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Interview of Leo Goldberg by Spencer Weart on 1978 May 17, Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics, College Park, MD USA, www.aip.org/history-programs/niels-bohr-library/oral-histories/4629-2
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Early years; undergraduate at Harvard University, 1930-1934, and growth of interest in astronomy; graduate student and postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University, 1934-1941; social and scientific life, atomic physics work; Robert McMath and character of McMath-Hulbert observatory; mechanical engineering work in World War II; chairmanship of University of Michigan Astronomy Department, 1946-1960; optical and radio telescopes and funding; work on solar infrared and element abundances; Chairman and Director at Harvard, 1960-1971; relations with Smithsonian Institution, other politics, fund-raising; work on orbiting solar observatories; relations with National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Space Science Board, Apollo Telescope Mount, the U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force (Scientific Advisory Board, Project West Ford), and National Science Foundation (NSF); International Astronomical Union (IAU) and Chinese membership; editorial positions. An addendum dictated by Goldberg describes his six years as Director of Kitt Peak Observatory, particularly his relations with the Users Committee. Also prominently mentioned are: Lawrence Hugh Aller, Lloyd Viel Berkner, Victor Blanco, Bart Jan Bok, Wilbur Bolton, Wallace Brode, David Crawford, Leland Cunningham, Heber D. Curtis, Alex Dalgarno, Armin Deutsch, James Fletcher, Jesse Leonard Greenstein, Christian Archibald Herter, W. A. Hiltner, Harry Hulbert, Gerard Peter Kuiper, Francis McMath, Donald Howard Menzel, James E. Miller, Marcel G. Minnaert, George Mueller, Homer Edward Newell, Edward Ney, Randall Robertson, Frank Schlesinger, Harlow Shapley, George H. Shortley, Otto Struve, James Webb, Richard Wheeler, Fred Whipple, John Wolbach, S. B. Wolbach; Apollo Telescope Mount, Associated Universities for Research in Astronomy, Associated Universities, Inc., Ball Brothers, Goddard Space Flight Center, Green Bank Observatory, High Energy Astronomy Observatory, Mount Wilson and Palomar Observatories, National Academy of Sciences (U.S.), Naval Research Laboratory (U.S.), Orbiting Solar Observatory, United States Navy, and University of Michigan.
Yes, I would say so. The Sputnik certainly triggered off a burst of activity at the university. A group of the faculty, including myself, began to meet informally to see what could be done to raise the level of support of science and technology at the Uni- versity of Michigan. We went to see the president of the university about that, and through the president we arranged a meeting one evening with the governor, G. Mennen Williams. I believe there were other members of his administration there. For example, I know the secretary of state at that time was there — Philip Hart, who later became US Senator from Michigan.
The Michigan secretary of state?
Yes. And in addition, there were a number of legislators who were chairmen of important committees, Appropriations and the like. We met for dinner at Inglis House, the university's fancy guest house, and then sat down and talked about the problem of what might be done. We kept in touch with the governor on this. There were various proposals made, and finally it was agreed that the university would proceed to ask for funds to establish an Institute of Science and Technology, and to request funds from the legislature for the support of basic research. That was really the first time in the history of the state that money had been given to the university for basic research.
The legislature did give it?
They did, eventually, it was established. And it eventually acquired a building of its own, and made grants to various depart- ments for specific research projects. I was quite active in starting up the Institute. There was a kind of executive committee that sat with the director and ran it. So that was one outgrowth of it. Actually that was done on the advice of the governor himself. The governor was a very smart politician, and he said that we needed a gimmick.
Ah, something to hang it on.
Something to hang it on. We couldn't just go and ask for more money. He actually proposed an institute of what he called "pure and applied science," but some members of the engineering faculty balked at that. They didn't think that "applied science" sufficiently described what they were doing,so it had to be technology — which was all right. I think that institute is probably still in operation. I don't know how it's funded at present. Probably later it attracted federal funding.
I'm interested in the initial impetus. You say some of it was the science professors on campus, just talking with each other about Sputnik?
Yes, that's right. For example, David Dennison, who was chairman of the physics department at that time; and I remember a man named Wilbur Nelson, who was chairman of the aeronautical engineering department; Robert White, who was in chemical engineering and metallurgy; probably we got the dean of engineering too, Steve Atwood, who's an electrical engineer.
You had felt before Sputnik that you really needed more money and Sputnik gave an opportunity? Or did Sputnik make you feel more need than before?
I think it was a combination of the two. I think we were very much underfunded in the fifties in astronomy. We were particu- larly hurting in the astronomy department for space, just physical space. We had an old building that was built in 1911; it had very spacious hallways and the offices were very large but very few. We were starting up new programs like radio astronomy, and beginning to think about space work, and we were partitioning off hallways and offices and refurbishing basements, moving out instrument shops and making offices out of them. It was that desperate. We'd had a request in for a new building for quite a few years. No action on it. So the problem existed. And then, of course, there was this public outcry about How come the Russians had beaten us into space? What's wrong with our science and technology? An implied criticism of the scientific establishment. So our response was, "That's fine, just give us more money and we'll respond."
Did you get the new building out of it?
Well, that's an interesting story in itself. I had proposed back in 1948 or '49, when I found out that the physicists needed a new building, that the best way for us to go would be to join forces with physics, and get the two top floors of a new physics building. So we planned that building together. But then, every year, it would come to the legislature and be turned down. It got to be very frustrating, because we weren't able to go and look for private funds, as you could have done in a place like Harvard. We had to wait a whole year for the legislature to act again.
Why couldn't you go and look for private funds?
Because you just wouldn't get that kind of money from private sources, for a state-supported university. They wouldn't give it. They would say, "The legislature ought to do it." So finally (I'm getting ahead of it, but you asked me whether we finally got the building) towards the end of 1959, I was thinking seriously of going to Harvard, and I finally decided in January. So I notified the dean, who notified the president. And it was understood that the news was not to be made public because the appointment hadn't been acted upon yet by the (Harvard) Board of Overseers. It wasn't going to take place until March. But the president of the university decided to make political hay out of my leaving, so I woke one morning and picked up the newspaper, and there on the front page of the Detroit FREE PRESS was a story describing how the governor had lashed the legislature for not providing proper support to science at the University of Michigan, as a result of which one of the leading members of the faculty (whose name wasn't mentioned) was going to leave; he had been given this information by the president of the university.
This was the same governor whom you had met?
Yes, that's right. Well, the newspapers really picked that up. It was a Democratic governor, of course, a Republican legislature. Within a matter of a day or so, the local representative of the legislature, who was a Republican, cornered the vice-president of the university at the dedication of a new university building that was taking place right at that moment, and in effect, insisted that he be given the name of this professor. Which he promptly spilled to the newspapers, with a statement saying that he knew me very well, and I was a fine gentleman, and I wouldn't ever say such a thing about the legislature. I've got a little folder of clippings from newspaper stories that appeared all week long. Because when they called me about it, they wanted to know why I was leaving, and was it true that I was leaving because the legislature wasn't going to give us a building,(which is what the president had said)? I said, "No, that's not true." But at the same time time, I didn't want to — if I said no —
— you're calling the president a —
— yes; and furthermore, I wanted them to get the building. And if I said yes, I was leaving for that reason, it would be a lie, because I knew very well that sooner or later the building would be forthcoming; I wasn't going to leave for that reason. So I issued a very carefully worded statement, which generally was treated sympa- thetically by the press. Except at the very end, I was the subject of an editorial in the Hearst newspaper in which I was compared unfavorably to Archimedes. The way he put it was, "When Archimedes found that he couldn't move the earth, he didn't just pack his bags in a huff and leave." (laughter) But that very spring, the money for the building was appropriated. There was also money appropriated for a building for the Institute of Science and Technology — both by the legislature. So there are lots of jokes about calling that physics building "the Goldberg Memorial" and so forth and so on. Anyway, that was some action after Sputnik.
Was any of this action specifically related to astronomy? It wasn't only science that was threatened, but Sputnik seemed specifically astronomical?
Well, as I say, the university generally treated astronomy pretty well, within the limits of their resources, except for the issue of the building. I think one of the things that I objected to very much was that I wanted to put up some temporary buildings to house the space project that I was going to start up, and the administration refused, on the grounds that it would disfigure Observatory Hill and the view from the hospital would be spoiled. That was unacceptable to me. But otherwise, I think the feeling was that something should be done about supporting all of science, not just astronomy alone.
OK. Well, the story you mentioned a couple of times we should get to, radio astronomy. But perhaps, because it comes before that in time, we should say a few words about the origins of the NRAO (National Radio Astronomy Observatory). You were in on some of those early meetings.
Yes. I personally had very little to do with that, except that I was involved as a member of the advisory committees, and finally as a member of the AUI* board. You probably will get the *Associated Universities, Inc., contractor for NRAO. story of that from a number of other people. Briefly, as I understand it — following a conference on the needs of radio astronomy in the US, which was held I believe at the end of 1953 —
— January, '54 — were you at that conference?
I was not at that one.
Then there was one in May of '54.
May of '54 — then after that (January) conference, a group of eastern university people, including Donald Menzel and Jerry Wiesner and John Hagen at NRL (Naval Research Laboratory), those three institutions in particular, got together and decided that the way to boost radio astronomy in this country was to build a big dish. They had in mind something really big, 600 feet. They went to Lloyd Berkner to see if AUI would be interested in acting for them in this matter, and Lloyd called a meeting in May of '54 and invited representatives from leading universities. I think even by that time, I had expressed interest in getting radio astronomy going at Michigan. And so I was invited to that conference — but probably just because I was chairman of a large department. That conference was held in New York. Yes, I attended that. There was pretty general support for the idea. I remember that Lee Dubridge, who was there from Cal Tech, was the only dissenter — not that he thought it was a bad idea, but he didn't want Cal Tech to be included in it. He thought Cal Tech would prefer to go it alone, which they did.
That was Dubridge's own feeling?
Yes. Although I'm sure he talked to Greenstein and others before he attended that meeting. So I think the outcome of that meeting was: Yes, let's go ahead, put in a proposal.
Then there was a panel set up, a study grant from AUI, and I guess NSF funding, under Hagen and later under Bok. I believe you were a member?
My memory of that is quite dim. If there was an advisory panel, yes, I think I was a member of it.
OK, then this wasn't a major part of your activity.
Do you recall a meeting in 1956 then, over the question of the organization of it, whether NRAO should go under AUI or not?
I certainly do.
Okay, tell me about that meeting. It's a famous meeting.
I think I have a file on that, with arguments that were presented by various people. The leader of the opposition was Merle Tuve. I think Merle felt that AUI and Lloyd Berkner — whom he knew very well, since Lloyd had worked at DTM* with Tuve before going to AUI — were unable to do things simply, that everything had to be gold-plated and paved walks and roads and watered lawns and all that sort of thing. He didn't think that the money would be well spent. So he was strongly opposed to AUI.
Did he discuss these things with you or other people before the meeting?
Oh,yes. He wrote letters. In fact, he came up with a proposal. My files would reveal this, but I think he had consulted with Ernest Pollard, who I think was director of the Oak Ridge National Lab, and familiar with the Oak Ridge system of management. I think there was an open-ended group of universities that somehow was associated in some way with Union Carbide. I don't know how Union Carbide comes in, but the university connection is that kind of a large open-ended con- sortium. And that was what they proposed, that any university that wanted to join, would join. And in fact I think, if I'm not mistaken, the name that they suggested was the one that I later proposed for AURA (Associated Universities for Research in Astronomy).
I see, but this was Associated Universities for Radio Astronomy?
Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy or for Radio Astronomy. Again, as I say, my file would confirm that. I know I have that in there.
I think what I'm particularly curious about, since your correspondence is going to be preserved, is the way things got com- municated. How much was by letter and how much would have been by telephone or personal visit?
Most of it by letter at that time, as I recall. We weren't that quick on the trigger, as far as telephoning was concerned. So there's a lot of written material. *Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, Carnegie Institution of Washington.
Is it the same nowadays, by the way, or is that changed?
Today it tends to be all done by telephone, especially with FTS.* You can pick up the phone and dial any time, seven days a week, 24 hours a day.
In the fifties there was still a reluctance?
Yes. Anyway, we had this big shoot-out at the NSF in July of '56. A large number of people were in attendance. I know representatives from all of the major universities doing astronomy were invited, and I remember the dean of faculties of the University of Michigan went along with me. And there were various presentations. I think I even gave a presentation on what kind of a managing organization we needed, without mentioning names, whether it's AUI or anybody else. There were a number of presentations — by Berkner, by Tuve (the opposition). I remember that two of the old boys of the AUI board, Ted Reynolds, the vice-president of Harvard, and Ted Wright, the vice president of Cornell, were present, and they were astounded at the opposition to AUI that was expressed at that meeting. One of them I know (Reynolds) finally spoke up and said that unless the scientific community wanted AUI to undertake the management of this place, they wouldn't have anything to do with it.
That wasn't Lloyd Berkner? That was one of those people?
That was one of those people. I think Alan Waterman (of NSF) expected all along that AUI would do it, and this conference was a means of letting people blow off steam. And when it was all over, they decided to go ahead with AUI.
I see. At least Tuve could feel that he'd been listened to and so forth.
Yes, that's right.
Well, anything else in your involvement with national radio astronomy before we get down to the University of Michigan?
Well, I should mention — I guess it was a somewhat traumatic moment in my life — when AUI got the contract to build *Federal Telecommunications System — free long-distance telephone for government employees and some contractors — S.W. and operate the observatory, they formed a committee to search for a director. There were the usual people on the committee, Bowen and Struve and C. D. Shane and Bill Morgan, I remember. And I think it must have been Lloyd Berkner who called me up with the news that I had been chosen. I was offered the directorship of NRAO; I was the first to be offered that directorship.
That would have been around —
That was around October, November of '56. Lloyd came out to Ann Arbor and gave me quite a sales pitch. I eventually decided not to accept. I was then invited to be an at-large trustee of AUI. That was a new wrinkle that AUI had developed to make the board more representative — I think there were three at-large representatives, all of whom were astronomers. Otto Struve was one, I was another, and I think perhaps Carl Seyfert. Later on, I think Whitford was next invited to take the job, and he refused also. All this took quite a bit of time. The next thing we knew, Sputnik had been launched, and we all had second thoughts about everything. It was quite a shock to us. Lloyd asked me again, would I reconsider? I did think about it a second time, and again came up with the same answer.
Why not, by the way?
Mostly personal reasons. I very much enjoyed the university environment. I liked working with students, I liked the interaction with nonscientific members of the faculty. I had a very wide circle of friends across the board on the University of Michigan faculty, much more than at Harvard. I didn't want to go to some backwater place and run a great big laboratory. And of course I wasn't a radio astronomer, although I didn't doubt that I could probably learn enough to manage the place. I just preferred the university environment. So I refused. Of course I enjoyed very much close to ten years of member- ship on the AUI board.
I don't know if we want to get into that or not.
You can get into a lot of that but there are other people who will talk about that — Otto Struve's directorship, the problem of the 140-foot telescope, and that very catastrophic development which raised the spectre of the whole thing collapsing on some cold winter day, which forced in the end a complete re-design, with a large escalation of the cost, from 3 million up to 13 or so and the effect that it had on Otto Struve. That's quite a long story in itself. And also, well, the circumstances under which Otto Struve decided to take that job himself.
What were the circumstances? I suppose that was right after you'd turned it down?
After I'd turned it down the second time, yes. Well, as he described it to me, he felt very much indebted to the United States, very loyal to the United States, because it offered him an opportunity to make an exciting career, an exciting life, after the desperate situation that he found himself in after the Russian Revolution. He just barely escaped with his life. He felt it was very important for the United States to have a big national radio astronomy observatory, and he felt that it would be one way of repaying the debt that he owed to the country. And the other thing, he said, was, "I feel like a young man again." The third thing was, "I never thought I'd have a second chance in radio astronomy." He felt rather guilty at not having recognized, fully appreciated, Grote Reber, in the days when Reber was working not far from the Yerkes Observatory.
I think Reber had great difficulty in publishing his results in the ASTROPHYSICAL JOURNAL, which Otto Struve edited at the time. Finally an abbreviated version was published all right. But I guess Otto felt rather guilty about it. And he thought this was a second chance for him to advance radio astronomy. But he was not in very good health, from the start, and he found the isolation rather depressing. The trouble with the 140-foot was just the last straw. He'd been counting on that coming into operation.
I think the contract called for it to be finished by the end of 1959. In fact it wasn't finished until after he died; it was dedicated in '63 or something like that. And he was very disappointed about that, and he took to referring to Green Bank as the "Siberia of American astronomy." He wanted to resign. We all prevailed upon him to postpone it as long as he could because of the effect it would have on the morale of the younger people there, Heeschen and Drake and so forth. But it was a sad thing; he never should have taken that job. But he did them a lot of good while he was there.
Anything else you may know about it that others wouldn't know so well? You had personal relations with people. I'm glad you told me about these things Struve told you. Are there possibly other things other people couldn't have told us, anything else about the AUI period? (Pause) Maybe that's not a good question.
Well, obviously it was a very traumatic time. AUI did not do very well at the beginning, because of the difficulty in selecting a director. And even after Struve resigned, he was going to be replaced by the very distinguished Australian radio astronomer, Joe Pawsey, and before Joe could even take the job, he came down with a brain tumor and died. But before Struve took office, it was a very difficult period, because the place needed a director. Berkner had himself appointed as acting director, which I guess was all he could do, and the affairs of the observatory were really conducted from the cor porate office in New York — which was very bad. And then, the troubles with the 140-foot really shook everybody up. But eventually the place settled down. It's been a wonderful operation.
As an AUI board officer, did you concern yourself much with Brookhaven?
I attended all the meetings, and I used to go to Brookhaven, when meetings were held there, and learned a lot about the place. But I wasn't all that concerned. My contribution was principally with respect to NRAO. When Struve was there, and was in this very depressed state, at the request of Rabi (who was then president of AUI) I made regular visits to Green Bank. I would stay there for two or three days, just park there. I guess some of the people wondered what I was doing there. It was just to be there and talk to Struve, and to cheer him up, help him —
give him companionship in Siberia.
That's right. He and I were actually quite good friends. We had an association in IAU (International Astronomical Union) matters, fought a few battles together there, and I liked him very much. I had great respect for him. He was a man of great integrity.
I hadn't realized that you knew Struve well. Tell me a little bit about him then. What was he like as a person?
He always appeared to be very stern and very forbidding, almost, but he was actually quite a kind man. He had very high sci- entific standards, and with him astronomy came first. I don't think he would compromise those standards for the sake of friendship or personal considerations. But as I say, he was actually a rather friendly, warm person, when you got to know him. I first met him in the summer of 1935, just after my first paper on multiplet strengths had appeared in the ApJ. He came to Harvard, and Shapley had a party at his house and we were all introduced. He was kind of walleyed; when he looked at you, he looked as though he were looking around you. And when Shapley introduced me, he sort of nodded approvingly and smiled. He said, "Send more papers."
So, after I got to Michigan, I used to invite him to come down to Ann Arbor for colloquia. One summer he was there for a while. And as I say, we worked very closely together in trying to get the IAU to meet in the US in 1961. I think he was a man of considerable strength, strength of character, poise. The Green Bank experience was unfortunate, because he was already in bad health, and when you're in bad health, you know, it affects your thought processes, your will, and everything else.
Yes, it certainly does. You get depressed and so forth. Let's turn then to building up radio astronomy at the University of Michigan. What was your role in that? How did that come about?
Well, we were trying to build a first-rate department of astronomy, and it was already obvious in the early fifties that radio astronomy was going to be an important branch of astronomy. So I began to cast about for ways to start up radio astronomy at Michigan. Also, since the climate for optical astronomy was poor, it seemed that we ought to make special efforts to get started in radio astronomy. Not having any technical competence in the department at all, we were in something of a quandary — because in order to recruit somebody, you had to be able to promise them equipment, and in order to get the equipment, you had to have somebody of technical competence to write a proposal.
Well, I found that the electrical engineers at the university were quite interested. I talked to the chairman of the department about the possibility of doing it jointly, having a joint appointment in astronomy and electrical engineering, to which he agreed. We finally got the university to approve that new position. There weren't very many good radio astronomers around, and those were very much in demand — say, around '54, '55. We finally recruited Fred Haddock, with the understanding that we were going to get a substantial instrument from somebody, ONR (Office of Naval Research) or the NSF. I went to the NSF, and the NSF was very conservative. I was advised that they didn't see much chance of funding us on a promise that we were going to get competent people. We had to have the people first. Then I went over to ONR, where I'd had contacts since the end of World War II, and I talked to a man named Randall Robertson, who was head of physical sciences in ONR. Randy is an outstanding person. He later went to the NSF.
That's right, he was involved with some other things there.
I just found a letter that he wrote in 1961 to the president of AURA, telling him what the role of a corporation was with respect to a national laboratory, and that letter is just a masterpiece. It's so close to my own thinking, and so contrary to some of the things that AURA has been doing.
We'll have to haul out that letter when we get to talking about the origins of AURA.
Yes. Randy had seen that it was going to be very important to set up radio astronomy at the universities, and get new people into it. The NSF, on the other hand, had turned in the direction of the national center, and they were providing very little support for universities. And so Robertson single-handedly started radio astronomy at Cal Tech, at Michigan, at Berkeley (Hat Creek), at Illinois.
I didn't realize. This was out of ONR funds then?
Out of ONR funds.
What was his background?
I see. He got interested in radio astronomy.
Sure. It was done very easily and informally.
He had the funding authority himself?
Well, I guess he'd have to get it approved higher up. But probably in his division, he'd have ample funds.
I see. You dealt directly with him.
I dealt directly with him.
That was all you needed to do, was deal with him?
That's right. Of course, when it came down to the details, he had subordinates who were monitoring the work we did. So we in effect got a commitment for a 24-foot dish for solar work.
Yes, I guess it was a 28-foot dish for solar work, with a sweep frequency solar radio spectrometer; and also an 85-foot microwave precision dish.
At the same time?
Yes, I think they came at pretty much the same time. We got the 28-footer first. We didn't build the 85 until after Haddock had come. We were discussing it with Blau-Knox. As a matter of fact, we had to choose the manufacturer, and I think we were the first to place an order with Blau-Knox for one of those 85-foot dishes which were later duplicated in considerable numbers. AUI got one exactly like it, and eventually Hat Creek and so forth. It was a very good dish.
I was interested because I noticed that it was not designed originally for solar work, but for galactic and planetary studies. I would have thought, because of the tradition at Michigan, you would have gone particularly for solar radio work.
That was part of it, but you know, we were trying to build an all-around department. We couldn't concentrate on the sun alone.
You were trying to attract people who were interested in galactic work, extragalactic?
Yes. My approach in running the department is not the European approach in which you try to get equipment for your own personal research. I think I pretty consistently helped other people develop their careers. But that hasn't been the point. The point has been to give the department the necessary depth and breadth so that we could do a good job of training graduate students.
So Fred Haddock came to Michigan, and I think he did very well. There are a number of pretty good people around the country who were trained there, despite the fact that he'd never taught before until he came to Michigan.
The university just had to put up his position, and then I suppose eventually had to add a few more positions, but most of the money came from outside?
Sure. And the lab space and the like. But money for subordinate positions — there was some money for postdocs and so forth — all came with the contract.
I see, so there wasn't any problem with getting the university to agree.
I see. Maybe we should go on then to ONR and the whole question of your work in connection with the military. I notice you were on the ONR Astronomy Advisory Committee, vice chairman and chairman, 1949-52. You say you kept up relations right after the war. What's the evolution of your relations with ONR?
I think it started during my negotiations with Lyman Spitzer. It was Lyman's idea that I would join him at Yale and that we would set up a laboratory and instrument high altitude rockets for astronomical spectroscopy. We were going to get the money from ONR. When that fell through, Lyman decided that he would not go ahead with that plan, and try to get somebody else. Instead, I approached ONR for a modest amount of support for analytical work on the solar spectrum. I think originally it was my idea that since people at NRL, Dick Tousey and his group, who were doing experimental work on the sun, weren't really qualified to do much solar physics — they were really doing experimental work and publishing the numbers — maybe we could get a contract with ONR so that we could get access to some of Tousey's data, and do analytical work. I was going to involve some people at Harvard as well — Donald Menzel and some of his people.
So you'd identify the lines, do profiles.
Right. That didn't work too well. Dick is a wonderful fellow. (He's retiring; they're having a big party for him this week, in fact maybe even today, in Washington.) But Dick liked to hold onto his data, and he wasn't about to give it up without some kind of a quid pro quo. I can't say that I blame him. So we decided that we would try to get some money to work on problems of the solar spectrum just generally, And that's the way it turned out. I had a modest contract, out of which I hired Keith Pierce, who had just finished his doctorate at Berkeley; he came to Ann Arbor in 1947, and collaborated with me on some investigations of the solar spectrum, using data that had already been published.
We also supported a graduate student at Harvard who worked under Donald Menzel's direction. There was some interesting work that came out of that. I don't remember just when we decided to break off with Harvard, because there wasn't much point to that. They could get their own money. But I kept on working, and was able to have a research assistant for quite a number of years. In fact, I believe that Edith Müller came to Michigan in 1952 as my assistant, and she was funded under that contract. We did the work on the abundances of the elements with support from ONR.
Yes, I noticed there was ONR support for that.
We must have mentioned that, yes, that's right. Anyway that's how it started, and they kept on.
So you were just coming to them from outside. You knew that they were giving away money so you just applied to them.
Sure, just for assistants, for people.
There was no relation to your wartime work, for example.
Oh, no. None whatever.
I see. Then how was it that you went on their advisory committee and became chairman?
Oh, that was a kind of grants committee. ONR decided to support astronomy, to the tune of — I think it was never more than 80 to 100,000 dollars a year. And they appointed a committee, or rather, I think they may have asked the National Academy (of Science) or (National) Research Council to appoint the committee for them.
Yes, it was set up by the NRC. Shane was the first chairman, I guess.
I think we met once a year or twice a year, and read proposals for support. It was understood that no grant would be in excess of $5,000. And while it seemed like a very little amount of money, it had an enormous impact. (Interruption: telephone) So we met, and we reviewed the proposals and we recommended award of grants.
I see. So you had no say in how much was given overall, but then you had complete freedom in how to dispense it, how to give it away?
Exactly. That's right.
Did you ever encourage people to put in proposals; were there particular fields you felt should be encouraged?
We had no trouble getting people to apply.
The proposals just came in.
They came. And they came across the board, from celestial mechanics to extragalactic work. Mostly they were for small sums, to hire graduate student assistants, for example, or for very small pieces of equipment. But astronomy had nothing, aside from that, you see, for several years, until the NSF came into operation.
Yes, I know. Do you know why the ONR wanted to support astronomy?
Yes. I think they had seen, in the war, the contributions that astronomers, physicists, everybody, could make in an emergency. And I think they wanted to keep scientists working and keep them viable, so that in times of emergency they could call upon them for help. I think it was just as simple as that, a very simple philosophy, and a very sound one too.
OK. Now, the same people — which includes you — were picked to serve on anAmerican Astronomical Society committee when the NSF was set up.
Can you tell me about that?
It was appointed by the society, but it worked with the National Academy, the National Research Council. R. C. Gibbs, the physicist who had retired from Cornell, was on the staff of the Academy at that time, and he was the man who guided our efforts; he told us that NSF was coming into existence, and astronomers had better be prepared: "What do you need?"
That's interesting. Did this happen in other fields also?
I imagine, yes. Well, you've probably seen our report.
I've seen a summary of
The proposed budget — it's pitiful. But to us in those days it was a hell of a lot of money. In terms of what actually hap- pened, we were way, way low in our estimates of what the country was going to be able to afford.
Well, one of the things that it said in the report — the report said that there should be a cautious buildup and not too large a fraction of the total funds, at least initially, should come from the government, because otherwise the universities might start giving less. I'm curious about the attitudes — either your own or at Michigan or the astronomical community in general — towards NSF, and towards government funding in general, during the first years.
It was very negative, as a matter of fact.
Especially the older people felt that government funding was not a very reliable basis for support, that government funding could be withdrawn suddenly, and then everything that we've built up would just collapse. That you just couldn't count on it.
Were there particular people who were known as being the ones who held this view?
Yes. Harlow Shapley, for one. There were other people — I'd just as soon not mention their names personally — who felt that any money from the military was blood money.
Even after World War II?
That's right. I might say that not a one of them failed to get his share of the money eventually; that was just in the early years. But Harlow Shapley was against it, or was skeptical, because he didn't think it could be relied on permanently. So much so that I remember — it must have been around 1950 when some of my graduate students at Michigan went to a neighborhood meeting at Indiana, at which Shapley was the speaker. Afterwards, after dinner, they all sat down and fired questions at Shapley, and one of the questions was, "Are there going to be jobs in astronomy?" In his typical sort of clever, facile manner, Shapley thought, and he said, "I can calculate the number of positions that are going to be open, because I know which observatories have positions. I know how many ople are going to retire at each of the observatories." And he estimated, over the next ten years there would be about ten jobs in astronomy, maybe one per year. These students back with their tails dragging. He had completely ignored institutions that were just being built, like the High Altitude Observatory, Sacramento Peak, the Naval Research Laboratory, to say nothing of positions at universities that were being funded by federal money.
You must have had ten positions just at Michigan alone over the next ten years.
Oh, sure. So it took a while for people to get used to the idea. Yes, there was a lot of caution about getting too dependent on federal support. Of course, in the end, the federal money pretty well drove out the university money altogether. It just happened. But when you look at how the cost of a university education has gone up, it's just inevitable that universities are not going to support activities that they think can be supported from outside sources.
I suppose they still give as much as they did in 1940 or whatever, it's just now a very small fraction.
But Michigan used to give a pretty generous budget. You know, we had a budget, for McMath-Hulbert Observatory, of something on the order of $100,000 a year.
Yes, that was substantial.
Just out of general funds. We used to get travel funds to scientific meetings out of university funds. No more.
To continue with this NSF business: Then you were on the first funding committee. As I understand it, you represented astronomy on the divisional committee.
Yes. It wasn't funding, it was an advisory committee that advised on matters of policy.
Tell me, what did it do?
It was called the Divisional Committee for Mathematical, Physical, and Engineering Sciences. There was an assistant director for that division who was Paul Klopsteg, again a Northwestern connection. Gosh, my memory is very dim. I do know that, for example, we discussed things like the IGY — that came along during that time period — and the strategy for getting the IGY funded. We had many discussions about national facilities, national centers, and whether the NSF should or shouldn't get into the business of building national centers. Should they or shouldn't they ask for funds as a line item? The advice of the committee was sought on fellowship programs in science. What policies — questions of peer review, the award of grants, and so forth.
How would this affect you? You would fly to Washington or take the train to Washington, for what, one day or a few days a year?
The train. Usually it would be one day, maybe three or four times a year.
Then you wouldn't think about those things in between, or would there be some letters?
Very little. At times I would. For example, there was also an astronomy advisory panel, which in those days actually did advise the Foundation on whether or not to award funds to specific proposals. I used to attend meetings of that panel, ex officio. I was never a member of the panel. I haven't been since, as a matter of fact, actually. But I was an ex officio in attendance. So it wasn't just the MPE divisional meetings; there were other meetings I attended as well.
If there was an important matter coming up, would you go around and solicit opinions from the community before you went there?
Yes. Yes, that was done. Of course, as far as the national observatories were concerned, I was in constant touch with the community anyway. As I recall — it was 25 years ago, hard to remember — I used to get phone calls from Raymond Seeger, who was sort of the deputy assistant director or acting assistant director for a number of years, about various matters. I would really have to refresh my memory from the file. I think I have a file on that activity.
OK, I just wanted to get a general idea of what went on. Have you maintained a relationship with NSF and people in Washington through the years? I'm curious as to your feelings as to how NSF has changed, how the role of the staff has changed, and so on.
After I gave up work on the divisional committee, my connection with NSF was through the development of Kitt Peak, the AURA period, the founding of AURA. After that, I turned my attention almost completely to NASA. NSF did help us a couple of times at Harvard in a very important way. Again, in order to recruit the kind of people I wanted to work with me on satellite instrumentation, I had to develop a spectroscopy lab, and couldn't get money for that from NASA to start with. So we got a very major spectrometer with money from NSF, sort of a one-shot $50,000 grant. But most of that time, I had very little to do with NSF, and it wasn't until I came here that I had a great deal to do with NSF.
OK, maybe when we get back to that I can ask you then about the contrast with your earlier days.
OK, we'll get back to that then. Tell me now about other relations with the military. I'm not sure which is first in time. You were on the Scientific Advisory Board at the Air Force, and maybe even before that —
Well, prior to that, as a result of my connections with ONR, I got to know the people in the physics branch very well. And it must have been around 1950, the whole question of infra-red and its value to the military was up for discussion. It seemed to have a lot of promise but nobody was quite sure.
Where were these discussions, in ONR?
Well, in the Navy, but ONR I guess was asked to look into the matter. So ONR appointed a pretty good committee chaired by Don Hornig. As I mentioned yesterday, it had among its members Van Vleck from Harvard, David Dennison from Michigan, Charlie Townes from Columbia, Gordon Sutherland from Michigan, Eugene Fubini, who was then with Airborne Instruments, and he later became an Assistant Secretary of the Defense Department, R and D. Then we had the West Coast branch of the committee, as we called it, at Stanford, consisting of Hofstadter, Panofsky and Schiff. I think that's most of the committee, as I re- call it now.
It was set up by ONR.
Set up by ONR, and it met pretty regularly. I don't know if it was as often as once a month or once every two months, but it met in different places and it looked at different activities.
So they would meet at Michigan, for example?
There would be a meeting at Michigan. Wherever there was work going on, close to military infra-red. Sometimes in Washington, but — Hughes aircraft; we met at Inyokern once, I remember.
In terms of scientists, was it mostly astronomers that you would visit or ?
— no, no, these were places that would be developing equipment, military hardware of one sort or another.
Yes, I realize when you say Hughes aircraft — but I wondered, when you were dealing with pure science, whether it would be mostly astronomers or were physicists also involved in it?
Mostly physicists, actually.
You're almost the only astronomer on this list, as a matter of fact.
That's right. That's because of my work on the earth's atmosphere. So I did a lot of work on the sky emission by con- stituents of the earth's atmosphere.
Oh, so is this the origin of some of your work on the earth's atmosphere?
No, I was already started on it, you see. That's why I got on the committee.
We were alreay being supported by ONR for work in this area, and we were already working with the lead sulfide cell. Anyway, it was a very interesting committee, a bunch of very fine people, very able people, obviously. That went on for nearly two years, I think. And I think we all agree that the highlight — the one thing we remember — is that we were asked to look at the Sidewinder project, which had been originated at Inyokern.
At that time there was a funny ideological approach. The Republican Party hadn't quite come into power, but people like my friend Robert McMath, who was very close to Detroit industry, were very disgruntled by what was going on in Washington, and they felt that all research and development for the military ought to be done by industry, and not in these government labs. I recall that McMath was a member of a high level committee called the Keller Committee. It was chaired by K. T. Keller, who was chairman of the board at Chrysler, and it was called the Guided Missile Committee.
They went around looking at guided missile developments, before the days of the ballistic missiles, and giving opinions on various projects that they saw. One of the things they looked at was this project at Inyokern. They said it was marginal; it might work or it might not work. It was really on the verge of being killed as a result, at the time that we were asked to look at it. And our committee delegated the West Coast team of Schiff, Hofstadter and Panofsky — imagine that, what a group — to go out to Inyokern and look at this thing in detail. They wrote a very enthusiastic report, referring to it as a ten-cent-store item in cost but very effective, and so forth. Well, it's still being used.
I remember talking to McMath about that at one time. He was very negative. Of course, they were negative, all these big businessmen, because it had been developed at a government lab and not by Philco or something like it. It was a very useful activity. We wound it up by spending a week at Newport and I guess writing a report. After that, I was invited to join the Scientific Advisory Board of the Air Force, and I think that began in the late fifties.
You didn't do any military work between '52 and '59 then?
I don't recall any.
No relation with surveillance problems or other infrared problems?
OK. So it just came out of the blue, that you were asked to join the Scientific Activity Board?
I'm trying to remember. Somebody must have put my name in, I just don't remember it, I don't remember who. Possibly there'll be something in the file about it. That board is an enormous thing, enormous activity, enormous number of people; most of the work is done by panels, and there was a geophysics panel headed by a retired admiral of the Coast & Geodetic Survey, Paul Smith. I must say, it was a lot of fun. We went on all kinds of junkets, including one to Alaska for a week, in a private plane. That is to say it was a MATS (Military Air Transport Service) plane, but it used to be Harry Truman's plane, the "Independence."
I see. Were you visiting military research establishments?
Well, for example, we went to Alaska to look at the Air Force operations in Alaska from the point of view of geophysics. How does the environment affect their operations?
They were using you in a very broad sense.
Yes. But on the other hand, I found that we weren't supposed to be terribly critical, I guess. It was mostly a means of providing public support for what the Air Force was trying to do. At least, that the way I interpreted it.
Were there any decisions that the SAB made you were a member that you feel were important?
I don't recall. I really don't recall.
There were no famous fights or important pressures during that period.
Well, there were people like von Karman who were very prominent, who at one time were chairmen. Guy Stever was chairman at the time that I was on the board. Their role was more supportive, it seemed to me, than anything else, supportive of the role of the Air Force. I guess from that I went on the Defense Science Board, which I also didn't find very interesting. I think it's probably a very important committee. When McNamara became Secretary of Defense, they completely overhauled all these advisory committees. I hadn't expressed a great deal of interest in what I was doing, so I was one of those who were not asked to continue.
Again, on the Defense side, was it the same kind of thing?
No, we didn't really travel around a lot. We met in Washington and discussed all sorts of policy matters. I found myself sitting around the table discussing the contractual policies of the Defense Department, whether this was good for business, whether they were being too hard on businessmen or not. And the people who were arguing the case were people like the president of Texas Instruments, companies doing business with the DOD (Department of Defense). There was one sort of genuine technical problem that I helped to solve, and that was the question of the needles.
Yes, I wanted to get into that. That wasn't strictly speaking while you were on the Defense — ?
Oh yes, it was one activity, a subcommittee of the Defense Science Board.
I see, because I knew that was also involved with the National Academy's Space Science Board.
That was earlier.
I see. Maybe we ought to take that story, starting with the Space Science Board. As I understand it, Lincoln Lab submitted it to the Space Science Board as sort of a question, whether it would interfere with astronomy or not..
That's right. The Space Science Board appointed a committee of astronomers — radio astronomers and optical astronomers — to consider it. The committee made a report. It had several meetings; they got quite heated at times. The Lincoln Laboratory people felt we were being quite unfair to them. And in a way we were unfair, in the sense that the experiment that they were proposing did not by itself threaten to dispense enough needles so that there would be any permanent damage done.
Astronomers were concerned about the precedent it might establish. Why were they doing the experiment, if they didn't hope to go on and make the system operational if it were successful? Which would mean greatly increasing the quantity of stuff that they were going to put into orbit. Well, the committee made a report. I guess the report is public. I don't remember all the recommendations, but I think the committee concluded that this experiment by itself was not going to be serious, as far as astronomy was concerned; it might just barely be detectable.
On the other hand, we felt that it was very important, as long as the experiment was being done, to provide a fail-safe device, so that if the canister didn't get into the right orbit, which would cause the needles to be blown out by solar radiation pressure — there's a resonance effect, so that if they got into the right orbit, radiation pressure from the sun would gradually bring them down, and eventually they would all come down to earth or be burned up in the atmosphere. On the other hand, if the dispenser got into the wrong orbit, the things could stay up there forever. I remember several things about this. Gee, I've got to get the order of these things straight —
All the information I have here is that they b the project to the Space Science Board in 1959; .n June 1960 this: report was issued. Then they did it, and then there was a survey of results in '63, again by the Space Science Board, which came to the conclusion that the one shot had been all right. There was an outcry after it went up but it had been all right. Then there were further questions, as to whether it should be done again or not. don't know whether that chronology helps you?
It doesn't help too much. At one time, there was an experiment launched, and it got in the wrong orbit, on the dispensing mechanism failed to work.
As it was supposed to if in the wrong orbit?
It was supposed to work, but it didn't work. It was just luck, that's all; from our standpoint it was luck. Then, I seem to remember about that report that the full report was not published. One recommendation made by the committee was that there be a fail-safe device, and when the Space Science Board publicized these recommendations, they omitted that one.
That was just prior to the meeting of the Astronomical Union in Berkeley (1961). I remember being very angry about that, because I was a member of the Space Science Board and I was going to Berkeley, and I, not Lloyd Berkner, was being commissioned by the board to represent the Academy to the astronomical public. Lloyd Berkner wasn't planning to be there, although he had attended other general assemblies of the IAU.
On my way to Berkeley, I remember going around to New York and visiting Detlev Bronk, who was the president of the Academy, and telling him that I was quite upset by what had happened, and that I wanted him to know that that recommendation had not been made public in the news release that the Academy had issued, and that I didn't feel obligated in any way to defend the Academy and its position with respect to the astronomical community. He agreed with me. "Yes, you shouldn't be put in that position." He promised to get in touch with Lloyd Berkner and so on. He never did, because he was a real politician if ever there was one, that man. I
got out to Berkeley, and as expected, there were a lot of angry astronomers there, especially the Europeans. There was a big press conference, I remember, at which Hoyle and others spoke against this. I did my best to support the position of the Academy, but it was very difficult. I also remember coming back from that general assembly to the next meeting of the Space Science Board and being quite angry about it.
I remember at the meeting of the board, objecting very strenuously to the deletion of that recommendation. And I remember Lloyd Berkner saying that if that recommendation had been published, it would have made the Academy persona non grata with the scientific community. That exchange didn't even appear in the minutes of the Space Science Board meeting. It was about at that point that I decided I'd had enough of the Space Science Board.
But I also remember going to see Jerry Wiesner, who was the (President's) Science Advisor at that point, and we had a real knock-down-drag-out argument with the Lincoln Laboratory people across the table. They had a launch of this thing scheduled and they had no fail-safe device on it.
They didn't want to go back and try to change it.
That's right. The thing was already on the launching pad. I'm trying to remember exactly when that was — it was obviously in 1961, because Jerry Wiesner wasn't there with Eisenhower. And Jerry decided on his own initiative to have the umbilical cord connecting this needles package severed, so the thing went up into orbit but couldn't dispense.
Did Lincoln Lab know about that?
It became just a test shot.
That's right. And later on, there was a successful launch, and there was a fail-safe device on it. It did get into the right orbit. It did dispense. That's the experiment that you read about; it was successful. Yes. That's very interesting — I had no idea. Afterwards, you say you played some further technical role in the Air Force Board, or was that already the —
it was the Defense Science Board.
OK. What was that?
Well, I think we probably ought to leave that out at the moment, because I just don't know where that stands with respect to classification. At the time it was classified.
I see. OK.
But obviously, there's never been any further attempt to launch one of these things.
I see, OK. You played some role in that.
There was a lot of dirty work that went on in connection with that project. I remember there was an article in the SATURDAY REVIEW, based on an interview that John Lear had had with the US representative to COSPAR,* who was also a member of the Space Science Board, and he allowed as how the Air Force had made a big mistake in revealing this experiment to the scientific community. They were kind- hearted enough to do it, and look what happened: they got slapped down. It would have been a lot better if they'd gone ahead and done it and not told anybody. This was a man who was representing the National Academy of Sciences in CUSP I knew who it was. Obviously. I don't know how he ever got on the Space Science Board. He was an employee of the General Electric Company and he had no scientific credentials that I'm aware of.
Did you feel the Air Force was interested in the views of the astronomical community in terms of interference with research and so on, or was it simply they were concerned with any technical arguments you might offer from the military's own standpoint?
I don't know how much of it was real concern, and how much of it was just the need to have good public relations. Certainly when Jerry Wiesner was science advisor, he had the power to stop experiments like that. So they had to convince him that what they were doing was not going to be injurious in the long run.
Now, there were other things that you were involved in also. For example, there was the question of a very large satellite which would light up pert of the earth at night. Weren't you also on a committee that concerned itself with that?
I think that was probably already during the (NASA) Astronomy Missions Board days. *Committee on Space Research (European
Yes, I think so.
It was under Charlie Townes? I'm not sure.
Or the Manned Space Flight Committee, maybe.
not sure. I just wondered whether you recall.
I think the Missions Board discussed that project, and raised no serious questions about it. Because these things had a habit of sneaking in, without adequate study by the scientific community. We were quite concerned, not only about that project but about a lot of projects that were being proposed within NASA, and we raised a question as to just how NASA could learn to recognize the potential bad effects of some of these projects and have them investigated.
What prompted this concern? Was it West Ford or just a general thing?
Oh, we'd always been concerned. We were even concerned about Echo balloons, that they might get so big that they would cause harm. And there were other people. There was a fellow down at University of Connecticut, I think (I'm trying to think of his name) made a point of watching for projects of this kind, and then people to the potential dangers. He was particularly upset about these searchlights in the sky, big mirrors in orbit. I see. Anything else then about this involvement with the military, comments or feelings? You haven't been involved with it since then, I gather, since '64?
No, I've had no involvement with them. I've had practically no involvment with military satellites. I've been aware of devel- opments with _aspect to diffraction-limited telescopes for use in surveillance satellites of various kinds, but I really haven't —
You haven't been called on yourself.
I haven't been called on myself, no.
I get the impression that quite a number of astronomers were involved fairly closely with the military, sort of from 1950 to the 1960's, but I haven't heard much about it since then. It may just be because I don't interview the young people, I just interview people who went in at that time. Do you know, is this a measurement bias here, or is it true that astronomers are less involved now with the military than they used to be?
I would guess that they are. I think it's turned out that, except for a few specialized techniques like optics, or maybe even detectors — I don't even know if there are many astronomers involved in detectors, even though detectors have very important applications in astronomy and some of the best ones are being developed under military sponsorship. It's just that, for a while, the military had great expectations from places like Sacramento Peak and High Altitude Observatory, and it just hasn't turned out that way. Well, it has and it hasn't. For example, the Air Force has a weather service which includes solar weather; they've got a network. They've got telescopes in three or four different places around the world, so they do their own observing, and they've learned how to extract the necessary data for their purposes, and they don't need astronomers any more.
That's very interesting. I had that impression. So for example, the detector work here at Kitt Peak has not been closely tied with military detector work?
Well, the IAU has come up a number of . Maybe we could talk a bit about that, in particular of course, your terms as vice-president and president, and your bringing the IAU to the US, but also other matters.
Yes. (short break)
About the IAU: I know you were on the US National Committee starting in '56. I suppose you attended meetings before that. You became vice-president and president. First I want to ask you generally, what did you do as IAU president. Then we can get to questions like, bringing it to the US, the Red China problem, and so on. What, in general, did you do as vice-president and as president?
Actually it's a very dull activity.
Well, that's interesting to know too.
The executive committee deals with all kinds of detailed questions. It's responsible for the budget, for example, which is drawn up in the first place by the general secretary, and has to be approved by the executive committee. It appoints people to all kinds of committees. It appoints the presidents of commissions and the vice-presidents. It appoints ad hoc committees of various kinds. It accepts or rejects applications for membership. It has the responsibility for electing new members, individual members of the IAU.
So these are all fairly routine things.
Yes, they're operating matters. And once in a while, they do have to deal with important policy questions, such as the China problem.
Tell me about that. While you were in the committee...
Well, we probably ought to go back to the beginning of my involvement in this question, which really began with my appointment as chairman of the US National Committee in 1956. Prior to that, I had attended three general assemblies, I guess in Stockholm, Zurich, and Dublin. I'd been involved as a member of commissions. It was clear already in 1956 — we were getting ready to meet in Moscow in 1958, and there were going to be major problems connected with meeting in Moscow. Otto Struve, who at that point was past president of the IAU, felt very strongly that the future of international astronomy required that there be meetings of the IAU both in Moscow and in the US. There had been a meeting scheduled for the US in 1944, at which time the 200-inch telescope was to have been completed. The meeting was to have taken place in Pasadena. Prior to that, the meeting in Zurich had originally been scheduled for 1941. So that was held in '48, and then it was clear that you couldn't possibly have a meeting of the IAU in the US in 1951, because of the McCarran Act.
That was already clear back in '48?
Oh yes. And also, I think it was felt in '48 that it was important to have a meeting in the USSR. So that meeting in '51 was scheduled in Leningrad. When the Korean War broke out, clearly, all the evidence was that the Russians were supporting North Korea, and they were very much involved; it would have been very difficult in that atmosphere to get very many Americans to go, so the meeting was cancelled, and rescheduled in Rome for the year later. The Russians were very bitter about this. Anyway, the Moscow meeting was scheduled for '58. Struve thought it very important that we have the Union here in 1961. As chairman of the US national committee, it seemed to me that I had to do everything possible to convince the IAU in 1958 that all members of the IAU would be admitted to the US. So I did two things, more or less simultaneously — one, I tried to see to it that there were scientific meetings organized in the US by the summer of 1957, to which key people, Minnaert from the Netherlands and Chalonge from France, could be invited.
I see, as a test.
As a test, that's right. And then we were going to go all out to see to it that they got visas. There was going to be a meeting on cosmic aerodynamics. It was one in a series that Dick Thomas had been organizing to be held at Harvard in 1957. And after that I invited Minnaert to spend two weeks lecturing in Ann Arbor at a summer session that we organized. I've forgotten what meeting we invited Chalonge to, but he wrote back a very nice letter and said that his plans wouldn't permit him to travel that summer but he appreciated the invitation. He made it clear that he wasn't mad at us, and he sincerely meant it when he said that he had other plans.
It wasn't that he didn't want to be a test case.
No. It was a very friendly letter. It served the purpose as far as Chalonge was concerned. Minnaert said that he had given a lot of thought to it, whether to subject himself again to the grief that he'd experienced in 1951 (I think it was) and he'd decided that it was a worthy cause, a good cause, and so he was going to do it. Well, it was surprising that even so, six years later, and even though we paved the way carefully with the State Department, a year in advance, Minnaert just barely got his visa in time in 1957.
It was a matter of pushing it through the bureaucracy?
It was a matter of pushing it through the bureaucracy. It depends a lot on local people. You know, the local consul in the Hague, who just might have had strong feelings about Minnaert personally. I don't know.
Your involvement in this consisted of writing letters and so forth, or did you go to Washington to deal with people?
Writing letters, yes.
The record of that is pretty well saved, I suppose.
Yes, and especially I think of the earlier experience in 1951 — it's enough to make you weep, some of the letters I got from Minnaert.
I see, you were involved with the 1951 thing?
I invited him to lecture in our summer school.
Oh, that was it. I'd seen where he was involved with other people too. I guess he planned to make a tour at the time.
That may be, yes. But the principal reason for his coming was our summer school; he was going to be there for several weeks. And he never made it.
Why? What was it specifically about Minnaert?
He just joined organizations, you know. He was sort of, you might say, a fellow-traveler, in that he joined organizations like the Soviet-American Friendship Society or it might have been the Dutch- Soviet Friendship Society. But he was not a Communist.
Organizations that rang bells at the consulate or whatever?
He was a very independent man. He loved people. He loved nature. He wouldn't harm a hair on anybody's head. When he was at my place in Ann Arbor in 1957, he just couldn't stand the sight of people fishing from boats. He would never obey the dictates of any kind of totalitarian system like the Communist Party. My God, it's just absurd. But he also was quite outspoken in his criticism of the US in the years after World War II. He was very much influenced by another older Dutch astronomer named Pannekoek, who got into trouble in World War I. He was a newspaperman in World War I, also very outspoken and very fiery. I remember, I got the shock of my life in 1948, when I went out to Pannekoek's summer place with Minnaert for lunch. I have a motion picture record of those two at that time.
Yes, quite a good one. We began talking about politics. And in 1948, you know, we (Americans) all thought that le had the greatest country in the world, and our government was very benevolent; we were generously offering to share our atomic knowledge with countries, if only they would be reasonable and allow us to set up an international inspection system. I remember them saying, according to the Russians we just want to do that so we can locate the targets that we can bomb. They actually believed that. And it probably was partly true. I'm sure there were people in this country, in the military, who would have welcomed this system of international inspection for just that reason.
Certainly the European view was not the sa7.e as the American view.
Yes. Anyway, that got him into considerable trouble. So, we got over that hurdle, Minnaert came, etc. Then there was a meeting of the executive committee in June, '57 that Struve attended, and as usual, at that meeting he sort of informally extended an invitation from the US to meet in this country. It was provisionally accepted, with the understanding that a year later, it would have to be formally tendered in Moscow, with assurances that everybody would be admitted. The second step then was to go to the State Department and get advance approval, make sure there wasn't going to be any trouble. So I went around to see a man named Richard Wheeler, who was the head of the Office of International Conferences in the State Department, and I had a nice talk with him. Things were going smoothly, until I happened to mention that Red China was a member of the IAU. "They are? Hm. Well, that may be a problem.
Both Red China and Taiwan were members at that time?
Not Taiwan, only China. China had been a member before the war, but they didn't resume their activity after the war. They didn't come to Zurich and they didn't come to Rome. Then prior to the Dublin meeting, Struve as president, wrote a letter to his former student, Y. C. Chang, who was president of the Chinese Astronomical Society, director of the Purple Mountain Observatory, and invited them to attend the Dublin meeting. They did, and they paid their dues. Nobody even thought of Taiwan. There wasn't any astronomy on Taiwan.
So there it was. Dick Wheeler immediately picked up the phone to call the head of the Far Eastern Division of the State Department — not the Assistant Secretary for the Far East, but somebody who worked for the Assistant Secretary. That somebody happened to be a lady named Ruth Bacon, who was something of a terror. The Assistant Secretary of State for the Far East was Walter Robertson, who was a real hardliner, as far as China was concerned. So was Ruth Bacon, whom I later got to meet personally. In fact I spoke to her a number of times. I heard Dick Wheeler talking to her on the phone and saying, "What? You can't do that. You can't just stick your head in the sand and ignore the existence of these countries... Well, we'll have to see about that," and he hung up.
You know how the State Department operates. Whenever there is any decision that impinges on another office in the State Department, they all have to be consulted and get their OK. And she told him that the IAU couldn't meet in the United States because Red China was a member, and that he could just forget it. So that was the news that he gave me. But he said, "Well, we aren't going to give up that easily. So we started in. I've forgotten — shortly thereafter, I think, I read in the New York Times that Secretary Dulles had announced that all countries would be invited to attend the Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley in California. And a reporter asked him, "Does that mean Red China?" and he said, "Of course." So I immediately wrote my friend — he really got to be a good friend of mine eventually, Richard Wheeler, till he died.
He wrote back and said that he had inquired about this, and that was a purely ad hoc decision that applied only to the Olympics; it had nothing whatever to do with astronomy. The next thing I did was to write a letter to my local Congressman, who was a very conservative Republican, nice fellow but ...
This was Michigan still?
He was a real Michigan Republican. But a fair man. George Meader, his name was. I requested a meeting with him the next time he was in Ann Arbor. I guess I didn't write the letter; I guess I requested the meeting first. We had the meeting in my office. He was very friendly, he listened to the whole story. I told him about the Olympics and so forth.
He asked me to put it all in writing, which I did, and he promptly transmitted the letter to the Secretary of State, Dulles, and added that it seemed to him that what I'd said in the letter was very reasonable, this was a very distinguished scientist, and so forth and so on — science was very important. He said, "Frankly, I find it incredible that this country would admit Chinese athletes and yet slam the door in the face of a few Chinese scientists." Apparently, that letter shook them up. It went from Dulles all the way down the line and then back up again.
The next development of any importance, I think — I'm trying to remember the dates on this. We all heard that Wallace Brode, the well known chemist at Ohio State, had been appointed science advisor to the Secretary of State. And I think it was something like January, when Struve and I were in Washington together, we went around to call on Wallace Brode. Previously, the question had been asked of me, "Why is it that Taiwan is not a member?" They hadn't applied. There wasn't much astronomy, if any, going on there. We presented this story to Wallace, and right away he came back with, "How did it happen that Red China was invited to come back to the IAU and not Taiwan?" Struve was sitting right there. He said, "I was responsible. And he explained why. "You should have invited Taiwan also.
Nobody to invite in Taiwan, there wasn't anybody there.
"How would it be, can't we get Taiwan to apply for admission?" "It's up to them." Well, again, I have a pretty thick file on this, and the details could be filled in.
Right, but I'm very interested, because a lot of the things you've been telling me have been in fact, meetings, where you've been meeting and talking with people.
Sure, but things were later confirmed.
By letter. I just don't remember what other meetings there were, from the time we met with Brode until June of '58. Except that Struve was just shocked at Brode, because Brode seemed so negative and reactionary in his atti :e. In June of 1956, I was about to go out to a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Madison, at which there was to be a meeting of the US National Committee to review our plans for the Moscow meeting. And just before going there, I received a letter from Wallace Brode, which was finally the answer. And the letter said in effect: "Yes, you may invite the IAU to meet," and so forth, "and all members will be welcome. However, there will be an application from Taiwan for membership."
He was informing you that this application was in the works?
That's right. In fact, he'd gone out there himself. He said, "You may not issue the invitation until Taiwan has been accepted as a member." Now, previously there had been some correspondence exchanged; that's why my memory's a little dim. I remember in particular his say ing in a letter that he expects that all US citizens who are members of international scientific unions or who are officers in international scientific unions will always vote or act keeping in mind the best interests of the US. I wrote back to him, I remember that very vividly — you'll find the letter in there (pointing to files) — and I said that I would hope that the policies of the US would always be such that I would be proud to support them at meetings of international unions. Just a little difference in point of view.
When I got that letter, I went out to Madison and reviewed it with the US national committee. After that meeting of the committee, Struve and I took a walk down the street, and we discussed further what to do. Struve then turned to me, and he said, "You know, I think you have no choice but to resign." I said, "That's a good idea." We went back and reconvened the meeting, and told the rest of the people what we were going to do. Some of them were fearful about this; "Let's not do anything hasty," and so on. The next morning I called the Academy, and told them that I was resigning as the chairman of the US delegation to Moscow, and I would not be going to Moscow. If tLoy wanted somebody to issue the invitation to meet in this country, they could ger somebody else to do it. That really threw people for a loop.
You told them your reasons?
I told them the reasons. Then I spoke to Dick Wheeler, and he was surprised. He said he thought I'd agreed to that arrangement. He thought that Brode's proposal would be acceptable to me. I said, "I don't know whatever gave you that idea. It certainly is not."
Did he ask what specific thing, was unacceptable in it?
It was the idea that the IAU had to accept Taiwan as a member, before I could issue the invitation.
Before you could issue the invitation -
Exactly. And I wasn't going to even propose it. Well, that really got people excited. I was told later that Brode's reaction when he heard about that was, "That's all right, we'll get somebody else." I knew damn well he wouldn't get anybody else. I knew no astronomer, no matter what his political leanings were, would accept that kind of condition. Whether they tried or not, I just don't know.
The upshot of it was that within a couple of weeks, I was informed that a meeting had been arranged between me and Douglas Cornell, the executive officer of the National Academy, on the one hand, and Under Secretary Christian Herter and his secretary, who happened to be a man, on the other. There were other actions in between. I know that I got in touch with Congressman Meader about that, and he was quite upset. I think he got in touch with Robert Murphy, who was also Under Secretary, and may have been Acting Secretary of State at the time — it was probably Murphy who arranged that meeting. But you know, they had other thins to occupy them at that moment, because that was in the midst of the landing of US Marines in Lebanon.
That was a very interesting meeting. The meeting consisted of two parts. There was an hour in the morning, during which we out- lined the problem to Herter. Then he wanted some time to think about it, and asked us to come back in the afternoon. We had another meeting of an hour. There was a complete record kept of both sessions by Herter's secretary. We were never given a copy of that record. And one thing I wanted to ask you is whether there is some way in which we could get access to the archives, and get the diary of that meeting.
It might be possible. The State Department has, I believe, a 25-year rule, so that it should be outside of that period and it might be possible to do so.
25? No, it's only 20.
It's only 20 years ago?
Oh. You might have to wait a few years.*
You see, several years later Dick Wheeler — as I say, I became a good friend of his — I visited him in his office, and he had a record of either the morning or the afternoon, which he read to me. He wouldn't let me look at it; he wouldn't give it to me. And it was fascinating, I thought. I what he did was to tell me (I think that was in the afternoon) that there was going to be a new policy which would govern international conferences in the US; and that the US was prepared to welcome to this country any international unions, as long as there was no discrimination — as long as the unions observed what they called the principle of universality in science. *Available at this date only, possibly, via a Freedom of Information Act request. S.W.
I said, "OK, but what really does that mean?" I think I was getting to the edge of my tolerance. I'd heard so much gobble- degook from the State Department about this, you know. I said, "What does that mean? If this is to be official US policy, does that mean that if I am a member let's say of the executive committee of the IAU, and North Korea applies for admission, and I find that other members of the committee are blocking North Korea's application for political reasons, does that mean that I would be bound to fight to get North Korea in?" He said, "We have no objection to North Korea being in the IAU as long as South Korea is also taken in. I said, "That sounds like a very fine policy, which I would be proud to support. Can I inform the general assembly of the IAU about this new policy?" He said, "Well, better still, I'll write you a letter." I said, "I'm about to leave for Europe to attend the meeting." He asked me for my itinerary. I said I was going to stop in Paris. He said, "You can get the letter at the embassy in Paris." I went to Paris, and I stopped at the embassy, and there was no such letter. I went on to Moscow, and there was no such letter at the embassy there.
I attended a meeting of the executive committee, filling in for Struve who had decided not to go (I'd already been proposed as a member of the executive committee anyway, to take office at the end of that meeting). During the course of the meeting, during an intermission, the president and the general secretary took me aside, and said that they had had it from a very good source that the United States will not allow the meeting to be held unless Taiwan is made a member. I said, "That's not true." Let me backtrack and tell you what was decided in the meeting with Herter. I skipped over one point. He had a little memorandum that said, "We approve of the invitation to the IAU, with the understanding that if Taiwan is not accepted as a member of the IAU by one year from this date, the invitation will be withdrawn." I read it. I handed it to Doug Cornell, and I said, "That's not acceptable." "But why not?" I said, "We can't insist in advance that Taiwan be made a member of the IAU. There may be other reasons why they're not acceptable.
So Herter took the memo and he put a little caret and he wrote in, in ink, "If, for reasons that appear to be political, Taiwan is not accepted as a member in one year, we will withdraw the invitation." I said, "I think that we can go along with that, because I don't think the IAU would be political." That was the treaty. I could tell these guys, "No, that not true." It turned out that what had happened was that Wallace Brode, right after my meeting with Herter, had gone to Europe and attended a NATO meeting, and he had seen the president of the IAU there, Danjon. And he had told him that the Secretary of State considered it very important that Taiwan be made a member of the IAU. He had also, before leaving the US, gone to Herter, and blasted him for having agreed to write that letter, and threatened him — threatened to go to Dulles or even to Eisenhower if he insisted on writing that letter. And as a result, Herter didn't write the letter. There was no new policy; it was just another ad hoc action.
Anyway, the president and the general secretary insisted that I go to the US embassy the next day and find out, ask them to confirm the invitation. I did. In fact, I went to that embassy practically every day that week. I just beat a path back and forth, while they sent wires to Washington. Finally the story that I gave them was confirmed by the telegrams they received, and I had authority to go ahead and issue the invitation; which I did. A lot of people remarked afterwards that I didn't look very happy up there on the platform, issuing that invitation. Then a year later, the executive committee met at Brighton. I was a member there. Over the protests of the Russians and the Czechs, Taiwan was accepted. The application was considered in Moscow. But imagine, if the IAU had accepted the application of Taiwan in Moscow — we had it on good authority that the Russians would have withdrawn from the IAU, right there in their own city.
That's not the most diplomatic place to admit Taiwan.
That's right. So actually it was held up on a technicality. We decided that there was not enough information in the application, so it was sent back. But a year later it was resubmitted and, according to the statutes of the IAU, the executive committee had no choice but to admit them.
That's right. Well, the qualifications weren't all that strict.
Lots of countries are in the IAU.
Of course, over the years it turns cut that there are about ten people in Taiwan now doing what you would call high-energy astro- physics, perfectly good work. They have a lot better basis for being in now, than they had at that time. I came back to Washington. I wrote a report describing in detail what had happened in Moscow, and things that had been said about certain people approaching the president and telling him what the Secretary of State thought. There was a meeting in the State De- partment afterwards, at which I practically read this letter. Brode was sitting right there and I just read it to his face. I think that was sort of the beginning of the end for him. That was in '58, and in about a year's time he resigned. He was bad medicine, that man.
After that did things go fairly smoothly in terms of bringing them to the US and so forth?
Yes. Of course, there were other things that were done. We had to raise a considerable amount of money. We raised about $163,000, half of it from the government, half from private sources, to be used for grants to support the travel of astronomers to the US.
What private sources? Golberg: Rockefeller Foundation, Ford Motor Company — Bob McNamara was President of Ford at that time, and he personally arranged that $5000 which they gave. The US Steel Foundation, The Sloan Foundation. We ended up with $23,000 surplus, which has been a kitty which has drawn interest, and the interest has been used for various purposes. It was quite an undertaking.
There were some last-minute incidents which turned out to be trumped up, mostly. I remember, there was a symposium in Pasadena, prior to the meeting in Berkeley, to which two or three of the Russians had been invited — Alla Massevitch, Mikhailov, Ambartsumian — and when I arrived in Pasadena, I was greeted with a frantic message from the local astronomers, plus H. P. Robertson, who was then foreign secretary of the Academy. Alla Massevitch had fed them a horror story about how Ambartsumian's visa — he was to be the president-elect of the IAU — had been held up at the last minute. Or it was his wife's visa, I think, that had been held up at the last minute, so he wasn't arriving. There was an indignation meeting being held at the home of one of the astronomers, attend- ed by Alla Massevitch and so forth; they left word and asked me to go.
I remember I told them I was sorry, I had an engagement to have dinner at the Huntington Sheraton, and I'd be damned if I was going to any protest meeting. I got on the telephone, even though it was the weekend, and had the Academy look into it. Later that same evening, I think, they called back and told me that Ambartsumian was arriving at 2 AM at Los Angeles airport. We had to scurry out to find a florist that was open, to get some flowers for his wife. There were two other Russians who were going to be along with him. It turned out to have been a mixup, that's all. Nothing whatever to do with our State Department Other than that, the thing went smoothly, and everyone who applied for a visa got it in time. I think it was on the whole a very successful meeting.
Anything else about the IAU?
Well, of course, the China problem has been a lingering one.
In terms of your own personal involvement?
At Berkeley itself, the Russians and the Czechs introduced a resolution calling on the executive committee to expel Taiwan and take in China, and it failed. After that the Russians cooled off anyway with respect to China. I served on the executive committee until 1964, and after that my interaction was scientific, until 1973 when I became president, in Sydney. As I said before, actually, being president is not a very exciting task. You're only president for three years. There isn't a great deal that you can do to change the organization in three years. There are little things that you can do. You can give a little push in a certain direction, and then the next president pushes a little further, perhaps. I did promise in Sydney that I would do everything possible to try to get China back into the IAU. Those efforts were not successful, even though I proposed a number of initiatives that were relatively new, such as recognizing that Taiwan was a province of China, but without admitting that it was a province of the People's Republic of China.
That was the only basis which they would accept. But I did find out, as a result of the correspondence, that their attitude toward us was quite friendly. They realized that it was a matter of principle on both sides, and the best thing to do was to let it lie, for the time being. I don't think that the Chinese themselves would be in favor of ......(off tape)
You were saying, the Chinese themselves wouldn't be in favor of dividing the Union over it?
No. In fact, I made a speech about that at Grenoble. I suggested that the best thing we could do would be to reestablish scientific relations with the Chinese on a country by country basis, and really find out what we can do to help them, instead of making a big to-do about getting them into the IAU. When I visited China last fall, I certainly got the impression that the Chinese agreed with that point of view.
They're being reasonable about it.
That's right. In fact, I think they would prefer — they said at one time that they would prefer that the matter be settled at the level of ICSU.* However, I must admit that it hasn't worked out that way, and that there are two unions, Geological Sciences and Geodesy and Geophysics, that have thrown out Taiwan and taken in China. I think that's a mistake, but that's their business.
Why don't we pause here now. (Lunch Break)
OK, we're resuming after lunch. Why don't we talk now about your leaving Michigan and going to Harvard, and what you did there? First tell me, you mentioned briefly already how in '59, you had thought of leaving Michigan, but you didn't say exactly why you had thought it or how you were approached to go to Harvard, and so forth.
Yes. Again, these stories can be told in a lot of detail or a little bit of detail. Often the details are interesting. In the spring of '59, I was asked to be on an ad hoc committee to advise Harvard on some tenure appointments that the observatory or the astronomy department wished to make. I went there, and met with President Pusey and Dean Bundy. We discussed various candidates. I went back home, and received a telephone call shortly thereafter from Donald Menzel, telling me that he had been asked by President Pusey to check on whether I would consider coming to Harvard, before offering the professorship to anybody else. And furthermore, that he had decided that I would come to Harvard only if I could be offered the di- rectorship.
Who had decided that?
Menzel. If I would come to Harvard, he would be prepared to step down as director.
Had you indicated to Menzel that you weren't too happy at Michigan? *International Council of Scientific Unions
No, not really. Not at that point. In fact, several years before, I'd been asked whether I would consider going to Harvard, and I'd said no. Well, I went back to Cambridge and discussed it pretty thoroughly with everybody, and I came to the conclusion that it would be a mistake for me to do that. Because I didn't think that deep down in his heart, Donald Menzel would be really happy about giving up the directorship. I think he felt discouraged at not being able to attract to the faculty people of the desired calibre, and I think he honestly felt that I would have a better chance of doing it, and he was willing to sacrifice himself. But it seemed to me, that for me to do that, to have my former professor give up the directorship in my favor, would be the way to end a beautiful friendship. I just didn't like that aspect of it, so I declined. Then, a year later, I began to be quite disenchanted with Michigan, because I felt that the administration was getting to be a bit of a chore — we were facing the same problems every day and every year, the building being just one — and that it was time for a change. I felt that I would be quite happy to go to Harvard as a professor. And I felt that if I were going to go, in view of the fact that I was about to start up a pretty major effort in space research, I'd better do it, at that point rather than later, when it would be too late.
I see, so you could get a group started and so forth.
That's right — a laboratory, equipment, and the like.
I see. So it was understood that you would go there and start in working on that?
Yes, that was the understanding, that I was going there for that purpose.
That was when this flap about the newspapers and so forth came along, at that point?
Yes. My involvement in the space program was not connected with that, of course. As I said before, I'd had an interest for many years in space astronomy.
Yes, I want to get back to that, but before we get into your work on OSO (Orbiting Solar Observatory) and so forth, I'd like to ask about conditions at Harvard when you were a professor there. What was the department like in the sixties? You were there from '60 to '71. What was the character of it?
It was a mixture. As you know, the Smithsonian Observatory came to Harvard in 1955.
You were in fact both a staff member of the Smithsonian and a professor of astronomy?
That's right. That was simply a way of financing my appointment.
Half and half?
Half my salary was paid by the Smithsonian. The Smithsonian was a source both of strength and of weakness, as far as Harvard was concerned. Eventually my attempt to remedy that situation was partly responsible for my leaving — although I didn't leave for purely negative reasons, as Bart Bok did, for example. Bart announced that he was leaving before he even had another job.
Possibly, if I hadn't had the Kitt Peak prospect in view, I might not have pushed matters as hard as I did towards a confrontation, before I left. It soon became apparent that we had two separate and independent observatories. The Smithsonian wanted to reserve the right to determine its own future, to do whatever research it chose to do, on its own if necessary, and without regard for whether or not the same research field was being pursued at Harvard, in the Harvard Observatory.
So there was no joint planning of any kind. Menzel and Whipple had developed a kind of informal mutually supportive relationship, in which each did pretty much as he pleased, but with the understanding that the other would back him up. They socialized together, and outwardly they got along very well. But I think basically, the department was not as top-rank as it really had every right to expect, considering the amount of money that was being spent, both on the Smithsonian and on the Harvard side. One of the things that struck me right at the outset was that on the rankings of graduate departments that were published by the American Council on Education, both in 1965 and 1970, Harvard came out 5th or even 6th. To me, that was rather intolerable. And it seemed to me there were very clear reasons why that was so. The Smithsonian, of course, put quite a lot of money into Harvard, in a lot of indirect ways.
They contributed to the support of the library, the shop; they paid rent on their building; they provided help for graduate students. And all that was fine. They also provided a kind of reservoir of people who could be drawn upon to teach. That wouldn't have been so bad, just to have that group of people available when called upon. But what usually happened was that a Smithsonian staff member would want to teach; he would be aggressive about wanting to teach. And, particularly if we had nobody on the Harvard faculty with that kind of research competence, it would be a great temptation to grant the request, to construct a course for that person. The result was that by 1970, when I began to really take stock, fully half of the instruction in the department of astronomy was being given by Smithsonian lecturers.
Paid by the Smithsonian?
Well, Harvard paid a very nominal amount, really nominal. They were really supported by the Smithsonian. On the other hand, the department was never consulted on new appointments to the Smithsonian. There was such an asymmetry in the situation, too, because Fred Whipple, the director of the Smithsonian, was a professor in the department, and sat on the Observatory Council and had a voice in everything that went on in the observatory.
Whereas you were not appointed at the Smithsonian at that point?
At that point, that was 1970 — I became chairman in 1966, and at that point, I wished to be full time on the Harvard payroll.
Did this distort the teaching?
Yes, I think it definitely did, particularly since the availability of all these people, in a way, made it possible for some professors to do very little teaching. The half of the teaching that was contributed by the department of astronomy, I found was contributed mostly by about three people. The other six did very little teaching. Of course, Harvard has always been very lax about that. You offer a research course; that will fulfill your obligations. I wanted much closer linkage between the Smithsonian and Harvard. I wanted Harvard to have a voice in the affairs of the Smithsonian. This was very strongly resisted by Fred Whipple. It was partly because he felt that the members of the department of astronomy, the permanent people in the department of astronomy, were too conservative. There was an incident a few years earlier, when Menzel came around with the news that NASA wanted to build an 88-inch telescope — he refers to that in his autobiography.*
Yes, I noticed that. I was going to ask you about that.
So he proposed to the council of the Observatory, which consisted of all the permanent professors, that Harvard go ahead with such a proposal (the telescope to be built in Hawaii). Unfortunately, there wasn't a single person there on the permanent staff who was *Typescript, on deposit at AIP. competent to take responsibility for such a project. There was a man on the staff who did not have tenure; he sort of depended on outside funds for his livelihood, and when I became director, those funds ran out and he had to be terminated.
He was a fair engineer, really an engineer, but not all that good, and he wasn't even anxious to take on this responsibility. But Menzel had decided that he would. The department rather dragged its heels on that, and it was also handled very clumsily by Menzel. When the time came to get final approval, the department did go along. They didn't want to stand in the way, because Harvard was pretty backward in optical astronomy, and a facility like that, properly built and run, would have been a wonderful thing. But Menzel arranged a meeting with the president and the dean of Harvard. The president didn't like big confrontations. He liked to have meetings with one or two people, so that he would not be put in the position of making a public commitment to a lot of people. This was the first he'd heard about this project, and to his horror, all the members of the council turned up in his office. He was pretty angry about it. He just said in no uncertain terms that he couldn't support that project, that Harvard had had its fingers burned many times in the past trying to operate a facility a long distance off like the one in South Africa. In effect, he turned it down just out of hand.
On the spot. Because it wasn't properly prepared.
Right on the spot. Izel and Whipple would never bring themselves to admit that that was the reason. They always maintained that it was the unenthusiastic attitude of the staff who were present that was responsible for ft. Of course, they needn't have been present in the first place. That was counter-productive.
What was your attitude toward the 88-inch, by the way?
Well, I wasn't in the forefront of those who were object ing to it. I certainly would have supported it. At the same time, I found it very hard to come up with logical reasons for supporting it. But I didn't oppose it.
Was there any feeling in the department that the department should devote itself more to theory rather than observation?
Oh, some, yes. But I think that's a mistake. They've really gone that route, in the last few years. I don't think it's a very healthy situation. Anyway, since that time, Whipple for one decided that just wasn't going to have any more to do with that Observatory Council, as he'd call it. Really, he didn't have that power of decision. After all, there had been a contract entered into between Harvard and the Smithsonian which called for cooperation, and he couldn't unilaterally decide that he wasn't going to have anything more to do with Harvard. But he was going to go ahead and do what he wanted to do and use the facilities, use the students, and so forth. It was at that point that he, entirely on his own, decided to go ahead and develop Mt. Hopkins, down here (Arizona). I think that was probably a good thing to have done, but it could have been done in collaboration with Harvard, rather than unilaterally. Then there were other things. He got into the MMT (Multi- Mirror Telescope) business, again without even informing me, the director of the observatory, until after the fact. He wouldn't in- form me because he figured that I wouldn't go along with it without referring it to the department, and I probably wouldn't.
It wasn't so much a matter of his personal relations with you?
No, it wasn't. Our personal relations were fine, until I got stubborn about wanting to change the relationship. That was in the very last year. There was nothing the matter with our personal relations.
I want to go back to something you mentioned at the start of this, the question of dividing up the research work or infringing on someone else's research work. Is this something that you feel normally would have been done — that is, you would get together, and decide, you work on this, we'll work on that?
Or, we'll work on something jointly. Or, we'll recognize the fact that groups on both sides have gotten together and already are working jointly. For example, you don't do what they did: I decided that we needed to strengthen Harvard in optical astronomy, even though we didn't have room for a full professorship, and I was going to commit free money at the observatory to hire a first class young astronomer, an optical astronomer, who would go and use Kitt Peak, for example, and take students with him. About that time, the Smithsonian decided they wanted to develop Mt. Hopkins, and they wanted to hire somebody to take charge of that project — and they were interviewing the same people. They were competing with us for the same people. Also, with radio astronomy — they decided unilaterally, when Harvard had been into radio astronomy for a long time, that they wanted to get into radio astronomy. And they approached Ed Lilley, who is on our faculty, and gave him a title at the Smithsonian, again without so much as a by-your-leave to me. This all happened during the days when we were presumably on very good terms personally.
So, to me, the so-called collaboration in radio astronomy was a perfect example of how not to do it. But they all thought it was great, because people got together informally and decided they wanted to collaborate.
Did you ever have separate groups, rival groups, one at Harvard, one at the Smithsonian, working on the same thing but not collaborating?
No. It hadn't gotten that far, but it was certainly head ing that way in optical astronomy. But optical astronomy is such a big field. For example, we had John Danziger on the Harvard side, and the Smithsonian hired Rudy Schild, who is still there, and they didn't really get along particularly well with each other.
That was just personal?
It wasn't competition. On the other hand, when we started up our space project, and really got into doing the structure of the solar atmosphere, the Smithsonian had a first-rate group in the theory of stellar atmospheres, and they sort of joined in, and those groups worked together very closely. I think they still do, as a matter of fact.
So the difficulties weren't so much at the lower levels, but more at administrative levels? Administrative decisions?
Oh yes, sure. It was an entirely different style of operation. I think Whipple just simply didn't want to feel that he had to sit around a table with a lot of people and argue about something. He wanted to do it, you know — decide himself and just do it. He also felt that he would accept a lower standard in the selection of personnel, because it was a federal laboratory, than would Harvard; and that's where I drew the line. I just wouldn't go along with that kind of thinking at all. There was a real philosophical difference there, that evolved over a period of years. We got a committee to come and study the Harvard- Smithsonian relationship, the last year I was there. It was rather absurd, the report they wrote — they attributed it all to these two old friends, who had been friends for 40 years, and then they had a falling out — as though it were somehow a personality clash, when it was really a very basic philosophical difference.
It was a structural problem too — there in fact never had been that close cooperation, integration, between the two.
To switch to a somewhat different matter, I'm curious about the relations between the director and the Harvard College Observatory Council, both under Menzel and under yourself, and if you know anything about it, under Shapley.
It originated under Shapley, because it was imposed on Shapley by President Conant. It was imposed on Shapley by President Conant simply because Shapley was a lousy administrator. There's ample evidence of that. I think Conant felt that there ought to be some check on him, so he required that all actions, all budgets and so on, be the responsibility of Shapley and the Council, rather than Shapley himself. Then I remember Menzel talking to me about this, when he became director. I asked him, "What about the Council?" He said, "The Council is fine. You've simply got to be persuasive and sell your program to the Council." Later on he changed his viewpoint entirely. He actually got quite bitter about it, and I think it was rather too bad. I think Whipple put it for both of them, in the discussions I had with him, in the presence of an assistant secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. He said, "The Council gave Donald a heart attack and nearly drove me out of my mind."
Is that so?
"And as far as I'm concerned, I will refuse to have anything to do with them."
Were you sitting on the Council at that time, by the way?
Oh sure, I was director, I was the chairman. Well, at that time? That was the Hawaiian telescope, you see. Yes, I was on the Council. There was no justification for him saying that. It's true that Menzel had very serious open heart surgery in 1965. I think probably the opposition of the Council did cause him some sleepless nights. But if that's the case, then he should not have held that job. I don't think they did anything that they didn't have a right to do.
What were your relations with the Council?
I think they were excellent. Whipple was referring to the frustration, acting as though my hands were being tied by the Council, and actually he was still thinking of the time that Menzel's hands were apparently being tied by the Council. He really couldn't have cited a single example in which the Council had prevented me from doing something that I wanted to do.
Then it was simply a matter of persuading them of your case?
I think so. We were having difficulty filling a vacancy in the department, but that's just because we were aiming high. People like Peter Goldreich liked it better at Cal Tech. We were going very high for the best people. I much preferred to use the money on assistant professors if I couldn't get a really top-flight person. I think there were some real advantages to this Council. The Council really evolved into a departmental committee, a committee of the permanent professors of the department. Harvard University after all, is a university. Before I became chairman, the department was in a rather secondary position. All the money was controlled by the director of the (Harvard) observatory, all the research money.
Who was also the chairman of the department.
No, a separate chairman.
Oh, separate. I see.
I was hired by the director of the observatory, even though I was hired as a professor. I never even spoke to the chairman of the department until after I'd agreed to come. It was absurd. I tried to reverse that. Indeed, the university wanted it reversed, in making me both director and chairman. I think after I left, they moved in the direction of a single director for Harvard and the Smithsonian, which I had recommended, as a matter of fact, in writing. And I agreed that for George Field to be chairman of the department of astronomy as well would have been too much. But I think once again, the department is in an inferior relationship now, and I don't think that's a healthy situation.
Did you experience any conflict between your roles as director of the observatory, and as department chairman?
No, I don't think so. In fact, on the contrary, I used some of the (observatory) overhead money that accrued to us on some fellowships for graduate students and travel for members of the faculty to scientific meetings. There was no conflict of interest whatsoever.
Tell me, you've mentioned while you were at Harvard doing some fund-raising from private sources. What did this consist of?
Well, we had a very nice tradition at Harvard, which was started by Shapley, I suppose, and promoted by Menzel too, which was that the Overseers' Visiting Committee had on it a lot of people with money. In many cases, that was their principal claim to eligibility to be on the Visiting Committee, in addition to their genuine interest in Harvard and in astronomy. They rather went to extremes in not having enough people with scientific competence, who could honestly evaluate what was going on.
But these people, some of them, would periodically give money. There was one man who gave $5000 a year regularly. By the time I left he was into about his 15th year, so the thing had built up to $75,000 plus interest. There was that kind of ongoing, what you might call "small giving." Then Harvard had its big program for science, where it tried to raise $50,000,000. We had two requirements in that program — one, a professorship, and two, a new building. We ended up with a new building. That was partly because all the gifts that were given were given unrestricted, so I could take money that I had been saving for the professorship and put it into the building.
The building costs were escalating like mad, you know. We started out with a 3% million dollar project and it went to 4½, by the time we finished. There were some other reasons for that, having to do with minority hiring. For example, we were on the verge of letting the contract for the building, it was going out for bids, when the university voted to suspend all new construction until they could negotiate with the blacks on minority hiring, and with the contractors. They didn't do that until six months went by, during which time the cost of the building went up $500,000. I had to find that money, had to raise it in addition to what we already had. That was after putting four to five hundred thousand of the professorship money into the building.
You had to go out and find donors yourself? How do you go about doing this?
Well, let's say I was very lucky. With the Perkin Building. In the first place, of course, you know that the fact that it's named the "Perkin Building" means something. We started out, as I say, with a budget estimate of 3% million. We put in a proposal to the National Science Foundation for — I don't know, as much as we could get — a million, a million and a half, with the understanding that it would be matched. That was the policy of the NSF. Things went along for a while.
A year went by or something like that. We never dreamt that we'd get the money. Then suddenly we got the news that the NSF was going to give us a million dollars. That really gave us a big push. Coincidentally, in that same time frame Dick Perkin died. After consulting with one or two people on the Visiting Committee, who were good friends of the family, I composed the right sort of letter, which found its way to the Perkin family, suggesting that a Perkin Laboratory would be a good way to remember Dick. I estimated that I would need a million and a half dollars. They produced it. So we had 2% million. And then, we were going to rent the top floor to the Smithsonian, if they would amortize part of the cost, in return for which the university would lend us the money. In addition, we got $100,000 from one member of the Visiting Committee, Lee Loomis, who had never given any money to the observatory before. We got another $100,000 from Paul Hammond, and we got $300,000 from John Wolbach, whom I've mentioned earlier. And before we knew it, we had more than the 3¼ million. We also had close to an additional half million for use on the professorship.
But then during the six months that elapsed between the preliminary plans and the detailed design, which we would use as a basis for bidding, the cost went up half a million dollars, so we committed the half million, and there was another half million due (the delay over minorities). At that point, I went back and got another hundred thousand from the Perkin Fund, another hundred thousand from John Wolbach, and so forth. And we made up the difference. So by the time I left Harvard, the building was about half finished and all paid for.
When people are put on the Visiting Committee, do they already know to expect to be asked to give money?
I think if they have money, yes. Sure. They don't all give it, though. Most of them don't. That's the trouble. The committee had a lot of deadwood on it. There were a few very loyal people like Irving Pratt, Lee Loomis, Dick Perkin, Paul Hammond. Even though Paul's money I think went chiefly to oceanography and atmospheric science, still he was a good contact; he introduced us to a lot of good people.
These people — the ones that gave at Harvard, and also the ones you mentioned when you approached people in foundations for the IAU and so forth — what is it that prompts them to give money? Why in general do these people give money?
For one thing, it's a tax deduction. They set up a foundation. The United States Steel Corporation actually had a foundation, called US Steel Foundation. It's good public relations.
I guess the question then would be, why does the money come to astronomy rather than to medicine or whatever?
Well, at that particular time, if you're talking about the IAU, there was a very special reason: we were competing with the Russians. We were in the midst of the Cold War. And how come America, the "land of the free and the home of the brave," cannot hold a decent international meeting, whereas a totalitarian country like the USSR finds it possible?
These are arguments that you would use with people in the Rockefeller Foundation or the US Steel Foundation?
Not in just those words, but the meaning I think would be clear. In fact, I thought it was rather shameful that we couldn't hold an international scientific meeting in this country. The IAU was one of the first to be scheduled after the McCarthy period, which was a real sickness. We wanted to make a good showing. As a matter of fact we went to many of those same people and got money for the travel of Americans to Moscow. I had that responsibility as well.
I see. It's the same thing. What about at Harvard, then? Some loyalty to Harvard would be involved?
There's loyalty to Harvard. These people by and large are Harvard alumni, and real loyal ones, like H. Irving Pratt. Pratt was an overseer. He was chairman of a big fundraising drive in 1959 that netted over 90 million dollars. He was chairman of the Program for Science Drive. He was singled out to be made chairman of our Visiting Committee, and people like that kind of recognition. Everyone has his own style in raising money. I found that you had to get people emotionally involved in an institution or a problem, to get them to contribute. If you've got money, everybody and his brother is going to come to you and say, "If you'll give me a million dollars, I'll name a building after you." That's not enough.
This is the point of the Visiting Committee.
The Committee is one thing. But up until that time, you see, the Committee had not had any real mission, except to just come around and be entertained and listen to clever talks by students. I actually got e of them very much involved in this argument with the Smithsonian. I identified that as a real problem, and I particularly called upon my friend, Lee Loomis, for help. He's a good friend of Whipple's as well. "Here's the problem." And I think some of the money for the building — I think Lee Loomis told me in so many words that he was going to give money in the hope that it would partly induce me to stay at Harvard.
I understand. Is there anything in the fund raising, any way that you would make an appeal to the specific interests of astronomy, that might be different from other sciences — anything particularly appealing about astronomy?
I think astronomy is appealing. I think it's one of the highest activities — it operates on a very high intellectual level. It appeals to the good qualities in people. It does have a lot of appeal, as compared to physics. Then again, it depends on your makeup. A lot of people would find biology more fascinating. One thing that appealed to a number of people on the Visiting Committee was that they were all yachtsmen, or many of them. They spent nights out under the stars. It's true.
I see, they would talk about this.
H. Irving Pratt was the commodore of the New York Yacht Club. Hammond's a member. Hammond had sailed all the way to the Greek islands in his own ship, in his younger days. Lee Loomis was the owner of the ship that won the America's Cup, this last time around. (Ted Turner was the skipper, you know?) Loomis was there in the background. Loomis is a big, tough, dominating kind of person too. He must have met his match in Ted Turner.
Did they ever talk to you about this, about their interest in the stars?
Oh, sure. They got a big kick out of They don't know too much about it, but —
The same feeling you got when you were first walking along the beach.
Exactly. Why, I can remember, in the early days of the Space Age, when Irving Pratt was president of the Harvard Club of New York — he was chairman of our Visiting Committee — he got us down to New York to put on a space astronomy program with several speakers. I spoke, and Carl Sagan, who was then on the Harvard faculty, Harvard-Smithsonian. I got NASA to deliver the prototype of 0S0-1 together with a couple of technicians, darkened the room, shone a flashlight at it to simulate the sun, and showed how it turned. Pratt didn't know too much about what we were trying to do, except that he was competitive, you know, and here we were, trying to build something on a schedule and get it up into orbit. As far as he was concerned, this was one of the things that made Harvard Number One.
They were nice people; I really enjoyed that association. In fact, if I had it to do over, I think I would much rather concentrate on raising money from private sources, rather than messing around with a bunch of bureaucrats in Washington, frankly.
I appreciate that. You've given me a good picture of that. One thing I did want to ask also — you were a consultant of Geophysics Corporation of America?
That was a very minor activity. Donald Menzel had a lot to do with that company. In fact, he was chief scientist I think at one time, helped them to get started, and worked for them and with them. When I came to Harvard, he suggested that this might be an appreciable source of extra income. So I worked with them for a while, but it took too much time. It wasn't the kind of consulting I enjoyed doing, because in order to do the work you really had to go over there and be there during working hours, which meant Monday through Friday. You couldn't do it Saturdays or Sundays. I didn't do a great deal for them.
What were you doing for them?
Actually, they had a contract to survey the Russian literature, in astronomy among other things. I could read Russian, so I wrote a few reports based on my reading.
I see. You, read the Russian astronomy literature, anyway.
Did you ever do any other consulting for industry?
Not a great deal actually. I did at Michigan, curiously enough, for the McDonnell Corporation, McDonnell Aircraft. Right after Sputnik.
OK, let's get to that story then. That's the next thing, getting into the space thing and so on. Maybe before that, you men- tioned the lecture that Saha gave in 1937. Than you mentioned talking with Spitzer about rockets and so forth in '46. Was there any other definite thing that you did before Sputnik, in space? Was this something in the back of your mind?
No, it was in the back of my mind. Of course I followed Tousey's work with great interest, and had very close liaison with him; I guess I even wrote a paper about the profile of Lyman-alpha I think about 1955 or something like that. But it wasn't until Sputnik that I really cast the die and decided to become active. Right after Sputnik the Academy formed the Space Sci- ence Board. That was well before NASA came into being.
The Space Science Board did a lot of planning of scientific programs that provided NASA with a ready-made program in space science, as soon as they came into being. It must have been along about the winter of 1958, late winter or early spring, I had a phone call from a chap (Michael Witunski) at the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation in St. Louis. He had two propositions to put to me. One, would I undertake to write a report on what astronomy could be done from satellites in space, either alone or in collaboration with colleagues? I told him I'd be interested in doing that — especially after he told me that this would not be proprietary, but that it could be distributed immediately as a report to the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation (with their name on it) and go out anywhere we wished. And two, would I be a consultant for McDonnell Aircraft, in connection with some plans they were drawing up to build a satellite and launch it.
A scientific satellite?
This was their own idea?
Do you know where they got the idea of going into this business?
Well, they had a director of research who was a physicist. I'm trying to think of his name. He was moderately well known — Al Lombard, I think. Again I've got a file on it somewhere. There were some pretty sharp people there. And so, on part one, we set to work, "we" being Lawrence Aller, Fred Haddock, Bill Liller and myself, and we produced this report. It was also, I understand, very useful to NASA; because it came out just about the time that NASA came into existence. Then I began talking to McDonnell about their plans. They had drawn up a 50 million dollar proposal to submit to NASA, to design, build, and launch this solar satellite. They even had a picture of it, a mockup model of it. I've got the report somewhere; it's one of those things that I have trouble locating, I never seem to put it where I can find it. They were proposing that they would also set up the ground stations to acquire the data. Once it would be launched, the University of Michigan would take over the responsibility for operating the equipment and analyzing the data.
This is a plan they put to you?
Yes. Michigan would be an associate contractor in this proposal.
They're in St. Louis, why did they come to you?
I guess they'd heard about me. They probably knew that I was the only astronomer on the Space Science Board. They knew somehow, had some indication, that I was interested. They're pretty smart people, you know; they don't stint in the use of the long distance telephone and so forth. I'd just been elected to the National Academy that spring, so I guess I was fairly well-known at that time. Well, I sort of talked to them about it. I made several trips to St. Louis. Then the time came to bite the bullet. NASA had in the meantime come into being. Mr. McDonnell himself wanted to go to Washington, take this proposal with him, take me, and we would go see Keith Glennan and proposition him. That sort of triggered off my response.
I wrote them a letter and told them I was very sorry, but I did not wish to proceed and therefore I'd better resign as a consultant. For one thing, I was a member of the Space Science Board, and I was quite sure that any such proposal would undoubtedly be referred to the Space Science Board for a review. I did not want to be subject to that kind of conflict of interest, and if I had to choose between the two, my professional career would benefit more from membership on the Space Science Board. Especially because I did not believe that NASA would support this kind of a proposal. It just wasn't in the cards. My reading of NASA's intentions indicated that NASA would be building its own satellites and building its own ground stations; I just didn't think there was the chance of a snowball in hell that NASA would go this route.
Besides, I was strongly opposed to it. I was opposed to the idea of this kind of an engineering approach to scientific equipment for an engineering company to build a piece of scientific apparatus, and then call in the astronomers and say, "Here, you use it, it's in orbit." I believe that the instrument should be under the control of the scientists right from the very start. They accepted the resignation with regret. They thought I was being too stuffy about it, that I had no idea of what could be done when fifty competent engineers were put to work just to do one project. That was the way the aircraft industry developed, and they were quite sure that it was the direction that space had to go in. Sure, that's true, but it's just a question of where the engineers are sitting, that's all.
And under whose control.
Yes. Needless to say, that proposal didn't get anywhere with NASA. And that was the end of my industrial consulting. I can't think of any other company that I worked for.
Well, why don't we carry on with the space business, then? That's an important thing, the origins of OSO and your work on that.
Yes. Well, as I said, I was on the Space Science Board. I was around when NASA was organized. I'd been meeting with NASA people in connection with meetings of the Space Science Board. I believe it was in February of 1959 that I was visited by Homer Newell and two other people, one of whom was a former student of mine at Michigan, Jim Milligan, who's still down at Marshall, and the other was Jim Kupperian. Briefly, Homer, who was not then an associate administrator — he had just come over from NRL — asked me whether I would be willing to undertake the responsibility for instrumenting a solar OAO (Orbiting Astronomical Observatory). It was planned at that time that the fourth OAO would be a solar satellite. Frankly, I didn't have the foggiest idea of how I would find a 700-pound payload for a solar satellite at that stage.
The OAO was supposed to be that large?
700 pounds, that was the payload, yes. I really thought it was too ambitious, but how can you say no to a proposition like that? When you think what somebody goes through now to get space on board one of these satellites — And so I blinked, you know, and I said, "Yes." So there was an OAO working group set up with Lyman Spitzer, Code, Whipple, somebody from Goddard; I guess the Smithsonian and Wisconsin were going to share one of these satellites — the first one, I guess. And we began talking about it. Then, shortly thereafter, John Lindsay came up with a proposal to build an OSO. It was going to be a very simple affair that could be built on existing knowledge, namely the Ball Brothers Company pointing control, the two-axis rocket pointing control. It was going to be based on that. And he sold it to top management, and formed another working group of OSO experimenters, of which I was a member.
This was essentially Lindsay's idea, or Ball Brothers'?
Let's see, I don't know whether Lindsay went to Ball Brothers with the idea, or whether Ball Brothers (which had been formed from the University of Colorado group originally) went to Lindsay with it, and Lindsay picked up the ball and carried it. I went through that one, I've got it written down somewhere, but I've forgotten. Anyway, Lindsay deserves an awful lot of credit for that. He provided the spectrometer for the first OSO.
Provided the funding for it?
Provided the instrument from his laboratory. In addition to being head of the solar physics branch at Goddard, he was an experimenter himself, and a very good one. His group designed and built an ultraviolet scanning spectrometer, which had zero spatial resolution. It just took the integrated light of the sun. That was launched in 1962. We were later assigned half of the pointed section of the second OSO. NRL was given the other half. And somewhere along the line, shortly thereafter, we all agreed that it was impractical to instrument an OAO for solar work at that stage. "Let's get some experience with smaller things." So we all heaved a sigh of relief — I certainly did — when that project was dropped. There were some difficult moments. People in NASA, before the OSO was adopted, not only wanted to set aside one OAO for solar work, but the original idea was to have the same equipment used in the daytime on the sun, and at nighttime on the stars. That was an absolutely insane idea, which was finally killed at the level of the President's Science Advisory Committee.
Oh, it went up that high?
Yes. So, we got going. I was still at Michigan. The thing got started in the summer or fall of '59. I got Bill Liller to join me on the project, and together we spent a lot of time trying to recruit a good physicist and a spectroscopist.
This was all still at Michigan.
Yes, it was going to be at Michigan.
For ultraviolet work?
Yes. We had a very ambitious plan. We were going to do the grazing incidence part of the spectrum, and the normal incidence part of the spectrum, the whole works. We were going to have two separate instruments. We became more practical when we got to Harvard. We had our troubles in the early days, because we were just complete novices.
Did you cooperate with any particular industry that had experience in space?
No. It was our intention to set up a group. Maybe that was a mistake, but I felt that I was going to be in this business for a long time, and I might as well learn something about it.
So you hired some engineers.
We hired a mechanical engineer, who was working for his PhD at the University of Michigan, and we hired a young electrical engineer, Bill Follett — who was very good, and in fact designed the basic system, the pulse-counting system that we eventually used at Harvard. But the mechanical engineer was a total loss. There's no point in dwelling on that; that was a bad experience. We also recruited a spectroscopist. It was my feeling that if we were going to get such a person, we would have to get funds for a spectroscopy laboratory and do laboratory astrophysics. That was the way to go.
In order to have the capability, the experience there.
Yes, and also to keep our people working as scientists while waiting years. As it turned out, it was eight years before we launched a successful satellite.
So you needed to have some vacuum spectroscopy.
Yes. So we finally located a chap named Jim Samson, who came from the University of Southern California, where he'd just gotten his degree. Jim was en route to Michigan by car, toward the end of January 1960, when I decided I was going to leave Michigan. He was rather unhappy, it turned out, when he arrived and found that he was going to be working at Harvard, not Michigan. It had never occurred to me that he would object to that. Harvard was a pretty good university. But it was just his feeling of pride, you know, of not being just a "tool of the boss." He moved to Boston with us finally, but he'd hardly gotten started, we hadn't even gotten the lab set up, when he quit. Actually he joined GCA (Geophysics Corporation of America) and spent a number of years there doing spectroscopy. Now he's on the faculty of the University of Nebraska. I had some exciting moments there at Harvard, trying to recover from that blow.
Over the years as you built up your group, did you try to hire people who'd had previous experience with satellites?
No. There just weren't such people.
So you had to learn about the space environment all on your own.
That's right. We got to Harvard, and we recruited a mechanical engineer, a young fellow who is just leaving the project now. He stayed with it all this time. He later became the head engineer on the whole project. We recruited a young electronics engineer, a very bright fellow, who unfortunately four years later suffered a brain tumor and didn't survive, though he was in his early thirties. We had all kinds of disasters. We had Samson quitting, about the end of the year in 1960, and I was busy calling up my friends all over the world trying to locate someone to take his place.
During the course of it, I invited a friend of mine at Imperial College, one of the world's leading vacuum ultraviolet spectroscopists, W. R. S. Garton. That was the beginning of a long and beautiful association. He came over and looked at what we had at Harvard, which was about nothing — we had a big laboratory and one crated spectrometer sitting in the middle of the floor, and we were already scheduled to instrument a rocket in a matter of months. He had a couple of post-docs working in his lab that year, Ed Reeves and Bill Parkinson.
In spite of this gloomy prospect, he thought that the Harvard setup had great promise for the future, so he went back and persuaded them to apply for the position. They applied for it jointly, the two of them together, and I hired them. In the meantime, one of my Belgian friends, Pol Swings, sent over (Andre) Monfils, a spectroscopist in his laboratory, to get our laboratory started until such time as Reeves and Parkinson could arrive. We had a rough time the first two years. The first year, getting started; the second year, learning what it took to do space research, and what it meant to meet a schedule and to build equipment that was really reliable, to set up the necessary quality control. However, I'm glad to say that after the second year, we got on the right track, and never had any trouble meeting schedules thereafter.
What would you say were the highlights, the major successes or failures, from 1961 on?
The first thing was a terrible failure. There were two horrible failures, one in 1964 (I'm not counting our experiments with rockets). In those days we were having trouble with high voltage discharge, despite all the precautions we would take to outgas and so forth. But before that, our first OSO was scheduled to go up in April of 1964, and our instrument was down at Cape Kennedy already. About a week before the launch, we were about ready to board the plane that day to go down there, and we got a telephone call reporting this horrible accident that had occurred. The technicians were attaching the satellite to the third stage rocket, and they were working under a big plastic shroud, and they were careless. They hadn't grounded the satellite.
Apparently the plastic shroud built up a charge of electricity on the satellite, and when it sparked, it triggered the firing circuit. It was a solid fuel third stage. It just took off. It went up 15 feet, hit the roof of the hangar, all in flames and smoke, and came down and crashed. Three people died before it was over. None of our people; a NASA person, somebody from Douglas Aircraft, and somebody from Ball Brothers. That was the end of that for a whole year. A year later, the prototype had been refurbished, and we launched it. I went out to Goddard at 5 o'clock one morning, after the thing had been up in orbit for quite a while. I think it was nearly a week, so that we'd be sure it would outgas. As it passed over Fort Myers, Florida, we sent the signal commanding it to turn on, and there was just a big arcing, and the binary counter showed nothing but ones. What had happened was that one of the transistors in the output of the counter had just burned out, and that was the end of that experiment. Our hearts sank well below our boots. So it was back to the drawing board.
We got some good advice from places like the Raytheon Corporation (who were building electronics for the Apollo mission) and we redesigned the circuitry so that nothing would be damaged, no matter how severe the arcing. We subjected it to very severe tests. We put it in a vacuum chamber and let it arc for 25 or 30 hours, and everything was still working. But that was already 1967. We'd missed OSO-II. We were now on OSO-IV. That was a real high, because this time, we commanded it on, and we just stood there and watched the raster scan, and the numbers coming from the binary counter, and seeing how it varied. I think Oxygen VI was the line that we used to make a scan of the whole sun. You could see all the active regions jumping up and down. That was very exciting.
Data at last.
Yes. We were flooded, of course.
That makes up for eight years without anything at all.
Fortunately we did have a very good laboratory going; Reeves and Parkinson carried on their careers, and actually I myself got into other things. I got into radio astronomy, the theory of recombination lines, and made a contribution there.
Yes, I was going to ask you about that work, microwave, maser action kind of thing. You were doing this on the side, so to speak?
Yes. I taught a couple of courses. I taught a course in the interstellar medium and got into theory of recombination lines. There were a couple of students there who were doing observations, Pat Palmer and Ben Zuckerman, and they would come around with these problems, and so I got interested in that particular problem as a result, primarily, of teaching a course. The second high, another really high point, came with OSO-VI in 1969, which was even better. Because there, we had the capability of raster scanning small areas on the sun, on command, just pointing it anywhere on the sun. Then finally there was the big ATM (Apollo Telescope Mount), which was a great success.
You had experiments on that?
Yes. They were pretty well built by the time I left. I continued as principal investigator for a while, and then persuaded NASA that Ed Reeves was perfectly capable of carrying on. It didn't really launch until about a year and a half after I left, but it was very rewarding nevertheless.
What's your attitude toward the data from all this? In a sense these are your experiments, and now all the data comes pouring in. What does one do with it? How do you divide it up or whatever?
That was a very interesting question. When I started this project, I had no expectation of becoming director of the Harvard Observatory, and after I became director, I carried a pretty good teaching load and I had my share of students, both PhD students and undergraduates. There was generally one honors thesis at the undergraduate level. By that time, also, I'd gotten involved in research that I could do myself with my own hands, in the recombination line work, and some other things as well. One thing I found, as soon as this data began pouring out: there was great pressure to analyze it and publish it.
Pressure from where?
Well, from NASA, for example. According to their rules, you had about one year in which you had exclusive access to the data, and after that it was in the public domain. That's not a bad idea.
So it's not that they come and tell you "please publish it," it's just built into the system.
That's right. So I hired a good group of young people, like Bob Noyes and George Withbroe, all of whom had made pretty good names for themselves, and even my former student, Andrea Dupree, who got her PhD in '70 or '71, about the time I left. They knew how to handle huge quantities of data with a computer, and they weren't about to wait for me to get around. Of course, I could just simply have said, "No, you mustn't touch this." But that's not the way to run a group or a laboratory. So they had pretty much free rein, and in the end, I really did not have a major part in the analysis of the satellite data.
They divided it up amongst themselves?
Yes, pretty much. Particularly when I decided to leave. I think I would have been very active in the ATM, had I stayed, but I decided to leave. For a while I tried keeping the link, at this distance, but that didn't work too well.
But I have had enough credit out of it. I can't complain. That space project at Harvard was certainly the means by which a lot of good young people developed their careers; no doubt about it.
OK. Anything else about OSO, before we go on to your other work with NASA?
I think those are the highlights, without getting into details.
At this point we could talk about thousands of things. You were on NASA's first Solar Physics Subcommittee, and then the Science and Technology Advisory Committee, and finally chairman of the Astronomy Missions Board. I guess maybe the best place to start is with the 1962 Iowa summer study?
Let's start, in terms of how you got in with NASA and started working with them.
I got in with NASA actually through the Space Science Board; as you already noticed, I was the only astronomer on the Space Science Board. I stayed with it, I think, until 1962, from '58 to '62. I must say, I was a bit disillusioned about the treatment of the needles, project West Ford — disenchanted may be better — and at that time, also, George Kistiakowsky was starting up this new (Academy) Committee on Government Relations, which evolved into the Committee on Science and Public Policy, COSPUP. I was invited to be a member of that, and I resigned from Space Science Board and went on that committee. Through my research, and the work on the Space Science Board, I got to know the NASA people very well. And since the Space Science Board put on that conference in Iowa, it was natural for me to be chairman of the astronomy working group. I guess the highlight, the thing that I remember most about that meeting — the report has all been written — as far as astronomy is concerned, we were still thinking pretty much about the OSO program and the OAO. We hadn't yet heard about the ATM. Before that was the AOSO, the Advanced Orbiting Solar Observatory — that didn't come up until later.
I guess that came up later, but the recommendation of the Iowa summer study certainly pointed toward and advanced OSO.
That's right, with one-second pointing accuracy, I believe, large payload, etc.
As a future possibility.
As a future possibility. But the big thing that I remember about Iowa was that we learned for the first time that it was going to be possible to rendezvous and dock in space. And right away we all began to think: gee, this is how you build a big tele- scope in space, or a big laboratory.
That was when people first began to think that a large space telescope was a real possibility?
So this was something that you would — what, talk about over lunch?
Over lunch, and during the sessions. We would be briefed by people who would talk about what was coming up in the future, and it became pretty obvious that that was in the cards.
It wasn't any one particular person pushing it, it was just a group realization?
That's right. It was certainly obvious to me at that point, and to some others on the committee. I've even forgotten who else was on it, except that I'll never forget the person who voted against that resolution, who was my dear friend Armin Deutsch of Mt. Wilson — (Interruption; knock on door; coffee)
Voted against —
I'll come to that in a minute. Also Dick Tousey, and sure Lyman Spitzer, must have been there. It became obvious to several of us that a large space telescope, of the sort that Lyman Spitzer had talked about that spring when COSPAR met in Washington (I think it was published somewhere, in SPACE SCIENCE REVIEWS, I don't know) would require the solution of a vast numberof technical problems. It was important, some of us felt, to get together and begin to identify some of these problems. What are the bottlenecks in the PERT diagram — the critical paths. So, we wanted to make a recommendation that the Academy convene such a group, to begin listing the critical problems that needed to be solved.
For a Large Space Telescope.
For a Large Space Telescope. And it was at that point that Armin Deutsch announced that it was premature to be talking about a Large Space Telescope before the first OAO had even been launched. Our report, I think, has a footnote to that effect. We don't mention him by name. Dick Tousey was also rather negative about it, but I think he abstained.
It wasn't that they were against the telescope, but that they felt it was a little early?
Yes, that's right.
Was there enthusiasm for the space telescope from the start?
Oh yes. Anyway, we did pass that resolution. By that time I'd gotten off the Space Science Board, and I just couldn't get them to do anything about it. My predecessor here (at Kitt Peak), Nick Mayall, eventually succeeded me on the Space Science Board, and I remember calling him up several times to see if he couldn't shake them loose, and even he was rather negative, as I recall, about having this meeting. I think it was finally three years later at the next summer study, namely at Woods Hole, that a group was convened with Spitzer as chairman. Do you want to talk about that now?
Yes, that would be the appropriate next thing, I think, the Woods Hole meeting. That was done by the Space Science Board but apparently also came out of discussions with NASA?
You mean the summer study?
Oh yes, it was done by the Space Science Board at NASA's request. I think that was also true of the 1962 meeting.
Could be, I'm not sure.
Anyway, NASA felt that the time had come to think in very big terms of what space science was going to be like in the seventies and eighties. At that time, the future just seemed unlimited. It was one short year later when the budget began squeezing. But in '65, the sky was the limit. So we met, and each one of the disciplines came up with grandiose proposals. Astronomy alone had the Large Space Telescope, they had Orbiting Solar Telescopes, they had X-ray telescopes — just everything.
Tell me something about the atmosphere of these meetings, because that's something that obviously isn't preserved in any written thing. You get on a plane or train, you go there, and you spend, what, a few days?
The atmosphere is generally very pleasant. Of course, we didn't think Iowa was a very good place to have it.
Take Woods Hole, for example.
In '65, we met at Woods Hole. People came down, brought their families, and rented little cottages or motel rooms. There was a lot of swimming. During the lunch hour, people would walk down the road to the beach and take a swim. It was a very pleasant experience.
You had morning and afternoon sessions, that sort of thing?
Then what about in the evenings?
Evenings were generally free, except for people who were trying to put material together and get it typed for presentation in the morning.
Did it have sort of the character of a society meeting? Were there a lot of people wandering around meeting everybody, that sort of thing?
During coffee hours, or maybe during the cocktail parties (there were one or two during the time of the meeting). But usually, people stayed in their respective conference rooms. The proceedings were always taped. In fact, I had some of the tapes of that meeting, too, for quite a while. I'm afraid I didn't keep them.
Maybe there are some copies of some of these things around. Then day after day, you would come back to hammer out — ?
Yes. We would have the appropriate NASA staff sitting with us and giving us information, background, and we'd hammer out the basis for the reports. As I say, people would have writing assignments. There would be a certain amount of comic relief, too. I remember, at that time the Gemini flights were in progress, 1965, and Ed Ney was having great difficulties with the chief astronaut, Deke Slayton, at that time.
He (Ney) was rather an abrasive individual, and he claimed that the astronauts were having trouble learning how to handle his equipment. Slayton finally decided they weren't going to bother, they were just going to bump him off. He came back from a visit to Houston one day — he had to leave for a couple of days, and came back and reported to our group that he'd been thrown off the Gemini. I suggested that I might be able to help him. I said, "How would it be if I called George Mueller?" "Gee, do you think you could?" I was on George Mueller's Townes Committee at that point. So I remember, I called up George. "George," I said, "this is a hell of a note. Here you are, holding this very expensive meeting at Woods Hole, one of the principal themes of which is: how do you get the university community involved in doing space science? And here you let a thing like this happen.
A university scientist has an experiment on board, and some dumb astronaut decides he's going to throw it off, because he doesn't think he can learn how to operate it in time." He said, "Let me look into this. I'll get back to you." He got back to me. Apparently, he had personally involved himself in this. He had called in the offending astronaut and told him that he was going to give him three days to learn how to operate that experiment, and if he and his fellow astronaut hadn't succeeded by that time, they would be bumped off and the back-up team would take their place. I went in and reported this to the group. Ed Ney said, "Gee, I didn't think you had that much power." (laughter) So these are the little dramas that were being acted out, at the same time.
This answers one of the questions I was going to ask you, about how you and other scientists related to NASA people. Maybe that's one example. How, in general, did you and other scientists, during this period, the sixties, relate with NASA? Were there a lot of phone calls and personal meetings?
Generally, quite well. There were a few people who were completely impossible to deal with. But generally we got along very well with them.
How, in general, do you feel decisions were made in or between NASA and the scientists?
It was a struggle. I said generally we got along very well with them, but it was always a poker game. There were times when you had to take a very, very strong stand,and you had to be prepared to make threats and to back them up, I mean, to go through with them.
This would be threats to go to —
Did you ever go outside NASA?
I never did, no. That doesn't sit very well with NASA when you do that. No, I had a lot of personal experiences with NASA, especially when you get to ATM. The other thing that happened at Woods Hole was John Lindsay's proposal for AOSO. Again, he'd worked it out with Ball Brothers. That was presented for the first time. It wasn't the AOSO that had been recommended at Iowa, which had very accurate pointing and so forth. As originally presented by John, it was a very quick and dirty kind of thing, in which the support module had a series of pods, and the command module would tow the support module along behind it, and then the astronauts, when they got up into orbit, would open up one of these pods, and a telescope would come up on a mounting.
This was an ATM?
Yes, it was the first version of the Apollo Telescope. No, wait a minute, I'm sorry, I take it all back. AOSO itself was already under way in 1965, I believe.
Then it got cancelled.
I don't know when that news came out, whether that was before or after the Woods Hole meeting.
I think it was after. At the Woods Hole meeting, they unveiled a thing called ATOM.
Astronomical Telescope Orientation Mount. That's the thing you're talking about?
That's the thing I'm talking about. It had a very crude pointing accuracy of one minute of arc, and it was designed to see how astronauts could function as experimenters in space. The idea was to use off-the-shelf OSO type experiments, that would just be mounted in place and flown. I described that in my Russell Lecture,* I believe, this whole sequence.
You described some of it. You're telling me more about it now than in the Russell Lecture. You just said in the Russell Lecture that in '65, AOSO was cancelled, and hopes were transferred to the ATOM.
Did I say ATOM?
First, ATOM. Then, of course, ATM came along a little later.
Yes, that's right. Well, I may be wrong, but at the time of the Woods Hole meeting, we insisted that ATOM was not to be considered as a substitute for AOSO. We were afraid that that might happen. AOSO was a marginal concept anyway. It should have been launched by an Atlas instead of a Thor. It was very marginal. Then George Mueller got into the act, and ATOM merged eventually into ATM, but I'm not sure exactly when that happened. It may have been not too long after the Woods Hole meeting, when George decided that the ATM should be built out of the upper stage of the lunar excursion module, and that there would be this space station. They'd had some preliminary studies, which I didn't believe at first, which indicated that they could get very high pointing accuracy, up to a second of arc. That seemed very far-fetched in those days. I have to admit the engineers were right about that, provided you spent enough money. Of course, what made it work in part was the enormous mass of this luge. *"Research with Solar Satellites." ASTROPHYSICAL JOURNAL 191 (1947): 1.
It's hard to picture how large the thing is, Apollo, or the Skylab in general. By the way, just for the record, I'm familiar with ATM, because when I was working for Hal Zirin around 1970, one of the things I was working on was a solar telescope that was projected at that time.
Sure, that's right. That was to be the white-light solar telescope for the second ATM.
That's right. I just mention that for the record: I have some involvement with that. Although what we're talking about now, I don't really know anything about.
I did want to ask, in general, how these relationships with NASA went. Did you mostly deal with one or two people at NASA, like George Mueller or John Lindsay and so forth, or were you dealing with a whole bunch of NASA people?
We started out at Harvard dealing with Nancy Roman. That was disastrous; she had no imagination whatsoever. You know, I had gotten into this business with the understanding it was to be an ongoing long-range effort. At the end of the first year, when we were talking about a renewal, she began telling me that we probably couldn't expect to get more than some figure she mentioned, which was much less than we'd had even the first year. It was absurd. And so, I just went higher up, and in very short order, they recognized the problem.
Then Henry Smith arrived — he'd been at HAO, I think, or Sac Peak, I don't know, and he was assigned to head the solar program at headquarters. The other thing that happened was that the responsibility for our work at Harvard was shifted to Goddard. We had two people, John Lindsay and Lawrence Hogarth. John Lindsay was head of solar physics at Goddard and Lawrence Hogarth was the project manager of OSO, and as far as the OSO program was concerned, we dealt with them, and that was fine. They were really first-rate. Unfortunately Lindsay died in '64 or '65; that was a real tragedy. But Lawrence was OK. I guess he was a bit too abrasive for the NASA brass, and was eventually replaced by another man, who was also very good. We dealt with different people depending on the mission. There was an OSO project manager, and then a series of ATM people, who were a little bit more hardnosed to deal with, in the manned space flight area, at Marshall.
How would you describe it in general — what's the character of these relations? What kind of people are these? Does it get confusing? Are you continually wondering who it is you're dealing with, or is it on a very personal friendly basis? Are there a lot of reports and paperwork, or is it a phone call? Are you always sort of preparing dog-and- pony shows with charts and so forth?
It got to be more like that in dealing with ATM; it seems to depend on how much money was at stake. After all, the ATM experiment cost upwards of 20 million dollars in one experiment. The OSO experiments were more nearly on the order of a million. I would say that the OSO relationships were relatively informal. Yes, we had reports that had to be made, but it was not an onerous task to do that kind of reporting. The ATM was quite tough. We dealt with Marshall instead of Goddard; that's one big difference, and with manned space flight headquarters instead of OSSA (Office of Space Science and Applications).
Did this mean more bureaucracy?
They were more bureaucratized, more paperwork, yes. More monitoring. It probably got worse after I left, because, you know, it's a question of whom you know, and I had contacts at NASA at pretty high levels; that made the people lower down a little more restrained, I guess, in the demands that they made on us. I could always go and complain to George Mueller. But we had some problems with ATM.
I wanted to ask particularly about this problem of the manned versus unmanned mission. Of course, a lot of astronomers didn't want to have it manned, because they thought that would spoil the pointing accuracies. We've been talking about that a little bit already.
That turned out to be baseless. I was wrong about that, myself. I would have preferred that it be free-flying too, for that reason. But that was no problem, and I think on the whole the astronauts were a plus rather than a minus.
I think it did turn out that way, but what I interested in is — wait —
Since I was on both of those committees, we had good liaison. Still, it was a constant struggle. I really mean that when I say it was a poker game. NASA is very hard to move and very hard to change, but they can be moved and they can be changed. You've just got to push hard, and be persistent and firm. I can give you some examples with ATM. Originally, ATM was going to be a 28-day mission, and we got into arguments with them about how much of that time was going to go to astronomy, and how much of it was going to go to medical experiments and the like. And for a while, the astronomy was really beginning to shrink.
We complained about that consistently and persistently, and gradually, the whole mission changed its character — partly, I suppose, as a result of the pressure, but partly because of the advance of technology, too. At one time, there seemed to be terrible pressure to get ATM launched in a big hurry. I think it was originally to be launched by the end of 1969; it was going to be right after the Apollo mission itself. I was rather shaken when I found — shortly after the Astronomy Missions Board was formed, and we would have a meeting of experimenters down at Marshall — that they were talking about a launch in 1969. It was already '67, approaching '68, and neither we at Harvard nor NRL felt that we could possibly be ready in time.
I remember talking to Werner von Braun about this. He was still down at Marshall. "I think this is totally unrealistic." Well, he was always the great diplomat; he would try to calm us down and so forth. Still they kept talking about it. Finally George Mueller had a meeting up in Boston of his team of administrators. They would go and find a hideaway every so often, away from Washington, and talk about the future, so they were meeting in Boston. George came over to my office during that meeting, to tell me of a problem he had. He had to get this thing launched by the end of '69, and yet they couldn't get a go-ahead from John Naugle in OSS. Apparently John had to give his approval.
"Office of Space Science," or OSSA — "and Applications." And the reason was that we had made it clear to everybody concerned that neither Harvard nor NRL could launch that soon. We just wouldn't be ready. George wanted to know, could we substitute a simpler experiment? I said, , if you really have to launch in 1969, it is possible to think of a relatively simple experiment — let's say a flare spectrometer." It would be solar maximum, and we could probably get one built in a short time. But I said, "I would only be willing to do this on your assurance that there will be a second ATM and we can fly the original experiment as well.
He assured me that would be done. Then came the punch line. He said, "We're anxious, we've got to go ahead with this as fast as possible. Unfortunately Homer Newall is in London right now, attending the COSPAR meeting." The upshot of it was that I got on a plane either the next day or the day after and went over to London and explained to Homer that I thought we could have a scientifically viable substitute, again on condition that we could fly the original experiment some time later. As a result, Homer — it wasn't Naugle, it was Homer who was head of OSS at that time — Homer gave his consent. We immediately entered into a subcontract with AS&E (American Science & Engineering Co.) to build this scanning spectrometer. Well, time went on, and they kept slipping the date. And my God, finally there was a big slip, a really big one, and it was clear they were already going to get over into solar minimums.
And there you were with a flare spectrometer.
There we were with a flare spectrometer, you know. And, "This is absolutely intolerable, we just simply won't do it, we would make fools of ourselves." The upshot of it all was, I couldn't get anywhere talking to NASA informally about this. I wrote a letter, and signed it officially, saying, "We hereby withdraw our experiment from ATM, and we are cancelling the subcontract with AS&E." And we did. AS&E stock dropped about seven points right then and there. (laughter) Giacconi came around, and he had all kinds of ideas for upgrading that flare spectrometer, you know, trying to save it. Now, we weren't going to do that. Finally NASA gave in. At first they had said, no, they couldn't afford to go back to the original experiment. But OK, they let us go back to the original experiment. And we gave Ball Brothers the signal to go ahead with it. That's an example of the kind of dealings that we had with NASA.
Tell me something about your dealings with Ball Brothers and AS&E. What sort of relations did you have with them, or other firms that worked for you?
The experience with AS&E was pretty good. But of course, our really long-lasting experience was with Ball Brothers, and that was first rate. They were an outstanding company, and I'm really sorry to see they're giving up the name, the Ball Brothers Research Division or something like that. I think they're still going to do space work, but it will be just as a division of the home corporation in Indiana. They had a fine group of people, and they were very cooperative, very helpful, and very successful.
Who would be giving most of the suggestions? You would design the experiment and take it to them to build it, or would they be doing a lot of design work?
Well, in the first place, so far as OSO was concerned, the first OSO we built in-house, OSO-IV. But then we had the prob- lem of interfacing with the satellite, and we had to work closely together with them. Then after that, OSO-VI was done by Ball Brothers on subcontract. At that time, my theory of operations was working out pretty well, because we had experienced engineers who knew enough about the experiments to go out to Ball Brothers and work with them.
So you wouldn't be dealing with their engineers, it would be your engineers dealing with their engineers?
Yes, that's right. Ed Reeves had a lot of contact too with people there, but I didn't have to spend much of my own time with them. John Roach (of Ball Brothers) was an excellent person all the way through.
I dealt with him too.
They were real people, real honest-to-goodness capable people, and I enjoyed it. We all enjoyed it. Eventually they did our ATM experiment also, and they were down in Houston supporting it while we were getting data.
So it was sort of a three-cornered relationship between you and Ball Brothers and NASA.
In terms of the way contracting was done, they would come to you and you would go to NASA? Or would NASA be directly involved?
No, NASA wouldn't be involved. We would subcontract directly to Ball Brothers. Of course in the case of the OSOs, Ball Brothers had the contract for the satellite itself, except for the last one, OSO-I (letter I). But in the case of ATM, they had no direct relationship to NASA. I think they built the NRL experiments as well. They may even have built Gordon Newkirk's coronagraph in the ATM. They're very competent.
You could have gone to someone else to do this.
It was a true competitive situation?
Oh, yes. Now, as a follow-up, getting on to the Astronomy Missions Board —
Do you want to take a break? (Short break)
OK, the Astronomy Missions Board?
Right. After the Woods Hole summer session of 1965, Jim Webb and his NASA staff were casting about for ways of implementing the recommendations of that summer study. The recommendations, as you know, were very ambitious, and it wasn't clear how you went about designing and operating a large space telescope, to say nothing of a great variety of space telescopes. So Webb convened a special advisory committee, maybe it was called a scientific advisory committee
Science Advisory Committee, I think.
— an ad hoc committee to meet under the chairmanship of Norman Ramsey, in Washington in the summer of 1966. The mission that was given to this committee was to come up with recommendations on how to involve the scientific community — particularly the university community — in these big projects, and just how you went about implementing them. This committee wrote a report. (Again, I know I have a copy of that report somewhere.) For astronomy, I believe the principal recommendation was that there be established a university consortium, which would be responsible, along with designated Goddard centers, for the design and the construction and the operation of these facilities. As I recall, the centers would have the principal responsibility for constructing the equipment, actually, but the operation would be in the hands of the consortium.
This is on the model of AUI?
Yes. In fact, we even gave it a name, Space Telescopes for Astronomical Research, Inc. — STAR. For planetary astronomy, the corrittee reco ended that there be a Planetary Missions Board, and that the Planetary Missions Board be given the responsibility of drawing up a program for planetary exploration for the decade ahead.
By the way:, why was NASA concerned about their relations with the university community?
Well, it was just that they simply didn't have the scientific power to design, and also to operate — to do the science that was going to be done with these space observatories.
I see. They're moving to a larger kind of experiment, so they felt they needed a new structure?
... yes. You put up a big telescope in space, you've got to have scientific competence, I guess, even to choose the people who are going to be making proposals for the use of the telescope.
I see, so NASA had bought the Large Space Telescope idea, it was just a question of how —
In effect, they had bought most of the recommendations of the Woods Hole summer study. They were concerned with the implementation, and they felt that they couldn't implement it with their own scientists, that they had to have a large involvement. It wasn't just a matter of bringing in all that outside competence, but it was a matter of getting a very broad base of support so that they could go to Congress and get the money.
Was this partly a question of looking to: what would they do next after Apollo?
Yes, it was the post-Apollo period. Exactly. And they certainly couldn't expect to get Congressional support for that kind of money without very strong support from the whole scientific community. You know, the instant some of our colleagues began writing letters to their Congressmen, complaining about spending all that money on space when it could be better spent on the ground — that would be the death knell of any of these projects.
If some of that started to happen.
But it did in fact start to happen — a little later, perhaps.
Yes, a little later. But still, over a period of time, these projects are being implemented. We are getting a space telescope. But it was a long struggle.
Were these feelings that more money should be spent on the ground represented on the Astronomy Missions Board itself?
Oh yes, very definitely. We had some real dinosaurs on the board, including Jesse Greenstein. And we had a lot of ground-based astronomers; on the solar side we had Jack Evans; we had people like Bob O'Dell, who later saw the light and joined Marshall.
These were things that you had to fight out on the Astronomy Missions Board itself, debating them?
No, I don't think there was ever any disagreement that we ought to lay out an ambitious program of space astronomy. Oh, Whitford was on this board, too. It was the feeling that at the same time we needed to substantially increase the support of ground-based astronomy, that the space program wouldn't be a viable one without it. So we were constantly making recommendations. And I think it helped, too; I think there was increased support from NASA as a result. In fact, Jim Webb at one time was heard to complain: here he was trying to benefit science and the world by producing all these wonderful missions in space, and he couldn't get the astronomers to cooperate without paying tribute — without having to go through a whole series of toll gates.
Then he referred to his friend Leo Goldberg writing him a letter one time, and asking him to put in writing a commitment to help support ground-based astronomy. I've got that written down, (a letter) in which he promises to use his influence with the NSF to increase the support for ground-based astronomy. Anyway, there was this (Ramsey) committee meeting, and it produced a report. Time went by, a month or two. Martin Schwarzschild was a member of that committee, too, and Martin and I at one point got together and began talking about this, and we wondered what was going to happen? Would anything happen, if we didn't do something about it? So he and I requested a meeting with Webb and some other high officials of NASA, to discuss the strategy that ought to be followed in implementing the recommendations of the Ramsey Committee. That led to scheduling a series of informal meetings once a month, in which Martin and I would go up to NASA and sit down with people responsible for astronomy, and some higher-ups like Homer Newell, to discuss what the next step ought to be.
The next political step, so to speak?
Well, yes — what do you do? Do you actually go ahead and form the consortium? Is that the next step, or what? As a result of these discussions we had, what emerged was the desirability, not of proceeding with a consortium, but of proceeding with a missions board, like that which had been recommended for the planetary sciences (which later became the Lunar and Planetary Missions Board). In retrospect, it would have been better if that had been recommended by the group in the first place, rather than this consortium. Because it turned out that planetary science got a big advantage by being a year ahead. They had a year's operation by the time we concluded, at the end of a year's talking, that there should be such a missions board. That missions board then was started in the fall of 1967.
Right. So you would go down there and you would be talking mostly about the events of the past month or whatever, but slowly your minds changed in this direction?
Yes, exactly. We would talk about a consortium, and NASA would bring up all kinds of practical problems connected with the formation and operation of a consortium. Finally what emerged was that it was perhaps premature to talk about a consortium. What we needed was to plan out a long-range program, first. They indicated that they would find this more useful, and we went along with it. At the time we started out, at the time that the Ramsey Committee met, the amount of money being spent for lunar and planetary research, as compared with astronomy, was about equal. However, at the end of the year, when the planetary people came up with their program, they got a big quantum jump in support. They went up by a factor of two, as compared with astronomy. And unfortunately, about the time when one might have expected that it would be astronomy's turn, there was also a big shrinkage of money. So the program that was recommended by the Astronomy Missions Board was never really implemented on the scale that was contemplated.
I see. The planetary people had already gotten some of these planetary spacecraft under way.
Sure. And then things sort of snowballed. They were successful, and nothing attracts support like success. Now, there have been individual things that were elements of our program, that have been funded. The HEAO, for example — we took a very strong position in favor of HEAO (High Energy Astronomy Observatory).
Yes, that was one of the main recommendations.
That was how the Astronomy Missions Board came to get started. I think we were quite influential. We were influential with respect to ATM, and we were influential, I think, in improving the character of the ATM mission. As long as we're talking about my personal life, my career, there is another interesting sidelight on all this. Prior to the Ramsey Committee activity, in the winter of '65 or '66 (and this may not be generally known) I was approached by Bob Seamans and Homer Newell, jointly. They came to Cambridge to talk to me, and asked me if I would be director of the Goddard Space Flight Center. What was it, (a budget of) five or six hundred million dollars a year. This was later followed up by a trip I made to Washington. I was taken out to dinner at the Cosmos Club by Jim Webb, who turned the full power of his personality on me. I declined.
Well, I think it was somewhat the same reason that I hadn't gone to Green Bank, only this was much worse. Here was this enormous operation, five to six hundred million dollars a year, only a tiny fraction of which was being spent on science. The rest was spent on tracking data acquisition, engineering, all that sort of thing. It just wasn't the kind of operation that I liked. When Donald Menzel got word of this, I think it sort of hastened his retirement from the directorship (at Harvard). He still had a year to go. Of course, he'd had this terrible operation a year earlier, and he should have quit at that time actually. But the choice of leaving Harvard for a big thing like that just didn't appeal to me. Simultaneously, I was offered the directorship at Harvard.
So Menzel used this as a way to keep you.
I imagine so. He would have had to retire as director a year later. And frankly, his retirement as director was a bit overdue, and the place badly needed some direction. As a matter of fact, at about the same time, I recall Kingman Brewster at Yale wanted me to take the late Dirk Brower's place at Yale, so there was no dearth of opportunities. But the Goddard offer was very flattering. I considered it for a while, partly because there were a few people there at Goddard whom I would have loved to get rid of. The sort of people who, in the early days when we were trying to meet the first schedule, had an attitude that, "God damn it, Harvard had better deliver that experiment on time, if they don't we'll launch anyway and fly bricks in their place." That was the attitude. The reason behind it was that this was all part of implementing the recommendations of the Woods Hole summer study. Goddard was going to be the lead center for astronomy.
So they wanted an astronomer to head it.
They wanted an astronomer. OK, so I declined, and Jack Clark was appointed in my stead. I wrote Jack and congratulated him, and took it upon myself to give him some advice about what I thought was wrong with Goddard and why Goddard wasn't an attractive place for scientists. And I mentioned this one about flying the bricks, which came to me straight from Lawrence Hogarth, and I think Lawrence was telling the truth. He was quoting the deputy director of Goddard, who's no longer there. I wrote Jack, and I was quite frank about what was wrong with the place, in a friendly way. I found to my astonishment that that letter had made the rounds of the offices of the people whom I was blasting at Goddard. I learned this from my friend Lawrence Hogarth. That tells you a lot about the place.
Even so, after I declined, Webb still wanted some advice on what they needed to do to attract astronomers to Goddard. We undertook to help him. One time we arranged a meeting which Martin (Schwarzschild) and I attended, and Horace Babcock came, and one other astronomer, I think, and we tried to give them advice. About that time, I strongly recommended that they try to get Bob Wilson from Culham Lab. At that time Bob was in a kind of a low, because ESRO (European Space Research Organization) had decided that not only could they not afford the large astronomical satellite, which he and his group had designed, but that a smaller version which they'd been encouraged to design because they didn't have enough money to build the big one (would also not be built).
Oh, sorry, when you said Bob Wilson, I had the current Fermilab director in mind.
Oh no, this is R. Wilson, who is now a professor at University College, London. He is actually the originator of what is now the IUE, the International Ultraviolet Explorer. He's an outstanding man. I told Steve Maran the story, when he was here the other day, and Maran's eyes just bugged. "My God," he said, "imagine what would have happened if we'd had Bob Wilson for the last ten years !"
At Goddard, yes.
Yes. On another occasion I know Martin and I met with the whole collection of top brass — Webb, Miller, Newell, Seamans and others — and it was also on this subject of, what's wrong with the astronomers? Why don't the astronomers cooperate with us more? We really let him have it. I started out by telling them that ATM was an example of how not to do space astronomy, what a monstrosity it was. Again, that was in the days when it was going to be this 28-day mission, in which astronomy was gradually being squeezed out — we were being kicked around from pillar to post, discouraged from flying our original experiments and asked to substitute other experiments. Then it was Martin's turn. I remember how Martin started out. He said, "The trouble with NASA is that there is an Iron Curtain between you, George," (Mueller) "and you, Homer" (Newell). I think it had some influence on the group. But it just took that kind of constant pressure.
That's interesting, because after all, astronomy is one of the major things that NASA can trot out as a reason for its ex- istence.
Oh yes, I remember now. During that meeting also, I said that the trouble with ATM is that the astronomy is, after all, just a kind of piggyback experiment on ATM; that isn't the primary function, purpose of ATM. It's a piggyback concept. Webb interrupted and said, "Now, come on, Goldberg — that's not really true.' I said, "I've gotten this from NASA staff." He said, "Well, you can't believe everything you hear even from NASA people. If you really want to know what's going on in NASA, you'd better ask George here" (George Mueller) "and Homer." I had too much respect for Homer Newell to say at that moment, "Yes, Jim, I got it directly from Homer. That's what he said." (laughter) But Homer understood.
What was the feeling in NASA? You definitely had the feeling that astronomy was something they used for public relations purposes? Actually they were more interested in manned missions and that sort of thing?
Well, I think to the extent that NASA was dominated by engineers — always has been. Homer Newell was the highest ranking scientist, and Homer didn't have all that power, all that influence. I think basically NASA has always been run for the benefit of engineers, that's all. Science has taken second place. There have been attempts made along the line. I know that in 1974, something like that, the previous director (he came from the presidency of Brigham Young or University of Utah) — James Fletcher. He had been persuaded, I guess, that he ought to have more scientific advice. He was an engineer by training himself, studied at Cal Tech as a matter of fact. He was prevailed upon to appoint a search committee to find somebody who would have the title of chief scientist, and would sit in an office next to him, and just be available for consultation.
Chief scientist of NASA.
Yes. So this committee met; I was on that committee. The committee wanted to know if I would take the job. Well, it was a bit premature. If it had been a couple of years later I would have been glad to do it, but they really wanted somebody who was a member of the National Academy of Sciences, who would lend some scientific prestige to NASA. I guess it came about partly because of Tommy Gold's persistently shrill criticism. You see, he particularly made the point that NASA didn't have a single Academy member in their hive. However, when the chips were down, Jim Fletcher felt that he was just putting through a reorganization of NASA that was going to make John Naugle associate administrator, period; Noel Hinners was being promoted, and so forth; and he thought he was going to have his hands full for a year, coping with that change.
So they still didn't get an Academy scientist.
They still didn't get anybody, no. So I think science has had hard sledding in NASA.
One other thing I wanted to ask you about the Astronomy Missions Board was that 1969 study you were chairman of. It came up with priorities, which I guess was one of the early priority-setting exercises.
Can you tell me about that?
Well, let me think a minute.
This is one of those things where you had subdiscipline panels — it was the solar panel that you were on — according to what's written about it, they met for two days a month, and there would be long periods of talk and argument, and then all the different panel reports would be merged together.
And general priorities set, and then they would go back to the panels, for them to make adjustments, if there was a large change.
That's right. I'm trying to remember. I very well remember the meeting in Washington (I think it was in 1969) at which we finally began to home in on these priorities. I remember that I was in bad physical shape. I'd just come back from Chile, and everybody had caught a bug down there. Mine got worse after I left Chile. I holed up in hotel in Washington over the weekend, and just barely made it to the meeting Monday morning. Frankly, I just don't remember the details of that operation, except that I know we did it and it worked. It worked, I suppose, partly because the level at which we were setting priorities was still pretty high, and we didn't really have to choose yet among different subdisciplines.
I see, it hadn't really gone to that point yet.
No, it hadn't gotten down to the real crunch. Although we did say that if, let's say next year, there was going to be only one new start in astronomy, we are prepared to say that HEAO should be it.
Yes, you gave much greater emphasis to that.
We actually resisted, however, in any given year, putting everything in order of priority, 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10. We had a kind of minimum program that we all agreed to. And we resisted the pressure to go any further with that minimum program.
Pressure from NASA, to do priority setting?
Yes, that's right. And I still think we were right; I still think that if we were to do it that way, we were simply giving NASA a prescription for cutting the budget. On the other hand, if they would come to us and ask us: "This year, if you had only one thing you would support, which is it?" — that we were always prepared to answer. But we wanted to have an opportunity of doing that every year. We didn't want at only one point in time to come up with this priority list, and then give it to them so that they could do what they wished for the next five years.
I understand. Was there difficulty in getting everybody to agree on making HEAO top priority?
No, I don't think so. There was some unhappiness from the optical astronomers, because the chief competitor was the fourth OAO. But I think even Art Code recognized that since three OAO's had already been approved, it was pretty hard to put a fourth OAO ahead of HEAO, and even he reluctantly went along with it.
Is there anything to be said about the science behind this, in particular, the tendency to go into ultraviolet, gamma ray, X-ray, also the early push for long radio waves? I don't know quite how to put the question, but I'm curious as to whether the scientific content seemed fairly clear?
Well, yes, I think the scientific content is pretty clear. You can't justify going into a new region of the spectrum as fully as you can (justify extending known work) — you can't predict in advance what you're going to learn by going into a new region of the spectrum, as compared with, let's say, building a big telescope for the visible part of the spectrum. But on the other hand, it certainly happened — it always has happened — that any time you have gone into a new region of the spectrum, you've met surprises that have fully justified it. Of course, there's some people who overdo the matter of the surprise. I know there are some astronomers who will actually put, let's say, infrared and X-ray astronomy ahead of solar astronomy of any kind, simply because they expect more surprises from IR and X-rays. That can be overdone too, because after all, what's the good of turning up new problems if you don't follow them up and try to solve them?
Surprise isn't necessarily that interesting as science.
Sure. But I think the HEAO program has fully justified the faith that we had in it, in terms of the science it's producing.
Well, what else about NASA, the Astronomy Missions Board, space in general?
Well, I think we're all sorry that NASA decided it couldn't afford to keep, or no longer wished to continue, the Astronomy Missions Board. I think it was a very successful activity. I think probably one strong reason was that it took a lot of initiative away from the staff.
It really did?
It really did, yes, I think so. You've got all these strong characters around the table, and it's pretty hard for the Nancy Romans and Goetz Oertel and the others to argue with them. I think the program has suffered as a result (of ending the Board), but maybe not. It was getting to be a little difficult, because here you have this expensive, talented group of people coming up with imaginative programs, and all the while the money was just going down and down and down. That was a bit of a problem. But I think the group could have had fewer meetings and continued to serve a very valuable purpose.
What sort of reaction did you get from your colleagues who were not in NASA? Did they talk to you a lot about what NASA was doing, the directions it was going?
Yes. I think there was a lot of interest in what NASA was doing. I think they were more prepared to accept NASA's sci- entific programs because of the Astronomy Missions Board than they would have been without it. I think the Board was generally looked upon as a first-class group.
So you found yourself sometimes defending the Board's decisions and NASA's decisions to people?
No, not so much. Of course, there were always people who felt that too much money was being spent on space, so that kind of defense was needed. But in terms of the priorities that the Board had, I think there was pretty general acceptance of those. You see, it was not only the members of the Board, but there must have been at least 50 people on the panels in addition. It was a pretty good cross-section of astronomy in the country.
OK, what else? Leaving aside the meetings and so forth that led up to Kitt Peak, have we missed any major committees and functions you had? We haven't mentioned things like editorial boards, the Astronomical Society, but what other really major things?
Some of these things are rather obvious. The ANNUAL REVIEW OF ASTRONOMY AND ASTROPHYSICS has beer a very successful activity. I can't take all the credit for that. We had very good people on the editorial committees right along.
I see. You were editor of that from the beginning, is that right?
My memory is getting a little feeble on this, but I think the publications committee of the American Astronomical Society was concerned about publication needs i astronomy. One of these needs was for a review publication, of which there were none at that particular time. Somehow I have a recollection of a group of people out on the West Coast — Harold Weaver, Harold Urey — it may have been the actual publications committee of the American Astronomical Society, or it may have been a committee that they appointed, that got together and decided to recommend to Annual Reviews (Inc.) that they establish a volume on astronomy and astrophysics.
So then Annual Reviews approached you?
Annual Reviews approached me. I don't know whether that committee had given them my name, but I do remember that J. urray Luck, who was the editor-in-chief, came to visit me in Cambridge, I think around January or February 1961. And without very ch hesitation, I agreed to take it on. The first meeting of the editorial committee was held immediately following the IAU Berkeley meeting. We met in Palo Alto. I seem to recall that Otto Struve and Harold Urey were on that original committee; I also seem to remember Maarten Schmidt and Geoff Burbidge were either on that first committee or very soon thereafter, and they in particular made very major contributions in helping to establish the level and the tone of the volumes. It was a very happy experience. I was always amazed at the readiness with which people who were selected accepted the assignments. We had some trouble for a while getting people to meet the deadlines, but we toughened up on that toward the end. Now, I think most people consider it an honor to be asked — which is a good thing.
It's good to get it to that point. Did it take a lot of your time?
A fair amount, but not too much. Most of my time was spent in getting the new volumes organized and corresponding with the prospective authors. The system of associate editors is a very good one. The associate editors have done all of the actual editing of manuscripts, with one or two exceptions. I had some trouble with the Russians. In Volume I, there was an article by Zhevakin which I myself translated in its entirety. Annual Reviews has never provided enough money for translations. Later on, I had some amusing experiences with people like Zel'dovich and the manuscripts that they submitted, in what they were very proud to call good English. In the end I would have to ask them for the Russian version, so that I could check their English and rewrite it. But it's been on the whole a very pleasant, enjoyable experience. However, when I became president of the IAU, I just simply had to give up some other things. I also just don't believe in hanging on too long to assignments like that.
Tell me, what are your feelings in general about being on so many committees? You've really been on a lot of committees.
Well, a long time ago, I decided that I would only serve on committees that were really important. And the trouble is that there are too many committees that are important. I have found it rather difficult to say no, and even now, I'm a bit over-extended.
Have these things been a big drain on your time?
Actually, in total, they have; they've taken a substantial amount of time. I've found, for example, that even though I've given up the directorship of Kitt Peak, while I'm spending a reasonable amount of time on research, I still have a lot of things that are not research-connected that are taking my time. I intend to diminish those as much as possible.
Did you feel badly, say in the sixties, about the time being taken away from your scientific work?
Oh, not so much. Because I probably made whatever contribution I was slated to make in science. It isn't as though there weren't a lot of people around to work on the satellite science, competently. I think I was making important contributions in other ways. And I was still able to do a certain amount of good science and teaching. I don't know, I'm not very sympathetic to the idea that people are being taken away from other more important things. I think people end up doing pretty much what they're qualified to do and want to do. If they aren't, they quit. There have been several times in my career when I have quit. I quit doing what I was doing at Michigan because I thought it was no longer productive; I left Harvard to come here; and here, one of the smartest things I did was to give up the directorship a year before I had to. I don't have any regrets.
When you were director at Harvard, how would your work day or work year be divided up? You were director and chairman of the department at Harvard; on a number of committees; there was the satellite work; you were teaching — how would this be divided? What was your work day or work week like?
It was hectic, that's all. You know, sometimes you're more productive when you work under pressure. That's a well-known effect. I've always found that to be true. And I always found that some of the most interesting research I did was while I was under great pressure at Harvard, when I had all these things to do. I just kept trying to meet the deadlines, that's all — to get ready for my classes on a timely basis, to prepare for committee meetings, take trips. I think part of the secret is handling administrative work quickly, and not letting it pile up on you, by trying to give it the amount of time that it really deserves and no more. I can wade through a pile of paper pretty fast, when I have to. Particularly if I've been away on a trip, I come back and go through this pile in a relatively short time, and then I wonder why it takes me so long, when I'm here.
Yes, I can appreciate that very well.
I think really that's true. For most administrative problems, there are no unique solutions. Generally you find that it doesn't really matter a great deal how you solve the problem, as long as you solve it and get it out of the way.
Well, you've certainly done a lot of that. I'm sure you had a lot of problems.
Otherwise, as I say, I find it hard to describe. I haven't been very systematic about organizing my time. I'm not sure that that's necessarily the most efficient way of proceeding.
I understand. Well, why don't I close here.