us more than the teachers teach the kids today. I think I had a better education back then than a great many kids get in public schools today. There certainly was more emphasis on the three R's. We knew our English grammar, and we had a wonderful mathematics teacher who, on his own, undertook to teach trigonometry to just two students. Trig in those days was not a regular high school math subject. And Mr. Glaze, when he found he had two students who were interested, gave a special class, which was in addition to his normal teaching load. He taught trig to the two of us, which sort of gave me a little head start when I got to college, got me going the right way. Arthur Glaze.
As far as family influence was concerned, my father was very much interested in science. Dad and Mother -- neither one of them had gone to college. I'm the first college graduate in our family. But Dad certainly had lively intellectual interests, and Mother also, to a somewhat lesser extent. But since my Father died when I was 12 years old, that influence was essentially an early influence.
As far as interest in astronomy was concerned, there was one period of time when we lived part of one winter in Springfield, Ohio, with my grandparents. At that time, one of my mother's aunts had an encyclopedia called the Book of Knowledge, and the Book of Knowledge had a lot of astronomy in it. And I read especially the astronomy in the Book of Knowledge. And that was the origin of my original interest in astronomy. So by the time I graduated from high school, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.
Is that one of the astronomy editions in the Book of Knowledge that had the distances to stars measured in how long it took railroad trains to get there?
I think it did. That really rings a bell.
That's an important source to consider.
Well, I mean, I think the reason I'm an astronomer today was because of the Book of Knowledge. I might not have been exposed to it so persuasively in any other way.
This is before you were in high school.
Yes. This was at about junior high school level, I would say.
Did you apply any of these interests and enthusiasms to your studies in high school? In your science, mathematics?
Well, only in the sense that I wanted that trig class, and things like that.
So you appreciated that.
Yes. I appreciated the opportunity to get these things. But otherwise, as far as activities were concerned, I was a semi-professional magician back in those days. Well, I could put on a fine magic show.
Do you still do that?
No, that was long ago, but it was an early interest.
Did you devise your own tricks mainly?
Mostly devised them myself. Yes.
At church or anything like that?
I don't remember where I did it, but I did put on shows for people.
How about brothers and sisters?
I have two brothers. No sisters.
What's the order and ages?
The brother who's closest to me in age is four years younger than I am. He is professor of zoology at the University of Washington in Seattle, W.T. Edmondson, known to everybody as Tommy Edmondson. He got his PhD at Yale under Hutchinson. During World War II, the Navy periodically took strong steps to prevent him from being drafted, because the work he was doing as a civilian for the Navy was deemed more important than anything he could have done in uniform. He was working out of Woods Hole, and one of the things he was working on involved getting the depth (near a beach) of the water that you could get from the wave pattern. He had an airplane and a "duck" and various things at his disposal, and the work he did led to their being able to decide which would be the best landing beaches for getting onto the Philippines.
And your other brother?
The other one was 12 years younger than I am. He's an engineer with NBC.
Richard Harvey Edmondson, known as Dick Edmondson.
And to complicate the thing, his first wife died, and so my brother's second wife is our son's ex-wife. (laughter) We won't pursue that, but it made for all kinds of interesting and changed relationships as a result of that.
You've already given me some insight into the early influences on you, certainly that your father supported your interest in astronomy and intellectual interests. Was there any other preparation in your early life that you think significant?
Well, not directly related to science. All I can say is, that since my father did die when I was 12 years old, I was really sort of on my own, being the oldest chi1d. Our mother was insistent that she was going to keep our home going and all the rest of that, and did, in Seymour.
She didn't remarry.
No. And she likewise was very supportive of all three of us going to college.
Did you work?
Oh yes, I carried papers and things like that when I was still in high school , and I was entirely on my own financially at college.
And you were always sure that you were going to college.
Yes. No question about it at all. Absolutely.
Did you read a lot?
A fair amount.
Of course the Book of Knowledge.
Well, this reminded me of one other thing. I forget what grade it was now, somewhere in school , probably early high school years, in current events class, I reported on something in the LITERARY DIGEST having to do with the theory of evolution, something rather simple and innocuous. And my best friend, who was a devout Lutheran, took me to task for this -- attacking the theory of evolution.
Well, we're still good friends and all that, but it made me start thinking, and the influence of my devoutly religious best friend is what turned me into an atheist. Because I decided, if this religion said evolution was not true, I was going to go for evolution.
Did it appeal to you? What appealed to you?
Well, the point is, I could see the scientific basis for the theory of evolution. And if I was going to make a choice between scientific reasoning and pure faith, I was going to choose scientific reasoning.
I can appreciate that.
But Donald Brunow and I remained very good friends. It didn't spoil our friendship at all. But we violently disagreed on this, and this came up in a high school current events class. And I also remember the superintendent of the schools one time giving me a little fatherly advice -- this was after my father had died, by the way -- He said, "Well, maybe your new beliefs are right. But suppose they're not. Do you want to risk eternal damnation?" That was the superintendent of schools!
It probably convinced you to go in the direction of science. Did you have any formal religious instruction?
Well, the family was Presbyterian. And I went to Sunday School and all that, sure. In fact, I think I continued going to Sunday School even after I'd decided that I didn't have the religious faith any more. I had friends at Sunday School, and the Bible is literature, so why not?
So you identified the fact that you were sure you were going to go to college, that you were pretty sure you were going to be a scientist, at that time?
Oh yes -- an astronomer. Oh, absolutely.
Well, with this early introduction to it, did you build any telescopes?
No. Nothing at all. I was not a telescope builder. I got it entirely from books. Although, of course, when I did get going, observational astronomy was essentially what I went into, partly.
OK, let's bring you to the 1920's and Indiana University.
Well, of course, I graduated from high school in 1929.
So I came here to Bloomington as a freshman, in the fall of 1929, right at the beginning of the great Depression.
How did you feel about that?
Well, since I was on my own, and actually in terms of jobs, it was easier for me as a student to get something to do to help support myself than if I'd been out in the wide, wide world, just trying to earn a living.
Did you feel that you should have supported your family, sent money home, did you do anything like that?
No, Mother was taking care of my other two brothers, and it was at her insistence -- I had essentially been providing all my own support at home, you might say, and I was just continuing to do so away from home. So there really wasn't much change in the level of what she was doing. Well, she did not say, "Now that you've graduated from high school, you have to get out and help support the family." Oh no. I had to go to college. This was at her strong insistence.
You didn't have any reservations about that, above and beyond her feelings.
No. No. Certainly by coming to college, I was not taking anything away from what I had been doing. I'd been supporting myself in Seymour and now I was doing it in Bloomington.
How did you support yourself?
Well, here again, this is luck. While I was in high school, I was on the high school debating team, and an Indiana University professor of speech, Lee Norvelle -- he's still living, in his eighties, by the way -- he is now a partner of a travel bureau that makes our plane reservations for us down here. Well, Lee Norvelle was the head of the speech department and the debate coach, back in those days, and he was the judge of some high school debates I was in, and was rather complimentary about me on some of them.
So when I arrived in Bloomington, he was the only man in town I knew, so I went straight to Lee Norvelle, who introduced me to a mathematics professor named K.P. Williams. Williams wrote a book on orbit calculation, and his research was in connection with the transits of Mercury. So Norvelle introduced me to K.P. Williams, who took me under his wing, and among other things, saw to it that I got an assistantship in the astronomy department.
As a freshman?
Yes. As a freshman.
Was this unusual at that time?
Well, I don't think the astronomy department had ever had an assistant before. But Williams was not the head of the astronomy department, but he persuaded the head, Wilbur A. Cogshall, to fix up something for me.
Then also another math professor, H.T. Davis, was doing some mathematical tables of higher mathematical functions. He hired me as a computer, so I punched a desk calculator for 25 cents an hour, to help compute those tables.
What were your assistantship duties?
Well, the assistantship duty at the observatory developed into having the observatory open to the public once a week, and helping with lab sections of the beginning astronomy course, under Professor Cogshall's supervision. That meant I had to be there to be sure the telescope was opened up for the kids in the class, and that nobody did any damage, and locked it up when the class was finished. I didn't do any formal teaching at that time, but I was there as a sort of a lab assistant.
What were your courses in the first year?
Oh, well, that's where the high school trig helped out. I told K.P. Williams that I'd already had trig, which was the normal freshman math subject. I said, was there any way I could skip trig. Well, he thought about it a moment. He said, "Well, trig and analytic geometry usually precede calculus." Then he thought a little bit more you see, and so K.P. just reached up on the shelf and pulled off an analytic geometry textbook and said, "Here, I'll sign you up in calculus, and whenever you don't understand something, look it up in here."
So I had my trig in high school, and I bypassed "analyt," with the aid of a book where I could look up things when I needed to, and I plunged right into calculus as a freshman.
This was with working how many hours a week?
I don't remember.
At least, or 15, something like that.
And then taking these courses in competition with all the other students. How big was the school at that time?
Oh, the whole university was maybe 5000 students. It's now over 30,000.
Did it seem big to you, coming from Seymour?
Oh, sure. Oh, yes. Indeed. I don't remember how big Seymour High School was. It couldn't have been any more than 500.
Did you feel confident, though, that you would be able to handle all of these extra duties?
Well, by having made these personal contacts, you see, I had people I knew. But on top of that, a very interesting thing, there was a dean of men whose name was C.E. Edmondson, Clarence Edmund Edmondson. We may have had some relationship way back, I don't know. So when I arrived to sign up as a freshman, I was going through the enrollment process, and put down the name of my deceased father as C.E. Edmondson, and they said, "Have you met the dean?"
I said, "No."
They said, "Well, you go to the dean's office and tell him your father's name."
And being a freshman, I followed those instructions to the letter. I went over to the dean's office, and was ushered into the dean's presence, and he said, "What can I do for you?"
I said, "I was told to come over here and tell you my father's name.”
He said, "What was your father's name?"
I said, "C.E. Edmondson." So that was how our acquaintance and friendship began.
So immediately you felt that you belonged?
Well, I did, because I knew some people. But this all started with Lee Norvelle. Norvelle put me in contact with K.P. Williams, who put me in contact with Cogshall, and then meeting Dean Edmondson independently and so on. Yes, I felt at home.
Did You work directly for Cogshall?
Did you take astronomy the first year?
What did you take, what kind of courses?
Well, let's see. I guess I must have bypassed the beginning course, because I certainly -- I don't remember what I did take now for sure. I'd have to go back to my transcript to find out. But my guess is, at the moment, I must have skipped the elementary astronomy course simply because I knew the material already.
You've already identified the Book of Knowledge as one of your important sources. When did you start broadening your scope and start reading what we consider classical textbooks of the period?
Well, at K.P. Williams's advice, I bought a copy of a set of Russell-Dugan-Stewart immediately. That was one of my first purchases of books after I got here as an undergraduate. Because that was the Bible, you know, in those days.
This was about two years after it was out. It was very new.
That's right. But Williams advised me to get it so I did.
Did you read this your first year?
Yes. I don't remember now how systematically I read it, but at least I had it.
Then there was another thing along the line. This must have been possibly about my junior year, I guess. I was in a statistics course under H.T. Davis, the man I'd worked for calculating tables, and in that statistics course we were supposed to do term projects. And I picked as my term project: the solar motion. I went to the YALE BRIGHT STAR CATALOGUE, which was brand new at that time, and did the solar motion solution as a term project for the course.
And then Davis urged me to try to publish it. And believe it or not, it was published in the Astronomical Journal.
So my first scientific publication was the result of a paper in a mathematical statistics course.
This was, what, 1932?
This must have been around 1932, yes. [Edmondson refers to a text on his shelf.][Pause] That "Velocity of Light" thing, that was one of the sins of my youth.
Now, let's see. This is Smart's Stellar Dynamics -- this diagram is from my paper [refers to book].
Your first paper, this diagram, appeared in "Smart?"
Yes. The method actually, the method I used was described in Russell-Dugan-Stewart, and so, the "Figure 16 is adapted from investigation by F.K. Edmondson, with references to AJ 41" (earlier than I thought) “page 143 -- " the year was 1931? So that was earlier than I'd thought.
How many stars did you use?
Well, this was based on proper motion -- 7,602 stars, although the ones that fixed the apex, the way the method works, are fewer in number than that.
The numbers aren't here, they're in the paper. But the general idea I found in Russell-Dugan and Stewart, and I think he mentions that here.
It's significant to me, now, to see that unless something else comes out in our discussion here, your first paper dealt with basically what we would call the fundamental question of galactic structure, and you entered into that field of research.
Was there someone here, Cogshall or Davis or others, who was doing this kind of work?
Not in this field. I mean, Davis, being a statistician, was my source of help on that. Plus the fact that Davis himself was very productive in things I never would have thought of. It was Davis who pushed and pushed and pushed and said, "You try to get this published."
Did he know astronomical literature?
He had pretty broad knowledge. He taught a course here in the philosophy of science, and published it in book form afterwards. I was one of the students in that class. Other students in the class included the dean of the law school, another professor of law, the dean of the school of education -- lots of deans and professors, as well as regular students took Davis's course, either audited it or took it.
How would you classify Davis, philosophically?
Well, I could say that Davis and K.P. Williams were probably the two strongest influences on me here, as an undergraduate. Davis, because of his research orientation, and breadth of interest. And Williams because of his insistence on meticulous attention to detail, and care and accuracy in what one did.
What was the structure of the courses in astronomy, physics and math that you had? Were they tutorial? lecture? combination?
Well, the astronomy obviously had to be independent reading, mostly, the tutorial kind, because I was the only astronomy major, after all.
Was Cogshall the only astronomer?
Cogshall was the astronomy department. But K.P. Williams, who was in the mathematics department, taught orbit calculation. Agnes E. Wells, who was dean of women, who had a PhD in astronomy from Michigan, was in the mathematics department, her PhD was in astronomy from Michigan, and she taught history of astronomy. So history of astronomy was Agnes Wells, and orbit calculation was K.P. Williams, and all the rest of the astronomy was Cogshall.
What did she use for history of astronomy? Did she have a text?
I don't remember.
Did you enjoy the course?
Yes, but I just don't remember that much about it now. As far as physics was concerned, we had a very weird situation back in those days. The head of the department, Arthur Foley, who was a very important man in the field of acoustics in his day, and he also wrote an elementary physics text which was widely used back then -- Arthur Foley, the head of the department, was quoted as having said, "There's not an electron in the state of Indiana." (laughing)
When did he say this?
Oh, probably in the mid-twenties. Some time. While I was, I guess, in my junior year, he was the president of Sigma XI. I heard his presidential lecture. It was entitled: "Physics, Philosophy, Fantasy, or What?"
And it was an attack on all the physics that had been learned since 1900 -- relativity, quantum theory --
Why do you think he was that way?
He was a complete reactionary in physics. Complete. And he retired, I guess, the year I joined the faculty here, in 1937.
Interestingly enough, and ironically, almost, his successor was Alan Mitchell, the son of the astronomer S.A. Mitchell. And what's ironic about this is, and this gets later in time, we'll have to come back to it -- S.A. Mitchell offered me a position at Virginia, which I turned down to come here.
Then, S.A.'s son comes here -- a little ironic, you see.
But as far as the physics is concerned, when I was an undergraduate, the chairman or head, they called them department heads in those days, the head of the department was a man who didn't believe in relativity or quantum theory or any of those newfangled ideas. And the man under him was a man named John B. Dutcher, who waited to offer Modern Physics until after he had achieved tenure. I took that course using the Richtmeyer text.
So after Dutcher got tenure, he then offered a course in Modern Physics, which I was able to take as an undergraduate.
What did you find most fascinating in both astronomy and physics at that time? Were you reading the literature now to a point, in your undergraduate years, where you knew the tremendous advances that were being made?
Well, I was reading those things I could understand, which meant I was not going to things like the ASTROPHYSICAL JOURNAL at all. That was really pretty much beyond me, a lot of it.
Were you reading POPULAR ASTRONOMY?
Yes, POPULAR ASTRONOMY. That was one of the great sources back in those days, the old POPULAR ASTRONOMY magazine.
Yes. When did you start reading that?
Well, I guess just as soon as I came here, because we had it in the observatory library.
But you hadn't seen it before.
Hadn't seen it before -- no.
The Astronomical Journal?
Well, that was the one I sent my paper to. But of course, that was mostly celestial mechanics in those days, a lot of which, of course, was beyond the mathematics I had at my command then. But I'd read what I could and what I could understand and so on. But POPULAR ASTRONOMY certainly was a source, and oh yes, the PASP. Definitely the PASP. Which used to be a good journal. I think they've gone down hill.
Well, the trouble is, the way they've split it up, the formal journal and then the other one. I much preferred to have everything under one cover.
The Leaflets were in existence.
The Leaflets were great. And I got a lot from them, of course. And the Leaflet would frequently stimulate one to try to go to the original source, and understand things more.
Did you read about galactic structure at this time?
Oh yes, I read about the solar motion. I'd found out about it in Russell-Dugan and Stewart, and then I looked up some more about it.
You did that pretty much independently, and then after you did it, your professor suggested it be published.
Well, the thing is, the statistics course had a term paper. "The Solar Motion" was a term paper in a statistics course. And I got the idea of what to do really from Russell-Dugan-Stewart. Then, in getting ready for publication, I obviously had to go to the literature and see more about what had been done in that field. So, I remember, for example, digging into the early papers on galactic rotation and so on, to see what had come out in the twenties.
Right, and it was very new.
Yes, it was very new. But that was an interest that followed logically from the solar motion business. But actually, as I think back on it now, the time when I really began reading, really digging into things and working at understanding, was not until I got out to Flagstaff.
Let me ask you just a few more questions about your undergraduate training, and then we'll move to Flagstaff. Were there any students that you recall being close to, studying with, in your statistics or other classes, who later became astronomers or physicists?
Not astronomers and physicists. But for example, one of them, Virgil Hunt, went into mathematics, and after teaching mathematics at one of the small colleges, he ultimately became president of a little college up north of here that folded up after he'd been there a few years. It was in the process of folding when he became president. But he became a college president at something like the age of 28.
Well, after this he then went to the Indianapolis campus which at that time was called an extension center -- and he became the director of the Indianapolis Extension Center, and continued there; then later on in the reorganization of the university, he became the registrar for the medical school. But it was when Virgil Hunt was in charge of the extension center up there that my TV course started going to Indianapolis. So there was that kind of a contact. He and I had been fellow students in statistics and the philosophy of science course. And John Brouwer, who had been head of one of the other regional campuses -- he's now at Indianapolis in an administrative position -- again, he was another math major. But these are people who stayed in academic life, but not in astronomy.
How did the other students seem to react to your success with this statistics paper?
Well, I don't remember. Fortunately they didn't have page charges back in those days, because I couldn't have afforded to pay them.
Did you have correspondence with the editor of the AJ at that time?
Did he realize that you were a junior?
Who was it then?
I think it was Benjamin Boss.
He must have especially appreciated your work.
Yes. That was Boss, that I sent that to. It's interesting, the way one can dredge up things out of one's memory. Because my snap answer was Brouwer, but that's because he was editor later. Boss was still editor. That was before the Astronomical Society owned the JOURNAL.
During your years as an undergraduate, did you continue in the computing job, and the assistantship job?
Well, the job in the observatory, yes. That was a steady job as long as I was here. I don't really remember -- the computer job, you see, was not really steady. There would be peaks and so I don't remember really how long that continued. I worked at it as much as I had time for, because it was strictly on an hourly basis, piece work, and I just don't remember how long I continued that one.
What about the observatory equipment? What equipment was there here for education? (Kirkwood Observatory)
Well, the 12-inch telescope, which was a Warner and Swasey typical 12-inch telescope mounting.
Made about 1900?
It was installed here in 1900, yes. And it had standard accessories, the filar micrometer, and a polarizing attachment for looking at the sun. Professor Cogshall rigged up a plate holder you could use to photograph the moon.
A visual spectroscope? Spectroscopic equipment?
No. No, no spectroscopical equipment at all. But he also had a little eight-inch reflector that he had made himself, which was mounted on the side of the 12 inch, so for time exposures we could use the 8-inch. We got some pretty respectable pictures that way, too. At F/5, it was a good instrument.
There was a transit instrument here too.
Yes. It's stored now, not in use any more. It was a Gaertner transit.
Did you do any practical work with that?
That's right, and this was under K.P. Williams. Williams is the one who taught me how to use the transit -- again, mathematical, you see. Williams taught a course in so-called practical astronomy, and the transit was the main thing we did. Oh, I've done lots of "time series."
What did you find most enjoyable, as an undergraduate student?
Oh, it's hard to say.
Would you say this solar motion work was your first experience with real research.
You already told me the interesting story about the chairman of the physics department.
How did you feel? Do you feel you were exposed, other than that, to reasonably up-to-date astronomy and physics?
Well, I didn't know what was up-to-date and what wasn't you see, and had no way of knowing. So actually, what I got was a sound grounding in statistics from Davis, and sound grounding in traditional classical astronomy from K.P. Williams; orbit calculation and practical astronomy and things of that kind. Cogshall was primarily a teacher. He had been brought here to do double star work by John A. Miller. When Miller left for Swarthmore, Cogshall put the micrometer away and quit measuring double stars.
He quit at that point?
Yes, that's right. Literally. If you look in the publications of double star measures, they stop right after Miller went to Swarthmore.
What were Cogshall's primary interests?
His primary interest was making mirrors. He had an optical shop in the basement of the observatory, and the 24-inch Schwarzschild optics that we had he made with his own hands. And he made an 8-inch mirror. He made special optics to take on eclipse expeditions, and things like that. He was really an applied optician. His real interest was in rubbing on glass and making optical systems.
And I think his Schwarzschild system was the first one ever made.
Is it still in existence?
The mounting went to the amateur group, and Cogshall's daughter asked for and was given the mirrors. So they exist somewhere. We don't have them here.
You mentioned taking the philosophy of science course. Were you particularly interested in the philosophical aspects?
Davis made it interesting. And then, as an undergraduate, I took for example, in the philosophy department, the regular introductory course plus the course in logic which I liked very much. And of course this was largely a matter of who was teaching it, too. If you have somebody who can make logic interesting, that's fine. And we did have such a teacher.
But as far as philosophy of science was concerned, Davis was the man. It was his own personal interest. The fact that he'd written a book which we were using from manuscript and so on was what made it so exciting.
It's the teacher that's important.
Well, you were certainly going into astronomy, there was no question about that. But you were also being plunged into the Depression at that time.
How did your mother feel about this, as far as the prospect of your being able to support yourself after graduation. And how did you feel about it yourself? You can give me both impressions, if you recall them.
Well, I honestly don't recall any specific discussions on this point, or anything like that. I think I said earlier here, it was easier to get a job as a student than it would have been to get a job waiting on tables in a commercial restaurant or digging ditches or something like that.
At what point did you start concerning yourself with future activities beyond graduation?
Well, here's the situation. Backing up into history to explain it -- Cogshall went to Flagstaff, right after he graduated from Albion College, to be the assistant to T.J.J. See on his double star program at Flagstaff. You know T.J.J. See? Thomas Jefferson Jackson See.
So when John Miller decided to build a 12 inch telescope here to do double star work, he wanted a young experienced assistant, and Cogshall was available. So Cogshall came here from Flagstaff because of his double star experience with See, to work with Miller. And right after Cogshall got here -- he came here just about 1901 -- in the class of 1902, V. M. Slipher graduated. Cogshall got him the job at Flagstaff.
Slipher didn't study with any one in particular?
He got a bachelor's degree here, you see. And so he went off to Flagstaff right away, and I guess either the same year or the next year, C.O. Lampland graduated, and Cogshall got him a position at Flagstaff.
And then about 1905, '06, somewhere along in there, E.C. Slipher graduated, and Cogshall got him a job at Flagstaff. So we had three people, the two Sliphers and Lampland, who went there because of Cogshall's influence with Lowell.
Well , at that point -- no, I guess it was after V.M. and Lampland went out -- Lowell decided to set up a fellowship here: The Lawrence Fellowship in Astronomy, named after his mother. Lawrence was his mother's maiden name.
So the Lawrence Fellowship in Astronomy was available to a graduate of Indiana University, to spend a year at Flagstaff, which would result in a Master's degree from Indiana University.
And the first holder of the Lawrence Fellowship was E.C. Slipher. And I was the second. (laughs) It was available, and it came out of current observatory income. And during the short period that Albert G. Wilson was director at Lowell, due to financial problems, he abolished the fellowship, so it no longer exists.
That was my next question.
Yes. The fellowship no longer exists, for budgetary reasons. And since there was no separate endowment and it was part of normal observatory income and apparently he felt that they just couldn't afford to have that kind of a commitment hanging over them.
How many other fellowships were there?
I think, there was one more after me. A man named Lewis Larmore, who is still in the astronomical society. He was vice president for research with -- was it Boeing or McDonnell Douglas? He's no longer with the aircraft company, but he got a PhD, I think it was from UCLA or USC, one of those. He was a Lawrence Fellow after me. So there were three of us altogether.
Were you aware, during your undergraduate years, that the fellowship was there?
Oh, it was clear to me, I knew as soon as I got here, having read the catalogue, yes. And it was mentioned in the write-up of the astronomy department. So I knew about the fellowship, and this was part of my goal -- to go to Flagstaff upon graduation.
Which you did.
Which I did. That's right.
There was no bureaucratic problem, applying and being accepted? This was an automatic thing? It's a dream.
Cogshall wrote to V.M. Slipher and that was that. It was that simple. And actually, I met V.M., and Lampland too, just before I went out there. Well, in fact, I met them when I was a student. Because it was right after Pluto was discovered, the university gave both of them honorary degrees. So they got their honorary degrees at commencement, 1930. That was the first time I ever met them. And I probably said something to V.M. at that time, "I want to come to Flagstaff when I graduate, you know." So when I graduated in '33, it was all set up.
That's interesting. Did their honorary degrees have anything to do with Pluto?
V.M. was almost completely in spectroscopy.
Well, we had then and still have a sort of unwritten law here: we give honorary degrees only to people who've had some kind of a connection with the university or with the state. If you're a graduate of the university, fine. Or if you were born and raised in the state, that's fine. Harold Urey, for example, was born and raised in Indiana, so he has an honorary degree from Indiana.
And Karl Malden, the actor, was born and raised in Gary, and so he got an honorary degree here a few years ago. But the point is, you have to have some kind of a valid connection with the state -- born and raised or lived in the state. For example, The Spider Man, Petrunkevitch at Yale -- his first faculty job was here, before he went to Yale for his long career there. So Petrunkevitch got an honorary degree from here, because he was a former faculty member and so it goes. Jim Watson, the Nobel Prize winner, got his PhD here, so he was an obvious candidate, a few years ago.
So I'm sure it was timely to do it because of the discovery of Pluto. But they got their degrees because they both were distinguished astronomers, and moreover were graduates of this university.
Well, let's put you on the train to Flagstaff, assuming that's how you got there.
No. No, I did not get there by train.
How did you go?
V.M. Slipher had a younger brother who was going to go out there for a summer visit, and he was going to drive out.
-- younger than E.C.?
Younger than E.C. So this younger brother was going to go out, so I rode out with him. In fact, I learned how to drive on that trip. That was part of the deal, I would share on the driving, but it implied that I had to learn how, and I did learn. Slipher taught me how to drive. So we got out to Flagstaff by automobile.
Did you know what you would be doing out there?
Well, this was a fellowship, so I knew that I would be expected to do some routine duties for the observatory, and that I would have time of my own to work on a Master's thesis, because that was the deal. You worked there, got professional experience, and wrote a Master's thesis, and then got the degree back here.
So the way it actually worked out, the routine duties I performed for the observatory were taking plates for Clyde Tombaugh to blink. Clyde was there the summer I arrived, but he'd been given a scholarship at Kansas to get an undergraduate degree. So Clyde left in September, and then during the winter, I took plates on that program, which he blinked the following summer, when he came back.
Did you have very much contact with him that first summer?
Oh sure. And that was before he was married. Then he got married, while he was a student at Kansas. He married his landlady's daughter.
But getting back to Flagstaff, because this was important just in terms of development of my interest in reading the literature and all that sort of thing. The inspiration there came entirely, 100 percent, from C.O. Lampland -- Lampland being one of the most scholarly people I have ever known. Voracious reader. He knew a lot about an awful lot. And it was -- well, it didn't turn cloudy in Flagstaff very often, you know, some seasons of the year. But there would be some nights when Lampland and I would be in the main building waiting for it to clear up outside or for the moon to set or something like that, just talking with him and so on. And Lampland was the one who really, I guess, got me into the habit of reading the journals as they came out every month, and that kind of thing. And we talked a lot about things.
What did he find most interesting in astronomical research? What did you talk about mostly? Was there any particular line?
Almost everything. His interests were very wide.
Did he talk at all about the history of the observatory?
Oh, quite a bit.
Do you have any impressions that you can recall about it?
Well, my wife might be a better source than I am, on this kind of thing.
Because she describes Lampland as being like an uncle to her. It was a very close friendship between them. And of course, she went out to Flagstaff much earlier than I did, at a younger age, and all that.
V.M. Slipher was still there, of course?
V.M. was the director. Oh yes.
Did they ever talk about work on Mars?
Well, E.C. was the one who did the work on Mars.
He did the visual work.
And Lampland, of course, built the camera.
Oh yes. Yes.
Allegedly photographed the canals.
Yes, that's right.
And then, V.M. was very much involved with the atmosphere of Mars.
That's right. And of course, his work on night sky spectra.
Well, by the time I got there, V.M.'s interests were more in his business down in Flagstaff than they were in astronomy.
Oh, V.M. was a wealthy man.
I didn't realize that.
Oh yes, he was a very shrewd investor in real estate and other things, and he built up a tidy fortune. And so by the time I got there, he was spending most of his time at his desk at the observatory doing things in connection with his downtown business interests.
In fact, when I was there, he was keeping his night sky spectrograph going regularly. He was still doing the night sky on a routine -- get it every night you can -- basis. The only trouble was, he lost -- at least, misplaced and never found to my knowledge -- the most interesting night sky spectrum we ever had.
Lampland was at the 42 inch reflector, and I was at the 13 inch one night, during a Leonid shower. This brilliant flash of light -- and I looked up through the slit, and here was this long bright streak at the zenith.
Well, Lampland just saw the flash of light from inside the dome. So he came out and I came outside, and it took over an hour for that thing to blow away and dissipate. And that was right across the slit of V.M Slipher's night sky spectrograph, that was looking straight up -- the only slit spectrogram of a meteor ever obtained. And I think there's probably an abstract about it, in the Astronomical Society meeting that followed that.
But then later on, when Peter Millman wanted a print of the spectrum, V.M. claimed he couldn't find the spectrum. Now, maybe he just didn't want to give it to Peter Millman. I don't know. But I've since spoken about this to John Hall, and I'm not sure how hard John looked for it. But I just can't believe that the spectrum was completely obliterated. It's got to be around there somewhere. And if it's ever found, it's the only slit spectrogram ever obtained, of a meteor.
Did you have enough contact with V.M. Slipher to know how he felt about his role in astronomical research?
Well, he took a lot of pride in the fact that he had done these things early, that he was the first to do some of them. Lampland, though, was the one who explained to me how V.M. did it. I mean, the long collimator and the wide slit technique, and all the rest of that. Lampland explained to me why Slipher's technique, and how Slipher's technique enabled him to observe these faint objects with only a 24-inch telescope.
It's true, Slipher had a very quiet pride in the new accomplishments.
There was no bitterness toward Hubble -- or toward others?
None that I detected.
Did he ever speak of W.W. Campbell?
Most of the Campbell remarks probably came from E.C., would be my guess. No, I never heard anything that I would really consider bitter.
The Martian episode in V.M. Slipher's life was a very small one compared to all his other contributions?
Yes. Now, getting back to V.M. for just a moment -- you see, he got a PhD from here, around 1908. That did not involve any course work of any kind whatsoever. It involved his ASTROPHYSICAL JOURNAL paper, "The Spectrum of Mars." That was his PhD thesis. And John A. Miller came back from Swarthmore to chair the examining committee. I don't know who else was on it. Cogshall, of course. Miller chaired it, and I'm not sure who else was on the committee. But that paper and the oral exam was what got him his PhD from here.
That was an important paper.
It really turned the astronomical community upside down.
Yes. That's his PhD thesis.
I didn't realize that.
And Lampland and E.C. never did get PhD's. They had Master's degrees, and that was as far as it went.
Was Lampland an extremely careful worker, as you recall?
Was he still working on innovations in photographic techniques?
Well, he also was interested in radiometry, and Lampland and Coblentz, you know, did planetary temperature measurements. And Lampland was the man who made the thermocouples, with his own hands.
Yes. And Lampland described doing this as "like tying fly specks together with cobwebs."
The people who worked at Lowell comprised a very interesting group.
Lowell brought Lampland and Slipher.
Yes, well, Cogshall -- unless Cogshall had been there, Lowell would never have known about Indiana University, or Slipher or Lampland, if Cogshall had not come there.
I see, so in a way, it was Cogshall who built the observatory, as far as the staff was concerned.
That's right. That's right. -- The three members of the staff, really, when I went out there -- well, Arthur Adel was there, I guess, and Clyde Tombaugh -- but the three senior members, the two Sliphers and Lampland, were all from Indiana. Then Arthur Adel had gone out there to work with Slipher on planetary spectra, and Tombaugh was there, of course. So your senior staff, for a long period of time, were 100 percent Indiana. As you say, Cogshall built the observatory staff, and that's it.
In identifying axes, as Osterbrock did, you know, between Wisconsin and Lick, that should also be Michigan and Lick too -- we now have another one to consider. Let me change the tape.
We've been talking about Lowell Observatory --
Just getting back to the summer of my first year at Lowell, it had two major components. One was taking plates for Tombaugh. That was my routine duty for the observatory. And the other was, I did have time to do a Master's thesis. And what I did was to re-measure all of V.M. Slipher's globular cluster spectra, some of which he had not yet published, and then combining his measures and mine. My Master's thesis was on the motions of the globular clusters and galactic rotation. And that was a paper that also appeared in the Astronomical Journal.
You were using them as a frame of reference? How did this work?
Well, I simply computed the solar motion relative to all of the clusters that V.M. had spectra for. So this was simply a new determination of that particular solar motion value.
And then, some interpretation. About shapes of the orbits and so on. Incidentally, things sometimes get buried in the literature. This is a nice one. In the course of analyzing those velocities, I reached the conclusion that the rotational velocities in our galaxy started from zero, came up -- more or less in a straight line, and then leveled off. I didn't say anything about the shape after they came up here, I said, "leveled off." In other words, I did not have them continue up or start down, but leveled off, and that's more or less what seems to be the case in the galaxy, from 21 centimeter data.
You have the rigid body rotation in the middle.
Yes, that's right.
They're just leveling off after that. The velocities neither increased nor decreased, as far as I could tell from the globular cluster data.
Yes. It's essentially constant now, but it is a slight slope down.
A slight slope downward, but very slight. It's not as steep as you would get from inverse square gravitation.
Did you become interested at that time, while you were at Lowell, in the K term problem? And in the work that you were doing later on, that's quite interesting in finding the different orbits for K giants?
That really came after I got out here. That's a postdoctoral interest entirely. This developed simply because opportunities came along.
Vyssotsky, at Virginia, had been trying to arrange with Struve to have the McDonald Observatory take some spectra.
That gets too far ahead.
All right, that gets too far ahead. We'll get back to that later. But the point is, this didn't work out, and I inherited the problem from Vyssotsky, and then Indiana made this arrangement for paying for use of McDonald, and that did it. I was at the right place at the right time, on that one.
Did you spend one full year or more?
Two. You see, my first year was getting my Master's degree. And incidentally, during that year, Henry Norris Russell stopped off in Flagstaff on his way to California. So I first met him some time in the winter of '33-'34. 1 don't remember the precise month. It was during the winter of '33-'34. And I do remember, he sat down with me in the reading room and asked me what I was doing, and all the rest of that. Had a nice private chat with him, and he took a real interest in what I was doing on my Master's thesis.
And your first impressions-of him were... ?
Well, I was astonished to find that a person of his reputation could be so human.
After all, he was the Russell of "Russell-Dugan-Stewart," you know. And all the rest of that.
Did he travel alone? He was traveling ahead of his family?
No, the family never went with him on these annual trips to Mt. Wilson. He was a research associate of Mt. Wilson for many years, and this was one of his regular annual trips. I don't remember offhand whether he was returning home or on his way to California, at the time he stopped in Flagstaff.
This is not the time that you met his family?
No. That was the next summer. No, this was during my first year there, while I was working on my Master's thesis. Then I came back to Indiana in June to attend commencement. At that time, Slipher invited me to stay on as a regular job, to continue taking plates for Tombaugh. That work had to be done, you see. Slipher invited me to stay after I got my Master's degree.
So, I came here for commencement. Then I went back, and by the time I got back, the Russells were already there for the summer, living up at the observatory.
This was after your second year at Lowell?
No, it was after my first year.
So then Margaret (Russell) and I were married, early in my second year. We spent the first year of our married life at Lowell.
I'm still trying to get the times straight.
I graduated from Indiana in June of '33. And so the '33-'34 year was my Master's degree year at Lowell. And I met Russell during that year.
Then, in the summer of '34, after I had my Master's degree, that's when the Russell family was at Lowell. And Margaret and I were married that fall.
Well, actually, the way that evening started, I was with Margaret's sister and Margaret was with Henry Giclas of the Lowell staff. By the end of the evening, we had swapped [laughter]. And the next day, Margaret and I were engaged.
As her father some time later said, "Propinquity propinqued."
There was no friction?
No. I think there was a little bit of shock at first. I can't imagine any parents not being shocked by such a sudden development. But no. I was treated very kindly by the whole family.
Well, they didn't stay on there continuously?
Oh, they were there the whole summer. They'd go out, they'd make trips up to Betatakin and other places of interest. Hard to get to back in those days. Harder than they are now.
Did they actually stay at the observatory?
Oh yes. In fact, they were the only people who were really ever allowed by Mrs. Lowell to stay in the old Lowell House. The Lowell House was a wood building which has since then been torn down, next to what was called the Old Library, which preceded the present main building. The Russell family occupied the library and a portion of the Lowell House that summer, as Mrs. Lowell's guests. And during two later summers, Mrs. Lowell permitted Margaret and me and our kids to stay in her house. That's because Margaret was Henry Norris Russell's daughter.
We appreciated it very much. So far as I know, only the Russell family and ours were ever living in the Lowell House, as Mrs. Lowell's guests, with her knowledge and invitation.
So the Russells were there for the whole summer; they arrived in June and left in September.
In that very same year, I don't know exactly when, of course, Russell wrote up his lectures on the solar system and its origin. While he was out there was he working on that?
Even better than that, he gave the lectures aloud in the library reading room to the observatory staff.
How was the discussion? How did it go?
It was very interesting. Lampland, of course, had the most questions. Lampland knew more, he was able to ask more intelligent questions than anybody else.
It was Russell and the Lowell Observatory staff. There may have been some people from downtown, from the college who came up, but I don't remember that now. And the Russell family.
As he was working on those lectures, on several afternoons, he lectured on this topic, before going to Virginia.
Even though they didn't deal exclusively with stellar evolution, they still used part of it, and then there was the old question of the capture hypothesis that they were working on.
Yes. Well, it was in these lectures that he completely demolished the Chamberlain-Moulton and the tidal theory modifications thereof -- by doing a simple calculation that showed, under the most favorable possible circumstances, [that] you still failed by a factor of almost ten to get the angular momentum into the planets.
There was also the problem of the amount of mass that had to be drawn off, wasn't there?
That I don't remember. When he was talking about it, it was on the distribution of angular momentum -- that no matter how he fudged it, taking the most favorable things he could think of, in terms of the dimensions of the stars and velocities, and all the rest of that, he could not, by a factor of ten, get the proper ratio of angular momentum between sun and planets.
I've heard that he had an alternate theory, actually, that it was a three star encounter.
Well, this is proposed in the book. He didn't follow through on it. And this is what Lyttleton followed through on. The Lyttleton theory was published in the Monthly Notices. And due credit is given to Russell, by the way, in the Lyttleton paper. Russell suggested that you could solve the angular momentum problem by having the sun be one component of a binary -- and that if a third star could come along, and eject the sun's companion, and not be captured itself, and if some debris would be captured by the remaining body -- if these things happened, then you could get the angular momentum, but primitive angular momentum, in that case. And this was Russell's suggestion in his lectures, but he didn't follow it through, working it out mathematically. Lyttleton did. And Lyttleton showed that you could have an encounter in which the sun's companion would be ejected and the intruder would escape, and some matter would remain behind.
That put Russell in sort of an interesting position, because then he turned right around -- if I recall it correctly, and this is what I wanted to ask you about -- and stated that the amount of matter that would have to be drawn out of the star or the sun was such that it was greater than the atmosphere of the sun, and would have to include some of the material from underneath, what they were calling the reversing layer. It was therefore at an extremely high temperature and would probably dissipate.
Well, no, Spitzer did that.
Oh, Spitzer did that later, but Spitzer referenced Russell.
It's a long time since I really looked at Spitzer's paper, so I just don't remember that. I don't remember Russell talking about it then. In fact, I don't remember Russell talking about it until Spitzer's paper came out.
Oh, that's interesting. How did these discussions seem to go? What do you recall most vividly about the various ideas that you were learning at the time, while you were at Lowell? There was a tremendous amount happening, of course. People were searching for interstellar absorption, and galactic structure was advancing. Bok, I guess, was about to do distribution of the stars in space.
Well, I was reading the publications on things of that kind, so when I started talking about graduate work in astronomy, Dr. Russell insisted very strongly that I should go to Harvard and work with Bok. I actually had been thinking about Michigan, the point being that during the summer between my junior and senior years, I had spent a summer at Michigan. Took a course under McLaughlin -- a variable star course. And took a solar physics course under Carl Rufus. And it was very pleasant up there. I enjoyed Michigan. H.D. Curtis was director there at that time.
I remember, that summer, sitting up in the dome of the 37 1/2 inch, with Curtis smoking his pipe and taking spectra. He was doing his share of the routine observing. He really was the director and all that, but he was carrying his share of the routine observing. So here was H.D. Curtis, puffing on his pipe, and guiding the telescope, and I was sitting there listening to him reminisce and so on. Trouble is, I don't remember any of his reminiscences.
So, at any rate, Michigan was a place I was familiar with. So I was thinking about Michigan as a place to go. But when Russell found out about my galactic structure interests and so on, he said, "No, you should go to Harvard."
So it was at his insistence. Also, he put it on the financial side. "Look," he said, "this is worth money to you. Margaret is going to get an inheritance some day, and she might as well get some of it a little bit early. I'll stake you, going to Harvard."
Well, actually, I had a fellowship at Harvard one year, and I had a teaching assistantship another, so -- the stake was needed, but not for full expenses.
Did you go through the formal application process, to Harvard?
And who were your references? Was Russell one of your references?
Well, I'm not sure if I called on him for a formal written reference or not. The people at Flagstaff, yes, and K.P. Williams from here, people of that sort. Those who actually I'd had direct academic contact with. I don't think Russell did anything as formal as a letter. He might have just said something, you know.
And then, of course, I was in communication with Bok. I had been in correspondence with Bok at an earlier time, and then Bok was rather anxious. You know, a young faculty member wants to get students. So obviously, here was a chance for one more student to add to his roster.
So you talked directly to Bok.
Oh yes. Yes.
And not through Shapley.
No. I really don't remember what my first communication with Shapley was. But before really going there it was always Bok. Now, I really don't remember what the details of the application process had to be. But I do remember the first time I ever met Shapley face to face to talk to was out at the Agassiz Station.
But that was already '35.
That was just after I had arrived to start my work there.
Let's talk a bit about a few other things. Where were you actually married?
Was your mother still alive at that time?
Yes. She was there. And my youngest brother was there. I forget now why Tommy didn't make it. There was some reason that my brother, who's only four years younger than I, did not make it, but my RCA-NBC brother did make it. He was only 11 at the time. Mother and he were there.
One of the more interesting things about the wedding date is that it was chosen for one reason. It was the date of the Princeton-Dartmouth football game, and Margaret's brother, who was in medical school at Harvard was going to come down to attend the football game, and she didn't want to force him to make two different trips to Princeton, one weekend for the game and another for the wedding, so she decided we'd have the wedding that date, for her brother's convenience.
Now, as it turned out, this was not planned, that date was the wedding anniversary of both sets of parents -- her parents and my parents. (laughter)
Did you ever compute the probability of that happening?
That really is. But those anniversaries had nothing to do with the choice of our wedding date. Our date was tied to the Princeton-Dartmouth football game, and her brother's convenience.
That's really remarkable.
So we were married in the morning, in the big living room at 79 Alexander Street. After the ceremony was over, the minister and all the wedding guests took off for the football game, and Margaret and I packed up our car and left.
Where did you go for your honeymoon?
Well, we went as far as Harrisburg the first night, where I had relatives. And then we ended up in Flagstaff, of course. We went from Princeton to Flagstaff with the necessary number of stops en route to make it. So the wedding trip was just the trip back to Flagstaff.
For your second year at Flagstaff.
Yes. Yes, that's right. During the second year, in November of the second year.
So how was your second year there? You were working pretty much on your own? You're still taking plates.
The second year, I was taking Tombaugh plates, and I don't remember now just what I was doing besides that. I had finished my thesis, of course, so I was doing some things of my own, but I can't remember now. I don't know what they were. My memory isn't that good.
At this time had you talked about Harvard?
Oh, we talked about Harvard at the time we were married.
Yes, Russell was already talking to me about going to Harvard then. He found out about my [interests]. He was asking me what thoughts I had about graduate work. I told him about my summer at Michigan and thoughts about going there.
He said, "Well, for somebody who's interested in what you are, Michigan is not the right place. You should go study with Bart Bok at Harvard."
Maybe we should move on now to Harvard. Where did you live?
In Cambridge it was 13 Shepherd St. Shepherd Street is perpendicular to Massachusetts Avenue, and 13 Shepherd was just a few doors up the street from Massachusetts Avenue, a convenient walk to the observatory.
The apartment we moved into was being vacated by K.T. Bainbridge, a very famous physicist.
How did you find the conditions for studying and research at Harvard during what must have been its true heyday of activity?
Well, it was great. I was there in the Golden Age of Harvard, no question about it. In the first place, the summers that I was there, we had exciting summer schools. Van de Kamp was there. Saha was there, of all people. Saha is a name in the history books these days. I met Saha -- listened to him give a series of lectures and so on.
So Van de Kamp, Saha, Lundmark was there. Lundmark gave a whole course of lectures. What was really exciting was the summer schools.
And then on top of that, some of the young post-docs -- Chandrasekhar and Kuiper were both there during part of the two years I was there, and Jerry Mulders. It was very interesting at the Christmas party to hear Mulders and Kuiper and Bart Bok singing ribald songs -- in Dutch -- that nobody else could understand!
Van de Kamp could have done it too.
He wasn't there. This was the Christmas party. Yes, Van de Kamp could have chimed in too. But Van de Kamp was there one summer. So the summers were very exciting -- just with people like Saha and Lundmark and so on, who are in the history books now, to have had a chance to know them.
Of course, that was also the period of the Harvard tercentenary celebration, and Eddington gave an important lecture at one of the tercentenary celebrations. So that's the one and only time I ever met Eddington, was during the Harvard tercentenary.
His first book was on stellar motions.
Yes. I have that book, oh yes.
Did you have a heart to heart talk with him?
At the Harvard Tercentenary I didn't have that kind of opportunity. But there were lots of exciting visitors, people passing through, and then as I say, in the summers for a longer period of time, a longer series of lectures. Lundmark and Saha and Van de Kamp are the three I especially remember, out of the summers, but there must have been others that would come back to me if I thought more about it.
Of course, Menzel was there and Mrs. Gaposhkin was there.
Yes, they were on the staff. I'm talking about the summer visitors, Lundmark and Van de Kamp and Saha were there through the summer but no longer.
Van de Kamp had done some very early work on the existence of interstellar absorption, and he was certainly doing galactic structure.
Well, the summer when he was there was when the Van de Kamp-Vyssotsky big proper motion program was coming to an end, and that was mainly what he talked about. In fact, that led me to a couple of papers I published on second order effects -- the relationship between secular parallax and apparent magnitude. The secular parallaxes of the faint stars were larger than expected, and so this led me to look into second order galactic rotation effects and so on.
Which you found.
An interesting luminosity distribution work came out of that, didn't it?
No, that's something else. That was with Vyssotsky. That's something entirely different and much later. But that was based on the McDonald Observatory spectra. After I came here. These other papers were while I was still a graduate student. I believe, the second order galactic rotation effects was one paper, and then the application to the Van de Kamp-Vyssotsky data was one that actually was published right after I came out here, in '37.
Well, of the papers that I do have, the first one was on the velocity of light, where you were considering the possibility of its variation.
Yes. Yes. That's one of the sins of my youth, yes.
That was done while you were at Flagstaff, actually.
Yes, that's right.
How did you come to that interesting problem?
Well, there was a publication on the value of the velocity of light, and a table giving some of the older values, and I simply plotted it.
But there was no one at Flagstaff who was involved?
No. If I'd been at Harvard, Bart Bok would have said, "That's all right, but forget about it." But there was nobody at Flagstaff to say "Forget about it."
Your big paper on stellar kinematics and mean parallaxes ....
Yes, that's the one I'm talking about. That was directly stimulated by Van de Kamp's presence at Harvard in the Harvard Summer School.
Yes, you acknowledge Van de Kamp, Bok, Russell and McCuskey.
Yes. McCuskey was a fellow graduate student.
Oh, that's very interesting.
At that time. Yes.
Who actually suggested this work? Was it from Van de Kamp's lecture that you got the idea?
No. I had read E.A. Milne's paper, "Stellar Kinematics and the K effect." And incidentally, if one were going to pick six of the great scientific papers, that would be among the six. I think that's one of the great papers. I'm not sure everybody shares this kind of a view. But the depth and the sight of that peper -- it's a great paper. I read that paper with considable interest. And here was Van de Kamp giving these interesting results. And just began wondering what would happen if you extended the Milne work to the second order? So I started out to do the necessary algebra, and found out.
What was Shapley's opinion of galactic rotation at that time? I’m sure he accepted the fact --
-- oh, nobody questioned it. Nobody questioned it.
But it seems to me that he was reluctant to accept the existence of interstellar absorption to any great degree, during that time.
Oh, that's right. That's right.
This stopped some progress at Harvard.
But as far as kinematics were concerned, was he totally supportive of your work?
I had no reason to believe he wasn't.
You found that the solar motion is a function of the galactic latitude, and also the distance to the set of stars which you were working with.
That's the way it comes out, up to the second order. Yes. Now, you have to define your terms there. You'd better put quotes around "solar motion." The reason for that is -- if solar motion means the first harmonic term in a mathematic series --
-- that's it.
All right, that's the standard way of looking at it. But the point I was trying to make in my paper, following Milne, was that the first harmonic, which is really the result of translation, has some terms added onto it which are also first harmonics, but they don't come from solar motion, they come from galactic rotation. But if you're doing a least squares solution and fitting a first harmonic, you're going to call it solar motion. So the solar motion in that sense is a function of what you just mentioned. But the reason it appears to be such a function is because you have second order galactic rotation terms, added onto the top of the honest to goodness translation motion, first harmonic.
Was there any question at this time whether all the orbits were circular around the center of the galaxy?
At that time, no questions.
Everybody was dealing with circular motion.
That's right. In fact, I didn't think of what a deviation from circular motion would do until the Dutch spiral arms came out. That's what triggered off my interest in that particular problem.
What about Morgan's work? This is before his work on 0 associations.
Well, you see, Morgan's work is locating them from observations of objects in space. What I was doing was trying to interpret 21 centimeter observations.
Yes, but this is much later.
Well, Morgan got his distances by standard optical means. Your 21 centimeter distances, you get entirely from a model of the galaxy. If your model is circular orbits, you get one distance. And so my interest in the problem was, what happens if the orbits are not circular? If you change your orbits from circular to non-circular, how does this change the calculated appearance of the spiral arms?
And actually, one way to look at it is to just plot the galaxy on a sheet of rubber, and watch your circular motion stretch the rubber around a little bit. Have a nice unstretched sheet of rubber, and put spiral arms on. Then, you put in circular motions, and you start stretching the rubber. The pattern was there.
Did you ever do that?
Not physically, no. The pattern is there, but the pattern stays, it just gets distorted in shape.
That's an interesting physical analogy. I think maybe you would work it up for a lecture some time?
OK, well, let's move on to Harvard....
You were at Harvard between '35 and '37.
That's right. 12 months of the year. Also, I went there with a Master's degree. So that's why I got through so fast.
Edmondson; Two full years. Two 12 month years, after a Master's degree, yes.
How did you find the general working conditions between the faculty? Was everything running pretty smoothly?
Everything was running very smoothly. The place was small enough, it was quite informal and friendly, and all that. Shapley certainly was not one who stood on formalities of any kind at all. As you know, Bart Bok doesn't either. Bart occasionally gets on his high horse. But he's not a formal person.
So it was a nice, friendly informal place, good interaction between students and faculty.
Now, Harvard's totally different now. I wouldn't want to go to the present day Harvard under any circumstances, unless it was as a post-doc. I would not want to go there for graduate study. But Harvard, back when I was there, was in its Golden Age, no question about it.
Was Greenstein there during this period?
Greenstein and I were fellow students. We got our degrees the same day. At the end of my first year there, Carl Seyfert and Sid McCusky got their degrees. And then, the second year, Jesse Greenstein and George Dimitroff and I.
How did you work in course work? Did you take course work there?
Yes. Oh yes, there were certain courses that were required.
How did all of you study? Did you study together? Was it very individualistic?
Oh, pretty individualistic, for the most part. Bok had a course in galactic structure, and Ted Sterne who was on the faculty at that time, had a very high powered statistics course, that very few people other than Ted Sterne understood. And Menzel had an astrophysics course, and then I took a course in the physics department, on atomic structure, under Professor Oldenburg. He was a marvelous teacher, marvelous teacher. I guess that's probably the only course I took outside the observatory, just that one physics course.
What are your recollections of how everyone worked, the students? How did they react to the environment there?
Well, I have no unpleasant memories, let's put it that way.
I do seem to recollect that there were some elements of friction in the faculty itself. Were you aware of any?
Well -- at that time? Not really.
Menzel, and Dr. Gaposehkin, and Shapley, there was some sort of a three ring --
Well, I think those frictions must have come later.
In the forties?
I don't think they were there when I was there in the thirties.
They might have been developing at that time, and in the forties they certainly were there. Shapley's political activities, for example, which got him "in dutch" with the university administration, and things like that.
Did you talk to Russell at all about Shapley's political leanings?
The only thing I remember is, Russell simply said he was sorry that Shapley had gone this way. But he wasn't critical. He was just sorry Shapley had gone in the direction he had. Russell was a conservative.
And I am too, you see. So we shared conservative views.
How did you feel on that? Did you feel uncomfortable with Shapley?
Well, in the first place, his political activities didn't develop until after I had left there.
So they weren't going on then.
That's right. No, among my memories of Shapley would be, when I got my offer from Virginia. You see, I was finishing up my PhD, and it was understood, I would come back here to Indiana University. When I graduated, there was an understanding that if I ever got a PhD, they would make a place for me back here -- just a tacit understanding.
Yes. So at any rate, the perturbation was that Van de Kamp went to Swarthmore, and S.A. Mitchell offered me that vacancy at Virginia. And so, when I got the offer from Mitchell -- the Indiana thing was already known, the tacit understanding -- I went to Bart Bok.
Bart Bok said, "We must go see Shapley, right away."
So into Shapley's office we went. And Shapley's first comment -- you see, times were hard then, jobs were scarce -- Shapley's first comment was, "This is better luck than you deserve." Two jobs. "This is better luck than you deserve."
He questioned then, "The Indiana job is a brand new position in astronomy, isn't it?"
I sald, "Yes.
He said, "Then that is the one you should take."
DeVorkin; Why is that?
Well, if I didn't take it, they might not give it to anybody else. This was the creation of a new job in astronomy, which essentially involved me. So the commitment was to me -- not to double the size of the astronomy department here.
Oh, so he wasn't thinking in terms of where it would be best for you to go.
He was thinking in terms of what would be best for astronomy. What was best for astronomy was to create a new job.
At that time, I can well appreciate that. And now.
Yes. So then there was some more talk, and then I actually visited Charlottesville, and came out here and so on, and ended up here. William Lowe Bryan, who was president at that time, sent me a telegraphic offer, the same day the newspapers carried the story of his retirement. And Herman B Wells became acting president, and made all the other new appointments. So I'm the last member of the faculty of this university who was appointed by William Lowe Bryan, at the end of his 35 years as president.
When you went to Charlottesville, is this when you met Vyssotsky?
I'm sure I met Vyssotsky -- Vyssotsky probably came up to Harvard some time while I was a student there. Charlottesville was not the first time I'd met him.
Incidentally, the reason Mitchell offered me the job, and Vyssotsky was interested in getting me, was because I had published this stellar kinematics paper. I was interested in the proper motion work.
This is why I made the statement about Shapley being more interested in astronomy than in where you should go professionally, because coming to Indiana, you were going to have to create your entire program.
Whereas at Virginia, they had a real going, very very well established concern.
Well, Bok felt I should go to Virginia. Russell felt I should go to Virginia. Shapley was the only one who thought I should come to Indiana.
But there were other problems. S.A. Mitchell was not an easy man to get along with. In fact, Shapley, in his assessment of Virginia, said, "Well, now, there's that vain man -- "
I discovered in Charlottesville that Mitchell would be a difficult person to live with. Also, the observatory that the Van de Kamps had lived in, that we would live in, the back part of it was occupied by the Mitchells' colored servants. You didn't even have a whole house to yourself.
Well, that's a small thing, and so on. But also, I thought I knew this university better than some other people did. The way it turned out, the thing that was even better than I had anticipated was Herman B. Wells. Because Herman Wells turned this university from what had been a good second rate university into a great one.
So, coming here just at the time a dynamic, brand new young president took over, provided an opportunity even better than I had expected I'd have.
That's in '37.
Where did they get the money, with the new president here at Indiana, for growth?
He simply knew how to work with the state legislature. He was able to do a good selling job.
In those incredibly hard times.
He knew what to do. And also, even more important than getting the money, he knew what a university was supposed to be. And that counts for a lot.
Did you have discussions with him directly about what you were going to do here?
Oh, there was one time -- Dr. Link built this private observatory, which is now ours...
-- yes, I wanted to ask you about that association. Go ahead.
Well, it was under construction when I arrived here.
There was no understanding that it was going to be [donated to Indiana].
No, no, that came much later.
But the fall I arrived, the first time I ever heard of that observatory, Shapley came out to give a lecture in Indianapolis to the Contemporary Club. Professor Cogshall invited us to go up to Indianapolis to hear Shapley's lecture.
And he said, "Oh, by the way, on the way up we're going to stop off where a new observatory is being built, and they brought Shapley out from Indianapolis to see it."
So that was the first time I met Dr. Link, and saw the observatory under construction or knew anything at all about it. It was purely a very large private amateur observatory, with a 36-inch reflector.
Was Dr. Link a medical doctor?
Link is still living. He will be 98 years old next month.(May 1977)
He was made honorary director?
Yes, that's right. That's right.
Was that when the observatory was donated?
He gave the observatory to us in 1948. But prior to that time, we had made use of it. So this gets back to the Herman Wells story.
As soon as I learned about the existence of this observatory, I thought, "Oh boy. Here's our chance. We ought to get our foot in the door."
Dr. Link had said something about liking to have local universities make use of it. So my thought was, we ought to bring in a post-doc who would work up there. Shapley, you see, saw the place. Shapley said, "Well, we have Jim Cuffey, he's just finishing up his degree -- "
Again, Shapley was looking for a job for one of his students, you see. Shapley said, "Why doesn't Indiana hire Jim (James) Cuffey as a post-doc, and put him to work at the Link Observatory?"
So then I came back, and I talked to people about it. I talked to K.P. Williams and I talked to Cogshall, and I even talked to H.B Wells. I'm pretty sure Cuffey was Shapley's student --
-- we're talking about James Cuffey --
Yes. I had told Herman Wells --
(crosstalk) -- this is the development of the program --
(crosstalk) In fact he was still only acting president that year. And I told Wells about this new observatory and so on, and Wells told me, "The university would be glad to provide funds for a post-doc."
I'm not sure exactly -- well, K.P. Williams made the contact for me to talk to him about this. So that's the way it worked. I went to Williams. I said, "Look, I’d like the president to know about this possibility."
So Williams contacted Wells: would Wells be willing to talk to me? I was only an instructor at the time, you see.
Wells said, "I'll talk to anybody."
So I told him, I went over and saw him and told him about this observatory under construction, and how we ought to get our foot in the door.
So Wells assured me, money could be made available for a post-doc. Fine.
All right, then Cogshall was preparing the budget for the following year, and was asking me to provide some input for this. So I suggested asking for salary for a post-doc to work up at Link. Cogshall thought this was a great idea, it would be just fine. He said, "But if we ask for it, we'll be turned down. So I won't ask for it."
And I had already been told by the president of the university that the money would be given if we asked for it.
But you figured you couldn't tell that to Cogshall.
No, I couldn't.
At that moment, my wife came in eating an ice cream cone. And Cogshall made some kind of a remark about it. I said, "Professor Cogshall, I'll bet you an ice cream cone that if we put that request in the budget, we'll get the money."
I was betting on a sure thing, see.
Well-worth an ice cream cone!
So he took me up on it. He bet me the ice cream cone and put it in the budget. We got our money and I got my ice cream cone!
Marvelous. Does Dr. Cuffey know that story?
I'm sure I've told him that story.
This was the beginning of your association with Link.
That's right. Of course, Cuffey was away in the Navy during the war and all that, but at the end of the war, Dr. Link decided the thing was too big for him, and he gave it to the university, in 1948.
What sort of work did he do with it? With what in mind did he build this telescope?
Well, what he had in mind originally was that he would offer the use of it to neighboring universities -- Butler and Indianapolis and DePauw and so on. And we were the only ones who showed any interest at all.
Weren't there any astronomers at the others?
Well, the head of the mathematics department at DePauw taught astronomy. But he certainly wasn't interested in using a 36-inch telescope.
It's ironic, because I think Butler, some time in the late fifties [built a telescope]?
Well, that's another story. That's a later story -- it was more complicated that that.
But at any rate, back in 1937, Butler had no interest at all, so it ended up, we were the only ones who showed any interest. And after the war, Dr. Link said, "Well, if you're going to have the use of it, you might as well have all the headaches too, so I'll give it to the university."
And I never will forget, symbolically, the day that Dr. Link handed me a roll of toilet paper and said, "From now on, you have to buy this." (laughter)
During the period when he still retained ownership, did he provide any instrumentation for you? You certainly would have needed some.
It was already equipped for direct photography, and that's the way Jim Cuffey used it. It was not until after we took over that we added to the instrumentation.
So he was doing mainly magnitude work, to start.
Yes, that's right. Entirely. Photometry of galactic clusters. Exactly what he had done at Harvard for his thesis. Continuation of that kind of work.
That's what he's very well known for.
That's right. A lot of it, because of what he did here, too.
He developed his astrophotometer --
During this period, or later in the fifties?
Well, shortly before he went to go to Las Cruces. So that was later, much later.
Staying in the forties, the period of the forties and the war, you continued on working. You started this cooperative project with Chicago and Texas.
Who actually did start that?
Well, Otto Struve started it by publishing a paper. The AAAS used to have both SCIENCE and the SCIENTIFIC MONTHLY?
The AAAS, yes.
If my memory's right, Struve's paper is to be found in the SCIENTIFIC MONTHLY. In the neighborhood of somewhere around 1938, '39, somewhere along in there. Struve had an article called "Cooperation in Astronomy." And his basic thesis was -- "Look," he said, "we're training young astronomers, and then they're going to schools where they have no telescopes at all, and something has to be done to provide them with the means to continue their scientific careers."
So his proposal at that time was to get some university interested in this sort of thing, and go to a foundation to get money for a second telescope at the McDonald Observatory.
So I wrote to Struve, and asked him for two or three reprints of his article. I said, "I would like to have our President and some of the deans here read what you have written."
So Struve sent me the reprints, and he said, "I'm also interested in getting going as fast as we can, so here's my proposal."
He said that Vyssotsky had been in communication with him about doing this K star work at McDonald, and Virginia had not been able to raise the funds to pay for the telescope time that would be used for this.
Is this how you got into the K star work?
And so he said he was sure Vyssotsky would be willing to cooperate with me. So I got in touch with Vyssotsky. He said, "Oh, yes." He said, "If you can get the telescope time, I'll send you charts and everything."
So I got back to Struve. Then I got busy here -- and the money was provided from here.
Did you start on the 82-inch at McDonald?
So we started paying, what was it, $600 a year for 15 nights -- it's a lot more expensive than that now!
But at any rate, Struve wanted to get going, to show that this kind of cooperation would work. And Vyssotsky was anxious to get the K star spectra done, and Struve, in a sense, was the intermediary on that one, because Struve wrote to me and said, "Here's my proposal -- if Indiana can raise the money for the telescope time, and Vyssotsky will be willing, as I'm sure he will, because he's already told me he would turn it over to anybody who could pay for the time -- "
So that's how I got started. Vyssotsky sent me copies of photographic prints of the parallax plates, which I used as the basis for finding charts with the telescope. And a lot of this stuff I got before publication, before the second installment of the big catalogue came out. So that was the basis of the observing program.
Then of course, later on, Vyssotsky and Edith Janssen and I did that joint paper, in the ApJ, of which I think I gave you a copy? And some of the velocities are not yet published. Again, as soon as I retire as chairman, I can finish that up. I still have some unpublished material from that program. I have published some of the results and analyses, but the catalogue of velocities is still in the files here.
How did you go about raising the $600 here at Indiana? Was there any difficulty with it?
The university at that time -- again, Herman Wells had done this -- had set up a research fund.
I applied to the campus research committee for the grant to support it.
And was there a review committee and did you have to justify yourself?
Yes. Yes. But no real problems.
They were very supportive here of research?
That's right. Yes.
But Struve's article is what triggered it off. I read Struve's article in the SCIENTIFIC MONTHLY, wrote for reprints, and back come the reprints and the proposition from Struve.
Were there any other responses Struve had gotten, to your knowledge?
So then literally this was the kernel of what we may now call the National Observatory.
It was the first example, I guess, of that kind of cooperation.
Off the top of my head, I do not know of any other examples of that.
And we're still buying time at McDonald regularly. But in more recent years, especially after Harlan Smith went down there, they've also been selling time to other people. We're not the only ones now. But I think, I believe, up until the end of the Chicago control, we were the only outsiders buying time at McDonald.
That is quite interesting.
But the inspiration was Struve's. Struve saw the problem, all these PhD's we were turning out, who were teaching at places where they cannot do the kind of professional work they were trained to do. What can we do for them?
Would you say this is the beginning of your interest in organizational work too?
I wasn't thinking of it in terms of organization at that time. No.
How did you think of it?
I thought of it as a wonderful opportunity to do some work I was interested in doing.
Right. Because I can certainly identify your career as one in which you had a growing involvement in the astronomical community, as a functioning institution, and you became more and more involved in this, and you became a central figure. I was wondering if this might have been an origin?
Well, not in that. I think, being treasurer of the Astronomical Society of course, gave me much broader contacts than I would have had otherwise. I think being treasurer had as much as anything to do with taking me out into the big wide world. And then, I think it's because I was treasurer that I was known to Ray Seeger of the National Science Foundation when he was looking for somebody to run the astronomy program in '56-'57. And so, if I had not been treasurer, I would have been one more professor at a university that was not outstanding in astronomy. But because I was treasurer, I was a known quantity to Ray Seeger. And so Ray Seeger propositioned me to come to Washington for a year to the foundation. And that's the year that really got me into the organizational side of things.
Then that was late fifties.
I was with NSF '56-'57, fifteen months and six days, June the 1st of '56, until September 6 of '57. The reason being that my predecessor, Helen Hogg, wanted to leave in June, not September, so I went three months early. And the six days was because my successor, Geffrey Keller, needed some overlap, just to get set in the job; and secondly, the National Science Foundation board was meeting on September 6th, and the Kitt Peak project was bound to come up in their discussions, and I knew the answers and Jeff didn't. So that's the six days. I stayed through the NSFB and then that was that.
Let's stay in the forties for a while.
And find out what you did during the war years. What was your involvement if any?
Well, during the war years I continued on the faculty here, and Professor Cogshall retired in 1944, which is when I became chairman of the department. And what I did here, -- well, in terms of the way things are nowadays, my teaching really was a killing load, because not only was I teaching for a period nearly all the astronomy courses, but I was also teaching physics to the Army students. The ASTP, the Army Specialized Training Program. I was teaching an introductory physics course regularly in that program, on top of my astronomy teaching -- a larger than standard astronomy teaching load.
Did you teach any navigation or anything to do with ballistics?
No. There was no navigation involved in the Army program, so it was straight physics that I taught them.
This very heavy teaching load must have curtailed your other responsibilities, plus the administration here.
Well, of course, as I say, I became department chairman in '44. So in the earlier war years, Cogshall was still running the department, but I was teaching the Army physics.
There was only one year left of the war at that time.
Well, immediately when Cogshall retired, I was alone for a semester. And -- that was the first semester of the '44-'45 school year. Then we got Carl Bauer, who is now at Penn State, in second semester. And then the following fall -- I think I'm right on the time on this -- we got Lawrence Aller. That's right, he was here three years, '45 to '48.
He left in '48?
He left in '48. He left the very time that Dr. Link gave us the observatory.
You must have brought Lawrence Aller here?
Yes. Yes. Well, we had been in communication, and his availability was uncertain because of the war.
Had you met him at Harvard?
Oh yes. Yes, I knew him. But what happened was, I got a phone call at 2 o'clock in the morning, from Lawrence Aller. His job on the Manhattan Project had vanished that day. And his draft board was after him the next week.
I didn't know he was ever involved with the Manhattan Project.
Oh yes. He said he was a plumber's helper. He said all he needed to know to do his job was how to use a monkey wrench. That's all I know about it.
That's all he said?
That's all he's ever said to me, yes. But at any rate, that's what gave him his draft deferment. Now, my draft deferment -- two kids, teaching, and all that. But Aller's deferment was going to expire. He'd lost the job that had given him his deferment just the day before. He was desperate.
Well, I went over to see Fernandus Payne, the dean of the graduate school. He was a fine person. He was a zoologist and dean of the graduate school. So I went over to see Payne. Told him about this phone call. And Herman Wells was out of town that day.
The university was just still small enough so the president individually approved appointments at the assistant professor level, which is what we were talking about.
So I told Payne about the problem we had. Instant action was required. And all Lawrence Aller wanted was an appointment. He didn't care about the salary. He said, "I want to show it to my draft board and certify that I am a member of the Indiana faculty, now."
Payne saw what the problem was. So Payne said, "Well, President Wells is out of town. But this has to be acted on. OK, I'll send Aller a telegram telling him he's appointed, effective today, and if Prexy doesn't like it, he knows what he can do about it."
He must have felt confident enough about it.
That's right. Well, the point -- that shows you that we had real deans in those days. We had a good president too. Payne was sure how Wells would react. Wells reacted predictably, this was fine, this had to be done and it was done, great.
So then Aller came that fall.
But Aller was recognized as a very valuable person.
You mentioned that you had significant correspondence with Struve concerning the development of McDonald Observatory?
Yes. Any of the AURA stuff will be found in lots of other files, is the point. I don't have any unique stuff here relating to Kitt Peak or Tololo, really. The same thing would be true about AAS treasurer -- anything I have would also be found in Fredrick's files or other files.
But the material I have that probably is unique and also interesting is my correspondence with Struve, especially relating to our establishing the McDonald Observatory arrangement.
Do you have any knowledge right now approximately how many letters or how many inches of correspondence?
At the moment, I'm not even sure where it is. It's either in this room or in dead storage down the hall, and more likely down there. But I'd have to do some searching to find it.
Well, if we could prevail upon you to do this --
Hm mm. The way you prevail is to keep bugging me.
All right, I will take that into consideration.
That's right, that is an invitation.
I'll remind you of it.
But the interesting thing here is, you see, this would document Struve's thinking on this idea of the broader use of observatories, by more than just, shall I say, their owners.
It really documents that, because this is a direct follow-up to his paper in the SCIENTIFIC MONTHLY.
As I told you earlier, I wrote for the reprints of that article, "Cooperation in Astronomy." And this is the correspondence that follows from that. It starts then, and ends when he left Yerkes. That would be the time period covered.
So that's to about '47, '48.
Something like that.
Do you know the circumstances under which he left Yerkes?
Yes, he was offered the chairmanship of the department at Berkeley. He went to Berkeley, which he felt was a greater challenge at that time.
I see. There was nothing at Yerkes at the time that was causing him to leave? He had been pretty much keeping Yerkes together?
That's right. That's right. And Yerkes began to fall apart after he left.
Could you talk a little bit about that?
Well, I'd really have to stop and think and organize my thoughts on that, but after Struve left and Kuiper became director, -- well, let's see, then they had Stromgren for a time and so on. Well -- I'm not really the one to talk about it. I sort of was an onlooker.
Well, Morgan is the primary person.
Morgan would be your primary source there. I can't even remember now just what the time sequence was. I guess, maybe after Struve left, they got Stromgren. And I'm not sure how the faculty managed to sabotage him. Then, I think after Stromgren, it was Kuiper for a while, and then when Kuiper left, Morgan -- Morgan pulled things together again. I mean, he did an heroic job. And I was his confidante for a period of time there. This came just before and during my time as president of AURA actually, and -- well, so then, after Morgan, who was next? Hiltner? -- I think that sequence is more or less straight. After Struve, it was Stromgren, and then Kuiper, and then Morgan, and then Hiltner -- there was some kind of switch when Kuiper was out and then back again, I think.
What were the elements, the overall elements --
Well, part of the problem was that the directorship of Yerkes was a University of Chicago popularity contest. Every third year or something, where the staff of the observatory had to vote on the observatory director. As far as I could make out, their tendency always was to vote against the guy who was in the job.
Now, that's not why Struve left -- this never happened under Struve. But the reason Kuiper went to Arizona was because he was voted out as director of Yerkes.
In fact, this (I happened to have personal knowledge of) was after Kuiper was voted out that he sought the job at Arizona.
Hm. He didn't expect to be voted out.
I don't think so.
I don't know the particulars of the situation but that decade in Yerkes history, what seems to be a divisive situation, seems to have also injured it quite a bit in its research.
This is right. This is right.
Was this somehow a calculated thing, do you think, on the part of the university? Because they've been having trouble with the university ever since.
There's an element in this that I'm afraid I'm not at liberty to talk about.
But you do understand the nature of the --
I understand that. But this thing, I'd better not talk about -- except to say that some of the things the university did were triggered by a certain individual.
I see. I'm aching to know.
Turn the tape off and I'll tell you.
Well, that's not quite --
-- no, it's not. Really, this is the kind of thing you ought to get from somebody at Chicago, not from me.
Could you name a source at Chicago we could talk to, without divulging any confidence? I mean, I imagine Morgan would be aware of the situation.
If Morgan would be willing to talk, he would certainly be the most knowledgable source.
It might well be that he would feel, now that he's retired and so on, he had better let the dead stay buried.
Anyone on campus?
No. I just don't know. He might want to talk. I just don't know.
How do you think we might approach Morgan?
-- that's difficult. I don't know. The trouble with Morgan right now, of course, is that he has been offended by Dave Philip not using personal correspondence with Morgan. You know the kind of thing he does. I'm sorry, but this has offended Bill Morgan. So this might make it harder to approach him.
We would be approaching him from the direction of the American Institute of Physics, of course. There would be no association with Dave Philip, other than my name?
Yes. But you're tarred with that brush, possibly. Possibly.
Possibly. Now, this might be the kind of thing, just let it lie fallow for a while, and pick it up again, not now but a year from now or something like that.
OK. It has put me in a confusing position.
Yes. It's extremely unfair to you, but I sort of felt it was my duty to let you know how things stood there, you see, so that you wouldn't get taken by surprise some time.
Well, what we very easily can do is to have the director of the Center, Spencer Weart, make the contact, and follow through.
OK. That would be the thing to do.
Of course, I didn't realize any of this was going to happen when I accepted the request to involve myself in that symposium.
And I still think it will be a very positive element. I must say, I've learned a lot about the astronomical community.
Well, Bill Morgan is really very thin skinned, that's part of the problem. He's a wonderful person. I count him among my best friends. But oh boy, you really have to be very careful.
I appreciate that. He certainly is an extremely valuable source.
That we want to be able to approach him successfully. But he's not a public image, and I think he prefers not to be.
Well, we were talking about Lawrence Aller, when we finished, in the forties, in 1945-48, 1 guess he was here.
Yes, he was here, and this was his first academic position.
Was he the first astrophysicist in spectroscopy?
That is correct. That is correct.
We've already talked about the situation under which he came. So I can't have questions like: did he want to be sure there was a spectrograph?
Well, actually, we were making plans for that. He had talked to Jim Baker, and Perkin-Elmer and Jim had some glowing ideas about what could be done with new materials and so forth, and Lawrence was all excited. And the Perkin-Elmer people said they could build it for some fantastically small sum of money, and we got a grant for it.
Then things dragged on and on, and it ended up that the grant we had was too small by at least a factor of four for paying for the spectrograph that Jim Baker had designed, and that Perkin-Elmer would build if the money were available.
Where did the grant come from again?
I think this was a research corporation grant, actually.
The graduate school?
Well, there is a tax-exempt organization whose name is The Research Corporation. They give grants. And their income comes from Cotrell patents. I'm not quite sure what the Cotrell patents are all about. You might look them up some time and learn more about them. So it was a grant from this foundation. It's a foundation, is what it is, whose name is The Research Corporation.
You mentioned The Research Corporation in one of your presidential reports for Commission 20, in how the minor planet research got developed here.
Oh, they also gave us money for a Gaertner machine that we used for measuring asteroid plates. Yes -- same outfit. Same outfit. Two different grants.
But the trouble was that what Jim Baker had originally had in mind, and the basis on which the Perkin-Elmer people had made an estimate, fell far short of what it was going to take to produce the final thing.
So this dragged on and on, and then when Leo Goldberg offered Aller a position at Michigan, Aller accepted it.
Meanwhile we were still trying to do something about a spectrograph. We ended up by having Edison Pettit, (who in his spare time built equipment for people) build us a grating spectrograph.
On the same design, Baker's?
Oh no, completely different. So this was a grating spectrograph, and we bought the optics. I think Pettit actually purchased them. And then the spectrograph was finished just as Bob Kraft arrived. So Bob was the user of the spectrograph originally intended for Lawrence Aller.
Marshal Wrubel had already been here by that time.
Marshal came here in 1950.
1950. Kraft was quite a bit later?
Kraft came during my NSF year. Kraft came in the fall of '56, to fill in the year I was away. And while I was in Washington, AL Wilson left Flagstaff, and Roger Lowell Putnam offered me the directorship of Flagstaff.
Roger Lowell Putnam. He's dead now, but he was the Lowell trustee. So Roger Lowell Putnam came down to Washington and said Al Wilson was leaving Flagstaff and would I like to be director?
And what did you say?
"Well, I'll certainly have to think about it." In fact, Roger Putnam took Margaret and me to dinner, to a private club in Washington they belong to, to talk things over.
And then the very next week was the second Eisenhower Inauguration. So I came out to Bloomington to talk to people. Frankly, I came out here with the expectation that I would go to Flagstaff, because I didn't think that they would meet what I was going to ask.
What did you ask?
Well, my non-negotiable demand was that they increase our faculty from four to five, and keep Bob Kraft. That was non-negotiable. And then there were some other items that were negotiable. My salary was not among them. I absolutely refused to say anything on that. I said, "I've always been treated fairly that way, and we're not going to negotiate on that." So it was things for the department.
So, the university came through. So we had Bob Kraft. The spectrograph I think arrived about the time Bob did for his first year here.
Yes, he was here for a year.
Yes. But then he stayed on a second year, until Kuiper stole him away from us, when he went to Yerkes.
He didn't stay too long at Yerkes either.
He moved up very quickly.
When we were walking over to the xerox, you mentioned that you were asked to consider a job at the Naval Observatory also.
Yes. That came later. Let's see, I was elected president of AURA in -- oh, early '62 yes. I was elected in early '62.
I think I have the dates over here.
OK. I think '62 to '65 were those dates.
You were vice president '57 to '61, and president '62 to '65.
And I think, I became president early in that year, I think it was in the middle of the year, '62, that I got the Naval Observatory offer. And they did not press me. It was about nine months before I gave them an answer. It was a tough decision to make. I was worried about what the future here might be like at that time, and I didn't know what our legislature was going to do to us, and things like that. So they gave me a lot of time, and at the end of which I told you, I took two letters to Tucson, and didn't know which one I was going to sign and mail.
You had various requests of the people here at Indiana to help you make that decision?
Well, that decision was made on the basis of the building of the fourth floor. I simply said flatly, "If you provide the money and add the fourth floor to give us more office space, I'll stay. If you don't I'll leave." And that was all there was to it. Nothing else under negotiation on that.
You had five faculty positions at that time?
Well, by that time I think we were up to either six or seven. At the maximum, we had eight. We're back to seven now. I'm sure we had at least six by that time.
Can we go back and talk about Marshal Wrubel, how he came here?
OK. Well, Dr. Link gave us the observatory in '48. And I immediately went to the authorities and said, "Look, now that we have an observatory with a telescope large enough to do some research, we could establish a PhD program." And when that was accepted, then it was a question of building up the faculty. And the original intent had been to have a faculty of five, and we had three at that time. There was myself and Aller and Jim Cuffey. And then, when Aller left, John Irwin took his place.
Well, so, we were going to go from three to five. Wel1, we hadn't had the observatory more than a few months when we realized that we couldn't run it without a machine shop and a machinist. So I went to the dean and said, "Look, a machinist is more important than a fifth professor." So then we changed our plans. We were going to be four and Marshal was to be the fourth.
You had a master plan, then?
Certain plans for faculty and support.
At any rate, we wanted a theoretical astrophysicist in that fourth position, to round us out. So -- you know, back in those days you didn't have affirmative action and all that stuff, you simply inquired around. And Jesse Greenstein said, "We have a bright young graduate student up at Yerkes named Marshal Wrubel, keep your eye on him."
Then, as it worked out, Marshal got a National Research Council Fellowship, and went to Princeton for the first year after his PhD. So we simply held our position for another year. We delayed filling it by one year, to get Marshal. He was the most promising person in sight, and he lived up to every bit of that promise.
What were some of his interests when he came here?
Well, he was working in those days primarily on problems of stellar interiors. At the time he arrived, the computer business was just starting, and so he was one of the pioneers -- in fact, he used to go over to Illinois to use the ILIAC, before we got equipment on this campus.
He would go over to Illinois once or twice a month to do computing on the ILIAC. And he was one of the leaders on this campus in developing our computing facilities, and you know our computing center is named in his memory. It's on the campus -- The Wrubel Computing Center. So his big push was computing methods in astronomy. He had a lot of students, and Marshal's real memorial would be his students. People like Art and John Cox and so on. In fact, when John put out his big two volume book a couple of years ago, he dedicated it to Marshal.
You had contacts during this time, early fifties, late forties, with University of Cincinnati?
And there was this big move, after World War II, to establish the Minor Planet Center there.
Well, the IAU established that.
The IAU commission did establish that. When was there a general call for taking up observations again? I know you participated in that.
Well, what happened here was, Dirk Brouwer was president of Commission 20. And he sent out a circular letter to all observatories saying, "Look, we're in a mess. All the asteroids that were discovered the week before World War II broke out and things of that sort, things that were discovered and not properly observed, and the orbits are in very poor shape and it's going to take an international cooperative program to get things straightened out. He said, "We want help."
So our first response was: Jim Cuffey tried to find a few things in the 36 inch reflector, and that limited field was hopeless.
The second thing that happened, Jim Cuffey went over to Cincinnati to give a popular lecture. And while he was there, he learned about this ten inch lens, stored in the attic in the Cincinnati Observatory. Maybe Paul told you about all this?
I know about the Cooke Triplet, yes.
OK. Well, it was simply gathering dust at that time.
Jim Cuffey came back from giving this lecture in Cincinnati and said, "Look, there's a lens over there we could use." Because by that time we had given up on trying to find asteroids with the 36-inch. He said, "We could continue if we got that lens."
So then Paul Herget said, "We're not using it there." Sure, we could have it on indefinite loan. So we got the lens. Then it was a question of mounting it. And at that time, Dr. Link still owned the Link Observatory, and so the proposition was this, that we finally got agreement on: the university would put up the money for the mounting, if Dr. Link would put up the money for the building. It was right after that, Link thought: "Well, they might as well just run the whole show and be done with it." Right at that point, he decided to give us the observatory. So in matter of actual fact, the university then did everything, mounting and building, and took over the ownership of the observatory.
This all happened together, then.
Yes. Yes. So that's how we got started on the asteroid program. First we thought we had a duty. Then we discovered the 36-inch was hopeless and then Jim Cuffey learned about this lens, and we followed through on that.
There were a number of times, I understand, where you took students over to the University of Cincinnati, and showed them the Minor Planet Center.
Well, now actually we have neighborhood meetings, that was part of it. But some of these trips were Marshal Wrubel taking his students over to see Paul Herget's computer.
Oh, could you tell me something about it?
Well, Paul was doing computing back then, you see, and Marshal was getting interested in computing. This was one more place to go and see how computing was done.
And he saw immediately the value of numerical integration -- using computers for stellar interiors --
Yes. I presume Paul told you about how they used the gas company.
Yes, that's a marvelous story. Took a tremendous amount of resourcefulness. He worked very hard.
This probably wasn't relevant, but did he tell you the hospital story, about how they found some problems with their computer programs?
I don't think so.
When nine year old girls were having prostate surgery, according to the hospital records?
This was some kind of computer program that Paul helped get straightened out. Did he tell you about Pringle's potato chips? He designed the die that presses those things to the shape they come in. Yes, he knew the guy. The guy came to Paul, a friend of his, came to him with a problem. Paul solved it. For stacking potato chips.
He seems to have done all of these extremely valuable things for industry in the area for nothing more than acquisition of computers. Is that right?
Yes. That's right. That's right.
He put an enormous amount of work into it. I think I was able to appreciate his role more in the development of computers, as well as the maintenance, and improvement of knowledge in minor planet research -- but I think his first love was the computers themselves.
Well, I am sure there is no person in this country who knows more about computers than Paul Herget. I'm sure of that. And again, getting back to taking students over there, that was one of the reasons we took them over.
Did Marshal Wrubel discuss with him in detail the capabilities of computers?
I'm sure he did.
I'm very interested, and I know that it's a very important question, to be able to outline in detail the growth of the application of computers, to all branches of astronomy.
Yes. It's just too bad that Marshal isn't here to do that, because he certainly participated and knew a lot about it.
Yes. He was one of the first to do stellar interior calculations.
Yes. that's right.
Well, in the fifties, we begin to see your work, as program director for NSF ...
Well, earlier in the fifties -- let's get it in chronological basis -- 1952 was my first IAU meeting, in Rome.
The first IAU meeting that I attended. Struve put me up for membership at the Zurich meeting, so I was elected a member in Zurich, sponsored by Otto Struve. Interestingly enough, Struve sponsored me for membership on the Radial Velocities Commission, because of the work I was doing on the K stars. But by the time I got to the meeting in June, we had already been going on our asteroid program here, and so at the Rome meeting, I was also added to the Asteroid Commission.
But my first IAU commission was radial velocities, not asteroids.
The thing I remember vividly from the Rome meeting is the following.
I have very vivid memories from the Rome, 1952 meeting, the meeting of Commission 20. Because when we started the asteroid program here, one of the first things we discovered was that, if we made our exposure times correspond to the ephemeris magnitudes of the asteroids, we didn't pick them up. We had to expose longer. The asteroids were fainter than the ephemeris magnitudes.
You were coming out with a 2 magnitude difference, weren't you.
Yes, 2-1/2. So at any rate, the way I was doing these magnitudes was rather crude. With each new emulsion batch, and from time to time, we would photograph the North Polar Sequence, just to get a calibration. Then I used what we called a fly spanker. Do you know what a fly spanker is? All right. Well, so I was doing fly spanker magnitudes of asteroids, with a North Polar Sequence calibration that was not done on every plate, you see, but every now and then I would take a Polar Sequence plate to see if my fly spanker was getting about the right results.
So I was not trying to do precision photometry, but I certainly was hoping I was within a quarter or a half a magnitude, at worst, and coming out with differences of 2-1/2 magnitudes.
Well, I knew what I was doing. And so we published these magnitudes. And so, I never will forget, in Rome, Kopf was the president of Commission 20 -- a very formidable old gentleman. I remember Kopf saying, looking over the top of his spectacles at me, after we had finished some things on the agenda, "And now, we shall come to the discussion of what's wrong with the Indiana magnitudes."
So I took the floor to explain my methods, what I had done. I said, "This is all I can tell you. I'm making measurements in which I make the comparison with the North Polar Sequence, and I have no explanation as to why I should be so much fainter."
Well, Tom Gehrels did his thesis at Yerkes, and showed that I was right -- Gehrels was here as a post-doc right after he did his degree. In fact, Gehrels came here to run our asteroid program, during the year I was in Washington. And then he stayed on for a couple of years after that, before he went to Arizona.
At any rate, Gehrels' thesis was precision magnitudes of asteroids, and in the course of doing that, he showed -- [of course, ours had quite a bit of scatter, mine were not precision magnitudes] -- at least [that] our zero point was all right.
Did you ever find out the source of this 2-1/2 magnitude --
Oh, yes. The problem with the ephemeris magnitudes was that they were extrapolations of the BD. And the faint end of the BD is no good anyway.
And when you extrapolate that down to a magnitude of 12, you have something that's no good at all.
The BD's were visual magnitudes.
You were taking visual?
Oh no, photographic. But that's not really the main source of the difference. The color indices weren't all that large, you see.
These weren't K type stars.
These were asteroids. Straight asteroids, that's right. So, as I say, all I was doing was a simple approximate magnitudes, and coming way fainter than the ephemeris.
Well, of course, the end of the story is that Gehrels' accurate magnitudes are now the international standards.
But this was well after the IAU meeting, where you were confronted.
That's right. But here was old man Kopf, staring over his spectacles, "Now we shall come to our discussion of what's wrong with the Indiana magnitudes. "
What was his conclusion?
Well, he listened and he understood what I was doing, and there was no conclusion reached that day. I just simply told how I got my magnitudes.
And his reaction?
Well, it really wasn't until Gehrels published his work that it was tied down.
So that's '52. OK, then '54 was when I became treasurer of the American Astronomical Society. That's another milestone, you see.
That's an elected position, is it not?
Is there anything like campaigning for a position like that?
Heavens no! I was greatly surprised when I got the inquiry, "Will I serve? Would I accept the nomination? Would I serve if elected?"
Of course, for treasurer, there is only one nomination.
Has it always been that way?
Yeah. Well, back in those days, a slate was presented for all offices. Nowadays, we do have competing candidates for president and so on. But back then, there was no competition for any office. And so I was simply asked, if I were put on the slate, would I serve, if nominated and elected?
Do you know who the chairman of that nominating committee was? Do you want to guess?
Yes. It was Otto Struve. Otto Struve got us started using McDonald Observatory. Otto Struve was responsible for my membership in the IAU. And Otto Struve was the one who essentially nominated me to be treasurer of the of the AAS.
That's certainly appreciation.
So you can understand why I have very friendly, warm memories of Struve. When you got to know him, he was an awfully nice person. He appeared to be very formidable, and awesome and all that, but when you got to know him part of it was his shyness, I think. Basically, he was a shy man. And his formidable public image was one way to compensate for that shyness.
Yet he was organized enough to and forceful enough to keep Yerkes out of trouble.
That's right. That's right. However, that's another part of his character that I had no direct contact with, of course. But the reason I was Treasurer was Struve.
When did you become treasurer?
'54, and served for 21 years.
What were your immediate interests in that position, as far as the AAS goes?
Well, the first thing I had to do was find out how to do it. And it took me about a year, you know, just to learn. I got a little bit of help from Jason Nassau, to get started and so on. Jason was my predecessor as treasurer. And I got a lot of good advice from Robert McMath, who had just retired as president of the society, as I became treasurer. I got a lot of very good solid advice from McMath.
And so -- it took me about a year to start to feel comfortable on the job. By the end of that year, I realized that Jacob Nassau's home-made bookkeepinq was not the way to do business, the way the Society was bcginning to grow. And so, to my good fortune, my then part-time secretary was married to an accounting major in the School of Business, and so my secretary's husband started to work for the AAS part time and put me on double entry bookkeeping.
This was well before there was an executive officer.
Oh, long before.
So all of the responsibilities, real responsibilities as opposed to titular, were on the board.
Well, the Treasurer and the Secretary really ran the Society in those days, in terms of day-to-day operation.
How much time did it actually take you? Because then you were director here and then Treasurer. That must have taken a significant amount of time.
Well, what I've learned, now that I'm no longer treasurer, I have a whole day a week that I used to not have. I mean, I don't have to come over here on Saturdays and on Sunday afternoons any more. Back then, I did. To get everything done that had to be done, I had to be here Saturday, not a full eight hour day on Saturday -- and probably come back for two or three hours on Sunday afternoon.
How did your family feel about such a thing?
Oh well, they were used to it. After all, it was 21 years, you know.
But in the beginning, when you started working very very hard.
Well, it sort of grew slowly, you see. That's another thing as the Society grew, it took more time. I'm sure I didn't spend as much time in my first couple of years as I had to later on.
I see. I'm not aware of the state of the finances of the Society over time, but this is always a very important historical question. Were there any historical landmarks in the Society's finances that come to mind, that bear mention?
Well, not really, because during the entire 21 years, we were right balanced on the razor's edge. We never accumulated large surpluses, and fortunately we never had large deficits. Some years we'd have a deficit. Some years we'd have a small surplus. But the balance between income and expense was always pretty well balanced. And the time when the total assets of the Society showed a dramatic increase was when we took over the assets of the ASTROPHYSICAL JOURNAL.
When I became treasurer of the Society, our total assets were less than $100,000. At the time I left office, with the ASTROPHYSICAL JOURNAL money in hand, our total assets were $500,000. And they've gone up to almost a million since then.
Well, the point is, when I left office, all they had was the reserve fund of the JOURNAL in hand, and right after that, the subscription collections for the next year came in, and that's a big slug. It comes all at once, and then you pay it out in the course of the year.
How did the decision come about to literally acquire the ASTROPHYSICAL JOURNAL? How did that come about? Did you have anything to do with it?
Well, this is all in the American Astronomical Society files. If the AIP has the Minutes of our council meetings, and I think they do, then this will all be in there. Because what happened, at the time Chandrasekhar got ready to retire, he began to worry about the future of the JOURNAL. It was really at Chandrasekhar's request that this matter was taken up and then carried through in the way it was.
Is this directly in the Minutes?
Well, there will be a lot of discussion in the Minutes, and furthermore, the Society had to adopt a resolution approving all this. Council actions are always recorded in the Minutes. And the Minutes ought to contain a copy of the final contract. Again, because this required Council approval, so an attachment to the Minutes should be the contract which the Council approved.
But the basic thing was, you see, the ASTROPHYSICAL JOURNAL originally was owned by the University of Chicago Press, as a prestige item. Then at one stage of their history, it was transferred over to the Division of Physical Sciences of the University of Chicago. And [it was] required to be self-supporting. So that was during Chandra's editorship.
That's what made Chandra concerned for its continued success?
So, well, then the question of what was going to happen to it after -- also, at that time the statutes required the editor to be a faculty member of the University of Chicago. Chandra was worried about who might be willing to take over the job.
That's a very restrictive thing.
And so, Chandra initiated the discussions that led to this change.
Could Chandra have been concerned with someone else at the University of Chicago obtaining that position, and it not being him?
I don't think that was it. He was ready to retire. He didn't want to hang on any longer.
But he also didn't want the ASTROPHYSICAL JOURNAL in the next door.
I don't know who at Chicago would have been capable or interested. That was the problem. I don't think he was against anybody there. But he couldn't see anybody on the scene who would want the job.
How was Helmut Abt chosen? By that time, Chandra had some associate editors.
Dimitri Mihalis and who else? How did Helmut Abt obtain that position, then?
Well , the Minutes might reflect some details there, but ultimately, he was picked by the Council of the Society.
OK, we can certainly go into that.
And I'm sure it must have been on Chandra's recommendation.
We're looking in this case for material that would not be in the Minutes, something we wouldn't be aware of historically.
Well, that I had no direct involvement in. Now, the person who was president when all this was going on was Martin Schwarzschild. Martin and Chandra were the ones who really conducted the negotiations. I was present as treasurer, but Martin carried the ball, and depending on how much you can get out of him, you can find out things like that. But I'm reasonably sure that Helmut would have been Chandra's recommendation, and possibly he had been participating already in some of the editorial duties.
OK, then, let's move way back to 1955, one year after you became treasurer, and I imagine you were working in several different official capacities, but still you managed to start, or continue work which had started with the K star work, and by that time, I guess you'd added -- was that before you added any radio observations to galactic structure -- 21 centimeter observation?
Well, that must be just about the time. Now, let's figure it out. The IAU meeting then, '52 was in Rome, '55 was in Dublin.
I have it. You were working on galactic rotation in '55, from 21 centimeter work, using Dutch observations.
And you were finding the mean motion slightly tilted to the galactic plane.
Yes, that was that little paper I had in the PASP, and so on, OK.
But you were also finding, with Vera Rubin, also I guess -- were you working independently?
Quite, quite independently, yes.
-- that there was a definite non-circular component to the motion.
Yes, OK. So well, the reason I was trying to pick the date was that prior to the Dublin meeting, there was a radio astronomy symposium at Jodrell Bank.
Oh, I see.
And I presented a very short discussion there of my ideas on the non-circular motions.
How was that received?
Greeted very skeptically. Very skeptically. But that dates that. So that's '55.
Well, the point about all this is that '56 is when I went to the National Science Foundation. And from '56 on, that's when I got so bogged down in administration that I really did not have adequate time to continue research on the level that I had done before.
But you did begin it at that point.
Yeah. That's right. That's right. And I was already committed to write that HANDBUCH DER PHYSIK article before I went to NSF, and I didn't get it done until after I got back from NSF. I was really about a year late getting it in.
That was '59?
Well, I'm not sure when it was printed, but I was with NSF '56, '57, and I got my manuscript finished in '58, so I guess it went to press in '59, maybe. But I was a good year late meeting my commitments.
How did you feel when you came out with the conclusion of the inward term, the collapsed term?
Well, when you found the motion was not circular, and there was a certain component toward the direction of the center of the galaxy? I mean, this would give you a completely different picture about galactic evolution. And I'm just wondering how you felt about it when you came to that realization.
Well, I was looking at it, not from that standpoint, but rather, how to get consistency between the optical and radio spiral arm pictures.
See, the problem was, that Dutch arm followed almost a circle, and I wanted to make it spiral in. And the point is, having a kinematic model, with deviations from circular motions, stretched your sheet of rubber, so as make the thing spiral in. What I was trying to do was to find a way to compute 21 centimeter distances from a kinematic model, that would bring the arm in more, than the circular model would. That's all there was to that.
So it wasn't an observational verification. This was a model that you'd constructed.
That's right. That's right. What happens if you assume this kind of a deviation from circular motion? The answer is, it changes the shape of the spiral arms. And changes the shape in a desired direction. That's all there was to that.
But you didn't have a chance to follow this work up.
That's right. Then I went to NSF, and of course that was 100 percent administration that year. Then I came back from that year, and it took me about a year to get things reorganized here again.
Let's think about that NSF year for a while. I'm sure that was a very significant year for astronomy and for you.
Well, come take a look at something on the wall over here, in connection with that. Stop the machine for a minute --
.... [We looked at records of the first $4,000,000 for NRAO.]
OK, well, you began to appreciate of course, the importance of radio astronomy at that time.
Had you been talking to people about the question of why the United States had not been exploiting this new technique as much as the rest of the world?
Oh yes. Well, maybe we can get started on NSF. We can't finish it up. Have we actually talked yet about how I came to go there?
No, we haven't.
Well, Raymond J. Seeger, who at that time was the head of the section of NSF that had astronomy in it, was looking around for somebody to take Helen Hogg's place. You see, Seeger himself was a physicist, and at the beginning of the Foundation, he ran astronomy and physics and so on. And then as NSF grew, they began to get program directors in.
Is this the same Seeger who was at Stanford in radio astronomy?
No. No, this is Raymond J., a physicist. The one at Stanford is Charles. Yes, Charles Seeger. And then he also was at Las Cruces for a while. Charles Seeger was.
Well, the first astronomer who went to NSF for a year was Peter Van de Kamp. The second one was Helen Hogg. I was the third.
The way Seeger had learned about my existence was because I was treasurer of the Astronomical Society, and so he wanted to know, would I be interested, and so on. And the thing was worked out, and I went to Washington and was interviewed by Alan Waterman and all the rest of that, and ended up by agreeing to go, not just for the year but for 15 months and six days, for reasons I think I've already told you earlier.
So,when I got to Washington, radio astronomy was the first big thing I was confronted with, because that was at the very end of the site survey for Green Bank, run by Associated Universities, Inc., and there was a lot of controversy over that. Lloyd Berkner was president of Associated Universities Incorporated, and he was the one who had spearheaded getting a grant from NSF to do a site survey for a National Radio Astronomy Observatory.
But when I arrived in Washington, they were still looking for a site, and converging on one.
OK. I thought Struve was instrumental in beginning that?
Oh no. Struve was director of Green Bank after the first telescope was built.
So who was really instrumental in getting it going, then?
Well, as I say, Lloyd Berkner. AUI runs Brookhaven, and it was that organization that got the contract with NSF to do a feasibility study. Should we have a national observatory? What kind of equipment should it have? And where should it be?
The choice of AUI and Berkner had some hostile reactions from other people. Merle Tuve, who was at that time director of the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism in the Carnegie Institution of Washington, was Lloyd Berkner's bitter enemy. I guess from their student days there had been a lack of -- well , it was a personality conflict or whatever, between these men.
So at any rate, Tuve was opposed to AUI having a contract to build and run a radio astronomy observatory. He really didn't like the site they were going to choose.
So when I arrived in Washington, during my first month there, I had to finish the organizational arrangements for a big hearing, at which everybody was going to get to speak. And boy, what a day that was. That was my baptism of fire, really, to be there, because Helen Hogg had started the arrangements, but I had to finish up what she had started, and I had to be in the room that day and be sure that there was no bloodshed and mayhem and what have you.
You were a moderator, then.
Oh, I was not at the lectern, no. I was a circulating moderator, so to speak. I was moderating things in the room, but I was not the Moderator with a capital M. I forget who did that now.
Where are the Proceedings of this particular day?
The National Science Foundation would be your source for this. I don't know.
There were verbatim recordings made?
Oh, there must have been. There was a court reporter.
What were the chief arguments pro and con?
Well, there was Lloyd Berkner and there was Merle Tuve, and then there were other groups, incited by Merle Tuve to come in and offer their services.
Who were they?
Oak Ridge. The Oak Ridge Institute of Nuclear Studies came in with a proposal that they be allowed to build and operate the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.
So this was a big political --
-- Oh, it really snowballed. So, I remember during that meeting, Ted Reynolds, at that time the financial vice president of Harvard University, representing the AUI group -- board of directors -- got up after Merle Tuve had made a rather nasty speech in which he talked about self-approved and self-approving people -- meaning Berkner and the AUI people -- and Ted Reynolds got up, and just like Jove hurling thunderbolts from heaven, he told Merle Tuve off. And said, "If people don't want us, we don't want this job."
He was on Berkner's side, of course.
He was the chairman of the board of directors of Berkner's organization.
That sounds like quite a day.
Oh, it was. So, after it was all over, you see on the wall up there, we signed the 4 million dollar contract with AUI to build and operate.
At Green Bank.
At Green Bank, yes. And then the Green Bank site was selected. I had a lot of interesting experiences that way. NSF being so small and all that, I was exposed to administrative things that the astronomers there don't get to see nowadays. For example, when NSF went to the Army Corps of Engineers, to ask them to do the land buying -- NSF had no land buying machinery. The Army Engineers know how to do it, including condemnation where necessary and so on.
So, who went to see the Army Engineers? A three-man team from NSF and I was one of the three. Well, this was an interesting experience.
I really believe it, yes.
Also, in drawing up the contract with AUI. I was present with the lawyers while this was being done. I believe that I'm the guy who prevented the lawyers from writing into the contract the provision that every visiting scientist who worked at Green Bank would have to leave his notebook there, and could not take it home with him.
Couldn't take it home with him for security reasons?
Well, the lawyers' idea was, everything done at Green Bank was the property of the federal government. So if some visitor came in and made radio astronomy observations, and wrote them down in a notebook, that was the property of the federal government, and he had to leave it at Green Bank.
There are other facilities which do that.
I know, I know. Well, at any rate, I think that my presence in these discussions of the contract kept that out, because I spoke very strongly against it, and when the contract was written, there was nothing like that in it. It had been talked about.
That's very important.
So I had experiences like this that astronomers at the Foundation don't have these days. The Foundation's too big.
I hope we can find more time soon to continue this. I'm at the end of the tape now.
OK, fine, it's about time to break up --
I want to thank you very much for this session. We've taped three hours.
Good heavens. OK.