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Interview of Ivan King by David DeVorkin on 1978 July 20, Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics, College Park, MD USA, www.aip.org/history-programs/niels-bohr-library/oral-histories/4706-2
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Emphasis of interview — on King’s life and career through his graduate study at Harvard. Also, discussions on faculty positions at Illinois and Berkeley, scientific involvements — committee memberships, Velikovsky and Yale Symposium (1977), and recent questions on cosmology Arp’s work, populations, etc. Major sections on his early life in Far Rockaway, N.Y. and schooling at Woodmere Academy — family background and interests; Undergraduate study at Hamilton College (1943-46) — development of astronomy interest; Graduate study at Harvard (1946-52) — research and scientific interests; Work at Boyden station — photometer equipment; Work for Defense Dept. (1954-56) — computer work.
Where we should pick up today is to go back to 1956 to the University of Illinois and discuss your work there and your interests. One of the first papers you published there was an interesting note, with McVittie and Swensen and Wyatt on radio observations of the first Russian satellite. What was your participation in that?
That’s a funny one. It was really. George Swensen’s, project more than anything else. The first Sputnik went up, October 4, 1957 or whatever the date was which was the beginning of the space age and all that. As you surely know the entire US Space Program in its infancy panicked as a result and there were very few people who did anything sensible, and I would like to think that we at Illinois were among the people producing sensible things, as a result of Swensen. I think the announcement came in the morning and by that very first night he had some pieces of twin lead laid out on the ground using that as an interferometer. With this interferometer he recorded the very next available passage of the satellite over Urbana. And what we would get, I think, was nine lobes on a strip chart recorder. George went out and set up this interferometer and he did a beautiful radio engineer job and a beautiful professor job because he got the students to do it all with tremendous enthusiasm. But then he came along with these strip charts and said: “Well, we got the records -- what do we do with them?”
These are times of passage?
Not just the time of passage but the interferometer lobes, so that from the separation of the lobes you could figure out something. Each lobe defines a small circle across the sky, centered on the north and south points of the horizon. And from the times of intersection of the lobes, I think it’s theoretically possible to determine the actual great circle that the satellite followed. We tried that game. I think we ended up only getting the 40th meridian passages. We happened to be within a few arc minutes of the 40th meridian, and it seemed like, a good round number. And we analyzed those. I ended up doing most of the analysts and computations. Stan Wyatt was in on it but he didn’t really carry a very large part of it, so George Swensen was taking the data and I was analyzing it. And we, ended up with times of passage. I think that’s’ what’s in that paper.
Of the 40th meridian. We couldn’t get any cooperation out of Smithsonian. I think they were in a complete panic and chaos. They were unable to use our data because they hadn’t programmed enough things, and our data were more accurate than a lot of the things they were getting. But they just didn’t have that programmed because we were giving them only passages of a parallel on the Earth. I think they wanted right ascension and declination, geocentric, at a particular time. And one day George Swensen came along at sundown, I guess this was the time of the second satellite, which you could see, with a surveyor’s transit over his shoulder. And we thought he was crazy. He was going to observe the satellite as it went by. And he got us organized to do that and it really worked. We would be able to pick up the satellite; it was about zero magnitude. We’d pick it up visually and then aim the transit telescope at it, and have the screws not quite tight so that when you let go of the telescope it would stay, and track it until it was just about to cross your crosshairs and then when it crossed the crosshairs somebody would click a stopwatch.
The double crosshairs?
Yes. And then you’d read the altitude and azimuth and then we did the spherical trig and actually gave Smithsonian altitude and azimuth. We didn’t give them R. A. and DEC. We thought that would be good enough. And they were unable to use it.
Smithsonian Astrophysical at Harvard?
Yes. They were just not set up to use anything except their own tracking data or I don’t know what. From our own data, we were able to measure the deceleration, the shortening of period as the orbit gradually decayed. And I think that was probably in our paper But we were able to put in only those data and the few things we could deduce directly from them. Then with the second satellite we had a more elaborate interferometer but somehow we never got anything out of that. The problem turned out to be a very interesting ionospheric thing. The layer of the ionosphere that was interfering most with these signals has a boundary between smooth and turbulent structure, and the boundary just happened to be over us. So when the satellite was in the north we got one kind of signal and when it crossed over our zenith, or the highest altitude and went into the south we’d get a completely different signal.
These were vertical laminar layers?
Apparently there is a geomagnetic latitude boundary between the places where the layer is turbulent and the places where it’s laminar. It’s something like that, I don’t know much about the ionosphere. But that messed us up on the second satellite .We never really got anything on it but by then the agencies with responsibility for the tracking were beginning to do something useful.
Did Sputnik cause a great deal of excitement among the students at Illinois? Did the enrollments increase, could you make that comparison?
I think that they did but I don’t really remember first hand. I got very annoyed with the NASA Program, particularly their publicity which seemed to be rather dishonest. Cases where for example they would compare the payload of a Russian satellite with the entire weight of an American one before launch. Finally when I was invited to give a talk to some local amateur astronomy group I sounded off about the NASA behavior and how little oriented toward science they were. There was a local newspaper reporter there and she reported it in the papers, and McVittie was furious with me. It eventually smoothed over but I remained negative toward the space program. Very annoyed about, on the one hand, the publicity that it was getting for practically zero science output, and on the other hand the emphasis toward the “gee whiz” solar system things and a very limited ability to do the rest of astronomy, And I got involved with NASA, which I now am in deeply, only when the space telescope began. Nancy Roman did a very smart thing when the first round of space telescope proposals came in for the Instrument Definition Teams. She called up a lot of good astronomers around the country who hadn’t proposed and got them to be the panel that looked at the proposals. They were much better astronomers on the panel than the total of all who’d proposed. But she really converted us.
Is it only instrument definition or are you talking about all of the packages like the faint sky camera?
Those are the instruments. It was the team.
Oh I see. The instrument definition is the entire package?
We set up the teams that wrote the instrument definitions for things like, at that time, the high resolution camera. There were five or six of those teams, I think. We chose the people upon the basis of whose proposals the teams would work. And then one of the teams asked me to join them at one point, which I couldn’t because I hadn’t proposed, but I served as a consultant to the High resolution Camera team, Bob Danielson’s team.
Was that the successful one?
No you’re still at the wrong stage .Those were unique teams that were writing what was called final instrument definitions. On the basis of those instrument definitions NASA then went to the next announcement of opportunity, which was for the competition for instrument design and fabrication. That’s the round of competition we recently went through.
Was the second one the one that had the misprint on the spine of the announcement?
I don’t remember, nor do I remember the lettering of the phases, but this must have been around 1972 or 3.
That’s still early.
And then Bob Danielson did something. He had a meeting of his high resolution camera team at JPL; it was in September or October of one of those years, probably ’73. And he invited some people to make presentations to the team. I was one of them. I think Allan Sandage and Bill Baum were the others, and as a result of that Bill Baum and I were put on as consultants to the team and attended almost all the remaining meetings I imagine he asked Sandage, but it’s very hard to get Sandage to do things like that. I remember the talk that I gave there. He wanted it written up, although it was never published, but I have evidence in that talk that I was the one who suggested the “serendipity mode.”
It’s nice that it was. I have a manuscript that shows it, yes.
Everybody’s talking about that.
The team picked it up, yes. Then I worked with that team and attended nearly all their meetings as a consultant, but effectively as a team member I did quite a lot of the calculations of sensitivities and limiting magnitudes and photon statistics and all that. Then when the next AO came out, the one that was due last July and where the choices were made last November…
I think that’s the one that had the misprint.
That one I was in in three different ways. I was a member of Lyman Spitzer’s unsuccessful team for the Wide Field Camera. I put in a proposal for Interdisciplinary Scientist, which I did not get. And I put in a proposal for a US ‘member of the Paint Object Camera team at the European Space Agency and that one I did get. I got selected as one of the US members, and Phil Crane is the other one. So the two of us attended those meetings at Noordwijk and worked on the European team. So I’ve been involved with the Space Telescope almost continuously since that first time, but before then I felt somewhere between annoyed and hostile about NASA’s attitude toward astronomy and the whole business, the emphasis on the “manned versus unmanned”, the fact that the lunar missions were given such tremendous publicity as changing the face of astronomy when they really produced so little in real science, just slightly increased our understanding of the moon.
At lunch we were talking about the VLA and I recall that NASA or the White House had asked NASA to try to set up a program for detecting extraterrestrial intelligence and somehow to link up with VLA?
I don’t know how that started. I didn’t know that anything came out of the government. I thought it was a promotion effort from the part of Barney Oliver at Hewlett-Packard. He started this project Cyclops or at least he was responsible for the project and I know that they had one summer of very intensive writing activity and produced a large report on it.
That I recall. This seemed to be some directive that was asking the astronomical community for proposals and somebody representing the astronomical community refused, it wasn’t too long ago, it was much more recent than Oliver’s work. If you had any experience with it in regard to this feeling for the type of promotions that NASA had been doing I’d be interested.
No, I didn’t have any contact with it.
Let’s go back then to your experiences at Illinois through the decade that you were there I started by asking you about the effect of Sputnik on the students’ interests.
I thought it would be worthwhile following that line through and finishing it off.
Oh yes. I fully appreciate that, but if you don’t mind me back there.
How did the conditions then post-Sputnik develop at Illinois for your research and for the institution itself, for astronomy? What kind of a department was there when you arrived? How did it change?
I don’t know of any direct connection with Sputnik but undoubtedly there was an effect in the general increased emphasis on science. The Illinois department was started, or rather restarted by McVittie I think in 1952 and Wyatt came in 1953 and then Swensen and I both in 1956.
I see, you came together.
Yes. But Swensen was in Electrical Engineering. He was hired with the understanding he was going to build what eventually was called the Vermilion River Observatory, that big parabolic cylinder that was for a survey McVittie was interested in cosmology, of course, and the big issue in cosmology at that time was the log N/Log S relationship. There was a big controversy between Ryle with his interferometers and Mills with his cross array I think Ryle was wrong. I think Ryle was all full of incorrect sources and McVittie’s purpose was to make a new survey. Needless to say the whole problem had been settled by other people by the time that massive instrument got built.
Why were there delays? I’ve understood indirectly that McVittie and Swensen didn’t get along. Is there anything in that?
I think that they worked together very well. As personalities I can imagine that they get along but they both had a job to do and Swensen has always been good at working with people. I imagine he was able to make his compromise with whatever grated on him about McVittie. And McVittie needed to get the job done.
But the job didn’t get done for quite some time.
I didn’t remember that it was that much behind schedule. I know it took a very long time. The first year or two we were talking about designs, it was a long time before they even settled on the particular configuration they were going to use because, of course, Swensen had to start from scratch. And it was very hard building that kind of collecting area on a low budget which is what he finally did. It was a clever design, had some very nice aspects to it.
It was his design?
Swensen, I think, K. Y. Lo who was an antenna man in the EE department who worked with George on the design, He contributed some specific aspects of it but I don’t remember just what.
So then there was this big project. Now, were you there to fit into the project or were you on your own?
No. I was on my own. I was part of a general expansion of the department McVittie had been doing cosmology. He brought in Wyatt to do galactic structure, but Wyatt also had some interests in the radio astronomy of the galaxy in fact, I think that’s what his research consisted of. Swensen was also radio astronomy so I was brought in to give the department some depth. I think I mentioned to you last time that was the only firm condition was that I institute a course in astrophysics, which was not my specialty. I also began teaching the elementary courses which were our bread and butter. But shortly I began teaching a course in stellar dynamics and at times I did the galactic structure course that Wyatt had been giving. We alternated it. Then it was a year or two after that when we had another increase in the size of the department, I remember who was the next one, I think it was probably Pierre Demarque, but I’m not sure. It was funny how we got Pierre I knew McVittie was looking for someone and I saw that there was an AAS symposium where there was a bright young man from Louisiana State, and I said to “Mac”: “You know he can’t possibly want to stay at Louisiana State, why don’t we make him an offer. So at that meeting, which was a meeting in Pittsburgh, I remember, so you can date it, “Mac” and Stan and I had dinner with Pierre and we talked about his coming to Illinois and he did come. And Pierre and I shared an office for the year and a half or two years or whatever he was there. We became good friends, stayed good friends since.
That was certainly a good move for him.
Yes, “Mac” hired two other astrophysicists, who didn’t work out.
One of them was an appalling administrative action. The man himself was a bright man, A. J. Meadows. But the appalling thing was that “Mac” announced to Stan and I over morning coffee one day that he’d hired a new assistant professor. We didn’t even know that there was a position available.
(pause) So A. J. Meadows basically was hired without any consultation with the faculty.
That’s what I said “Mac” announced to us one morning casually over morning coffee that he’d hired a new assistant professor. He also hired, I think, the next man without any consultation with us a man named Arnold Guess. He spent two years at Illinois. He worked on white dwarfs that were not totally degenerate. That had been his thesis, I think, at Harvard under Max Krook. And he disappeared afterward, I never found out what became of him. I could look in the AAS directory, I don’t know if he’s still in astronomy at all. But it was when “Mac” let us put some input into the decisions that he got good people. Of course Pierre Demarque is first rate and has gone on to very good positions. Then when I was going to leave for some reason I had an entire lame duck year. It was October of the year after my sabbatical when I came back and had to stay the year that I got the offer from Berkeley and had arranged to come out here. By mid-October of 1963 we knew that. I left in June ‘64.
On a sabbatical?
No, I left for sabbatical in the year ’62-‘63. We came back in September. In October the phone started to ring, and I had an offer from somewhere else, so I called up Louis Henyey who was Berkeley chairman then and said “If you are interested in getting me to Berkeley, this is the time to move.” And about a week later I got a phone call from him saying: “Yes we’d like to have you,” and we arranged all of this very quickly. So from October to June I was a lame duck in the department. But during that period I had more influence than I had ever had in suggesting things we tried to get Mayo Greenberg, who would have been really great. He came out for an interview and then didn’t come. We tried to get Al Linnell who has since been chairman for many years at Michigan State. I think he’s now rotated out of that. He came for an interview and didn’t come. And then we got Ken Yoss and he came. He took the job which in retrospect is too bad because he hasn’t done very much.
I’ve certainly have heard the name though.
And, then when Ken was on his way he thought he was going to have to leave all his equipment behind. I’ve always been one who reads rules and knew I’d seen something in the NSF rules, and pointed out to McVittie and Yoss that Yoss could bring his equipment with him because it had been purchased by NSF money.
Where did he come from?
And he had radio equipment there?
No, it was a micro photometer. It must have been 50 or 100 K of equipment. So it was worth transferring.
So I was able to do quite a lot for Illinois during that last year.
You were leaving for what reason?
Oh self-improvement. That is, when my wife and I first saw Berkeley in 1954, just on a brief visit, we decided this was really where we wanted to be.
I can’t argue with that.
And I think it was a fantastic stroke of luck that there was a possibility of getting a job here. It was at a time when the department went through a very large turnover. Several people left and were replaced and after that we went into a big expansion so that only Philips and Weaver are here from the previous period. Spinrad was the first new one hired. He came one semester before I did. Then all the rest of the department has come since then. So I’m one of the oldsters in the department.
Let’s go back and identify your research between 1958 and 1960. You wrote five papers on the escape of stars from clusters.
Right I should explain a little background. During my graduate work and as a Junior Fellow the subject I had been most interested in were dynamics of star clusters and the effect of stellar encounters on them. I’d gotten somewhat diverted from that in doing my thesis work on photoelectric photometry in South Africa, partly because I wanted to do that work, and partly because I’d never really gotten anywhere with the star cluster problem. I had tried to bite off too big a piece. Going over Chandrasekhar’s theory of stellar encounters, which are very complicated mathematical manipulations, and trying to improve on it. If you look at Chandra’s original papers you’ll find that some of them cut corners in some of the statements, particularly the real classic (in REVIEWS OF MODERN PHYSICS) in which he introduces the Fokker-Planck equation to stellar encounters. He doesn’t give a proper general statement of the equation in stellar dynamics; he cut some corners.
I know that your first paper was to introduce all of the various constraints that could be put on a star cluster and to start weeding them through in working on them.
That’s what it said, yes. The first paper of a series is really often too ambitious in its statements.
I took it as a statement of what you were going to be doing in your series of papers.
Like most statements some of it got done and some of it didn’t. I covered maybe half of those things.
The velocity distribution was not initially Maxwellian; escaping stars might be recaptured; that was something Chandrasekhar pointed out himself.
Oh yes, in fact guess I eventually picked up most of them not in that series but in a series and later papers.
You had another long series on the dynamics of star clusters.
Yes, the one called: “Structure of star clusters” is effectively still going on. There are some things I’m going to finish on that. Anyway when I got to Illinois I wanted to get back to star clusters and I started, for some reason which I don’t remember, to do the simplest thing possible instead of solving a really difficult problem and went at it in this piecewise way that’s described in that first paper and continued in the other papers. Some of the pieces came out extremely simple, like paper four in the series which is really a back-of-an-envelope calculation with very simple approximations that look as if they’re approximately correct.
The next paper in the bibliography, number 16, “The Shape of a Rotating Star Cluster” is really part of that series. The only reason it isn’t is that I titled the series “The Escape of Stars from Clusters” and that one has no escape in it.
You had identified in these five papers the fact that relaxation was the dominant theme and various other things that you identified.
It’s not fair to say I’d identified them. Everybody was aware of that stuff. Ambartsumian in 1938 essentially did the relaxation problem right. That’s referred to in this first paper of mine.
You referred to him a number of times.
To that one paper which is just a beautiful piece of intuitive work that gets the essential physics, does it in the simplest possible way, and gets an answer that’s right to the order of magnitude.
At the time you were doing this how interested were you in defining the effective tidal limits of globulars? Later on you went on and did that.
Yes. I wasn’t interested in effective tidal limits at all at that time. I don’t know if they even appeared in any papers there. I don’t think so.
You discussed tidal encounters in the first paper, at least mentioning that it was a problem.
Gee, I didn’t even remember that. Oh yes, Point Four: external force field which acts as a tidal force. Now, I never took that up from the theoretical point of view and actually discovered it completely accidentally observationally. But I suppose the theoretical point of view had me sensitized to that. If I could jump ahead for a minute since it’s really in sequence: I did this series on various small aspects of the escape of stars over several years in my work at Illinois. Some of them were quite small things. In fact I remember I was so amused with the topic of Paper Four that I sat down the first day of summer vacation and worked that one out, during the first day. It took a few days more to write it; it’s really a small paper. But after that series of papers, doing the very simple things, I realized that the next step would have to be to integrate things over a cluster model. And I didn’t know what cluster model to use and I looked in the literature and did not find any decent information on the distribution of stars in real clusters. So I decided it would be a good idea to go out and make some observations. I called up Allan Sandage one evening in the fall of ‘59 and asked him about coming out to Mt Wilson-Palomar to take some Schmidt plates. This was a project I talked to Walter Baade about in 1954, but we’d been talking about reflectors then and it was clear to me by now that the real way to do it was with the Schmidt. So I applied for some Schmidt time and got it in the summer of ‘60, which was the time when I was free to go. And I went and spent two months in the summer of 1960 at Hale Observatories as they’re now called, at Santa Barbara Street. Allan Sandage was very helpful, both then and on my next visit. He showed me his plate file and said: “Here’s how they’re arranged, and come here any time, preferably when I’m not here so you don’t bother me, take any plates you want and do your star counts on them. H really was generous. He has always been very generous to me with things. I think that unless someone is in direct competition with him on something he’s willing to be quire helpful. So that my student George Chiu used for all of his first epoch plates for proper motions in his thesis Sandage’s two hundred-inch plates, or at least two hundred-inch plates that were in Sandage’s collection, some taken by others. Allan came up here for Richard Kron’s qualifying exam with lots of plates under his arm, and we still have them. So anyway I went out to Palomar and took those plates in the summer of ‘60 and I began to work.
Did you take any plates yourself?
Yes, I took my own Schmidt plates. I took those on a selection of clusters. I think I had nine clusters that I’d chosen deliberately.
Right. Nine globulars for photoelectric surface brightnesses?
That photoelectric work was also done at the Mt. Wilson 60-inch that same summer.
Oh I see.
I just had one run of four nights. Yes, it was a coherent program to do the central regions photoelectrically and the outer parts with the Schmidt star counts.
I see. That explains why you kept on acknowledging that one particular summer; I was a little bit confused.
Yes. This finally ended up in the 1968 or so paper: “Structure of Star Clusters 4 and 5.”
Number 5 was “Star Counts in 54 Globulars.”
Yes, it took a long time to finish that up. But that all began then. Then I went back during my sabbatical ‘62 -‘63 and of my two observing projects was to extend that. The nine globular I’d started on had proven so interesting that I extended it to all of the others that were worth observing, literally. And this added up to probably about 40 plus. All the ones that you could reach from Palomar and weren’t hopelessly faint or crowded. But anyway you were asking about the tidal limits which were what got me started on this. The very first Schmidt plate on which I made a star count I plotted the star density against the distance from the center. I can’t remember on what coordinates, but it looked as if it was dropping toward zero. And I thought to myself “Gee maybe it really does go to zero at a finite distance.” And then, what did I do? I fiddled around with some other coordinates and I finally found that if you plotted against 1/R (I think that was it, I have to dig out that paper to remind myself) it really did go down to zero as a straight line. It’s number one in the “Structure of Star Clusters.” I remember taking these data and just on a scrap of graph paper plotting them up. Yes, I fiddled around and ended up with the square root of star density against 1/R, and that extrapolated smoothly to zero. But anyway I found that that cluster had a limit. And then I did the calculation and I hope I did acknowledge properly that it had first been pointed out by von Hoerner, that there out to be such a limit. The von Hoerner reference is in that paper.
You mentioned it in other places, because I remember you mentioning his name, its Sebastian von Hoerner, isn’t it?
Yes. He was the first one to point out that there should be a limit and I did not have that in mind when making the star counts but I plotted my things up and there was the limit. Yes, it says here (looking at the paper) the existence was pointed out theoretically by von Hoerner. And I modified his formula a little bit to take into account orbital eccentricities.
Did you have, students through this period at Illinois working with you?
No. In 1962 when I went away I had my first student working for me and that was Ray White.
So all of these studies were pretty much individual studies?
Yes, it was completely solo. You’ll find if you look in my bibliography that you have to go a long way down until you find a joint paper.
I mean there’s that one with Federer which I pointed out to you was really his paper, and the thing that we talked about, about the satellite observations which was a joint project. Everything else I did myself, it was much later that I collaborated.
It didn’t preclude the possibility that you had advanced students who at least you were talking to.
No, Illinois didn’t really have a Ph.D. program. It began quite late. Ray White wasn’t my first student; Elaine Avner was the first one. But Ray was my student in ‘62 and I was sending plates back to him for star counts at that time. You notice he was a joint author on that star count paper I did, I think, half the total star counts there myself, largely because in many cases I had to count them on-site; do the counts at Hale Observatories. I didn’t count at Harvard, I took the Harvard plates back with me, but at Lick I did some counting on-site. And then I had student assistants do other counts, but it was awfully interesting that that first count gave the tidal limit and there it was. And from then on it was tidal limits. I don’t list AAS abstracts in my bibliography but I think that same winter I went to an AAS meeting in New York, and gave a paper on how Ml5 had a tidal limit.
So that was your first announcement?
Yes. And that really worked out. It was like a real touchstone because everything worked out perfectly. In 1962 when I came out here on sabbatical (I actually started at Berkeley in the summer, I stayed here two months and then moved down to Pasadena), I began programming some theoretical models and I did the most simple minded thing that you could; to say “Yes there will be a tidal limit, therefore use a cut—off velocity distribution, plug that into a fairly straightforward algorithm that makes models of clusters. And the first time I calculated models with that, lo and behold, they looked like real clusters. And there I was sitting on all the star count material which was better than anything in the literature, so I could compare my models with my star counts and see that it all fitted and I had a feeling of really having stumbled into doing things the right way, both on the theoretical side and the observational side. And they both worked in a fantastic way I wish I could have more successes like that.
You had a number of other important series including stellar populations.
Yes, but these, things really (were not in the same class). It’s not often that the first thing that you try is right, and that’s the way it worked out. These models have turned out to be right except possibly for some problems of the anisotropy of the velocity distribution which is still not settled, these seem to be models that do represent star clusters and now other people are using them.
Your studies of the distribution within the globular allowed you and Minkowski to criticize some statement by Hoyle.
No, that’s separate. That’s not globular clusters that are elliptical galaxies.
But weren’t you using the same techniques, or were they only surface photometric techniques.
That was pure surface photometry. The only relationship is that when I went out to Pasadena in my 1962-63 sabbatical I was doing three scientific projects; one was to finish up the cluster observations; that is, having figured out that you needed a core radius and a tidal radius, I wanted to determine those observationally for as many clusters as possible. And that finally ended up in the Peterson-King paper of 1957. That’s the paper that everyone now refers to for observational parameters of distributions in globular clusters. It is paper 6 in that series. So it’s taken progressively longer to get these things finished up but some of them have been rather massive .That one was I think it included something like 103 clusters. Peterson did most of the dirty work. I repeated almost everything so that on many of these fittings that required judgment we would have the two independent judgments not that I didn’t trust him, everything had equal weight. But on anything that might involve judgment we wanted the two independent looks at it. So as I was saying, in ’62-’63 one thing was to finish up the observational data on as many clusters as I could get. The second was to continue with this theoretical program -- cluster models I began it then and got it running and it made the cluster models. And I also discovered that it fitted elliptical galaxies.
Ah, I see the link, okay.
Yes. Now I must have been interested in elliptical galaxies before that however. This allows me to date something I had a very significant conversation. I was talking casually to Geoff Burbidge in the library at Mt. Wilson, Santa Barbara Street, and he made some remark about how M32 had a sharp center, and I was amazed because you look at the pictures in the books and of course they burn out the entire central region. I thought it had a flat density distribution, a flat density in about the central arc-minute, and of course as Statoscope has shown, it’s unresolved at a tenth of an arc second, But Geoff pointed out to me that there were those sharp centers and I got interested in looking for data. That must have been in ’60.
Yes, when was my M32 paper? That was in ‘61 on the mass of M32, number 18. I was already interested then in determining masses of elliptical galaxies so certainly I must have gone to Pasadena with the intention of working on the elliptical. It was just as in the case of the globular clusters I’d been looking for good data in the literature and there wasn’t anything that was satisfactory for my purposes, so I put together again a comprehensive program. I think in the beginning I wanted to get only the central surface brightness distributions because I knew that it required high resolving power. Then I realized that the work on the outer parts of the elliptical galaxies wasn’t all that good either. So I put in a Schmidt program. That material was published in the AP J of May 15th this year when I finally got it finished and put together, on brightness distributions in elliptical galaxies.
This is all surface photometry then?
Yes, since you don’t resolve stars. But it was the structure of elliptical galaxies. I found at an early stage, I think it’s in Paper 1 of Structures of Star Clusters, a comparison with M32, showing that it approximately fits the same models and that was the first inkling.
That was your Empirical Density Law?
Yes. That’s right, not the models, the Empirical Density Law. That was the first inkling that elliptical galaxies might follow a dynamics very similar to that of globular clusters. Now I want to look at Paper 3 because there is another interesting point related to that. That’s the question of how they got that way and the relaxation. Now there’s a comparison there with ellipticals. Yes, somewhere there was some mention of what Lynden-Bell later called violent relaxation and I don’t know which paper it’s in.
I didn’t run across that, I must have missed that one.
I don’t see it here. But it’s interesting, this very often happens, there’s an idea that’s kind of endemic, everybody agrees about it but nobody really works it up and writes it down. That’s what Lynden-Bell did. He, if I could use the word, codified a good idea and really put it down in a proper fashion. I just don’t know, in one of those papers of mine there’s a mention of it.
Of that fact? Lynden-Bell’s work?
No, Lynden-Bell’s work was afterward.
I see. Just mention of the fact that relaxation had to be that way.
Yes. You had been working on relaxation all the way through?
Yes, it’s on pages 482 and 483 of Paper 1, number 22. No, but this is violent relaxation which has nothing to do with stellar encounters. My interest had been in stellar encounters. And here’s another kind of relaxation which as I say Lynden-Bell really did write. It’s one of those things that were lying around and people playing with the idea and suggesting it in a completely hand waving way. Yet Lynden—Bell did it right. He did it in what I suppose was as close as one can come to a rigorous fashion. And as a result he’s always quoted on it, and it’s called Lynden-Bell’s violent relaxation. I think it’s perfectly right to give him the credit for it. In fact when most people refer to it now they only remember the quantitative part of his paper. I find it necessary to point out to my students when I lecture on the subject that he not only showed that it should work qualitatively, he made a quantitative calculation showing that you did indeed have, one relaxation time. And that was very nice.
So that’s one relaxation time independent of what?
In the collapse. The collapse inherently produces one relaxation.
The initial collapse.
That forms an elliptical galaxy in this case.
Now, you had been interested in galaxies and cosmological modeling before this.
Not cosmological modeling.
You were talking about cosmological models in the age of the galaxy as early as 1961. That’s when you were advocating the use of local phenomena and you examined the steady state cosmology in terms of the age distribution of galaxies.
That’s right, I remember, that was a funny thing.
It caught my eye, I mean you concluded that most galaxies are old based on the stellar population, so that the steady state requirements are, inconsistent.
I’d been annoyed by the steady state, theory which seemed to me the kind of thing that’s produced by too much talk in a cloudy climate.
It just occurred to me. Charlie Federer sent me a little book to review. It was a set of BBC talks given by Bondi and Lyttleton and Bonner and McCrea might have been in it somewhere, I don’t remember whether I put that book review into my bibliography, I probably didn’t.
But that would be in SKY AND TELESCOPE.
Yes I have it in my files and I could find it for you if you want. And it was in the spring of 1961 because I knew I was going to have to come out to California for the IAU and I was looking for a way of spending the summer in California. So I went out for an interview at Aerospace where there was a possible summer job in one of their research groups. I took the book with me, it was a little thin book and I read it on the airplane between Chicago and Los Angeles. While I was reading it this idea occurred to me that the steady state implied a certain distribution of ages and you could probably contradict that observationally. The guy I was going to see was very busy and I had to wait in his outer office so while I waited for him I grabbed a couple of sheets of blank paper from his secretary and worked out the equations. I went up to Palo Alto to see some friends and take another interview. Then in the San Francisco airport I found out my plane was going to be an hour or two late and I sat there in the bar with a martini or two and began writing the paper and by the time I got off the plane in Chicago the paper was finished. Never had anything like that happen to me before or since. But it was really a little incident that was brought on by somebody giving me a book to review.
How was it treated though? How was it received?
Like shouting into a ball of cotton or something. I never got any reaction from it. I even asked Bondi about it once and he said: “Oh that I knew about that effect, it never bothered me.” Something like that.
Is it reasonable to pursue why it never bothered him.
I don’t know. I don’t know the answer. Bondi’s a very reasonable person, you can ask him anything.
Would you have come up with the same statistics today, would you have as much faith in morphology and the age of the galaxy?
It’s not as much statistics as counter examples. Yes, I would in fact because the essential argument in that paper is that every galaxy in which we have a chance to look for an old population has one. That’s it. I think that there are some, call them “radicals” if you will, about stellar populations who would argue that not all old populations are very old. Particularly you look at Toomre’s idea of mergers.
That’s what I was saying.
Yes. I think I might have to be a little less positive about that point now, in fact.
Because this accretion seems to be messing up the age characteristics of the large galaxies.
Yes, it is possible that we’ll have to re-examine that one. Nevertheless I was glad to be able to strike a blow against the steady state theory.
But we couldn’t point to that paper or that particular interest as being the origin, of your interest in cosmology?
No, as I say it was quite incidental and as a result of reading that one book for the sake of writing a book review.
Well we’ve already covered how you got to Berkeley. It is evident in just what you were saying that you wanted to come out here. You were to the point of even looking for a summer job. I’m not too clear on that.
Oh that was just for the summer of ‘61, because the IAU was in Berkeley in ’61. I’d been to California in 1960 and I liked it here. Not here, I’d been in Pasadena. But I wanted to get to California again and spend the whole summer instead of simply coming out for the IAU. I didn’t succeed as it turned out. I spent the summer in Poughkeepsie working for IBM.
What were you doing for them?
At that particular time I really don’t remember but it was probably the design of the “stretch” computers. I’m not sure.
This all stems from your early work in computers?
Yes I’d kept up a consulting relationship with the government and also quite a lot with IBM. I must have spent a number of partial summers with IBM somewhere between two weeks and two months; probably half the summers between 1957 and ’65. I know I spend a lot of time with them.
Stretch didn’t work out to anything. In fact I worked with a couple of their failures; the attempt that preceded the 360’s that they eventually threw out and started over again on. It never got into production; we never got past the single test model. What happened was that the cost slipped one way and the specs slipped the other way and pretty soon it wasn’t a viable computer anymore. The only thing good that happened out of that was there was one guy at the end of the corridor who had been given the job of transistorizing the 709, and that became the 7090 which was one of their big money makers of all time.
I’m familiar with the 7094 stretch?
No wait a minute. Stretch is a different computer. Stretch was their first transistorized computer. They originally were developing it for the government and they tried selling it commercially and it turned into such a disaster that at one point they drew the line and said: “We’ll honor commitments to anyone who sent us a letter of intent but otherwise we’re not offering it to anybody.”
I see. Yale had what they called the 7094 stretch; I remember it even written out.
That was Stretch technology. That’s all that went into it. The Stretch computer was a failure.
Oh that was it, let me clarify that. The 7090 was the transistorized 709 and the 94 was putting the stretch technology into the 7090 I think that’s it.
Okay. That makes even more sense. Now during your period of work at IBM, I assume you were consulting and working in the summers, did you ever apply astrophysical problems on the computers at IBM as a part of testing the computers?
No I was never testing computers. I was much farther back in the production process. In fact, the summer of ‘61 that I spent the most time there we were working on the general architecture or even less than architecture, the general concept of a new line of computers. It was nothing like a production model.
What was your particular contribution at these stages?
Just knowing computers in general and being able to sit down and write trial programs on a computer that didn’t yet exist and say: “Well if you change the memory access characteristics in certain ways we’d be able to do this operation better.” That sort of thing.
Had you ever been approached to work in computers full time?
Oh yes IBM would have liked me to work for them. There was one guy I used to work with in particular who always tried to talk me into coming to work for him. But I never wanted to.
There was never any question?
Okay, that’s an interesting side of your life I imagine is not too well known.
Well I’ve been connected with computers since 1951, but I’ve gradually grown away from them. That is, I knew enough about them so that I was able to specify and supervise the setting up of our minicomputer here in connection with our PDS machine, but I don’t really know the computer field at all now.
But you were a user during your work on the clusters?
A small user. I’ve always prided myself on being an efficient programmer so that I write programs that run fast and my cluster models spend most of their time printing. The computing time to do an entire cluster model must be five or ten seconds.
That’s pretty fast. Now Henyey was obviously interested in you. Could it have been partially through your knowledge of computers because of his interests in doing stellar interiors?
I don’t think he knew that I knew very much about computers. He wanted to build up the theoretical part of the department and he thought I was a theoretician. We got to be good friends and he was never really disappointed in me but he was disappointed that he didn’t get a theoretician when he hired me.
I see. Very interesting. What was he like; we of course missed him unfortunately.
A very interesting man. He came on very severe. He was not good in dealing with young faculty; in fact you ought to interview Jack Brandt about Henyey. I think you’ll get some negative things Brandt and Dick Michie left because they couldn’t get along with Henyey and he was department chairman at that time. With his students he was just marvelous. I’ve been to his house at night. I went once or twice when one of his students would be talking about something I was interested in; he invited me over. He had a weekly meeting of students, five or ten of them, at his home. They’d set up a blackboard, somebody would give a talk on what he was doing, and then Betty Henyey would come in with the cold cuts and beer afterward and they’d just stand around and talk. His students all loved him. But the junior faculty thought he was fierce and I think the beginning graduate students probably did also. He was very shy and reserved and I think that gave him a difficulty in dealing with people easily and made him seem stern.
I see. I’ve heard that he was sort of like Baade in the sense that it was very hard also to get him to publish.
Yes indeed. He published very few papers. He developed the basic method of calculating stellar interiors. I think everybody still uses it in one form or another. I think it was a long time till he ever wrote it up.
Is that the Henyey, LeLevier and Levee work?
Yes, it’s that paper, but Louis wouldn’t sit down and write papers. I don’t know why. As a result we couldn’t get him salary advances in the University of California. We have salary steps and it didn’t seem possible to get him one. And then one day, I was department chairman at this time, my phone rang, it was the University publicity office saying: “We’d like to contact Dr. Henyey over his election to the National Academy of Sciences.” I said, “I don’t knows anything about this; let me talk to him.” He was still at home, he didn’t come in until about 10:00 in the morning and I called him up and told him he’d been elected to the National Academy and I got about 60 seconds of silence on the other end of the line. He was just flabbergasted. And of course he was very pleased and then I called up the dean. I had talked to the dean a couple of weeks before about getting Louis a salary increase. It was April and it was the time when you processed these things. And the conclusion had been no because he hadn’t been publishing. So I called up the dean again and the dean said “Send the papers down.” But, yes, but that makes his fewness of publications really vivid.
But do you know who forwarded him for membership in the National Academy?
No. I don’t know anything about the interior workings of the National Academy except somebody said to me recently that it was extremely political and very much cronyism.
There have been those very strong criticisms.
If we could move on a little bit and talk about the growth of your work in cosmology, we only talked about contemporary problems last time. Am I correct that when you started doing the evolution of galaxies was around ’68? Is that about right?
You’d have to be more specific.
The probable ages of the oldest open clusters, 1968.
Oh yes. Funny how one produces these things on the spur of the moment. That was another one-day paper. When Silvia Torres-Peimbert had her thesis defense (we still had an exam in those days) she brought up something about the old open clusters and their ages and something started going around in my head and this idea occurred to me that NGC 188 didn’t really have to be as old as the galactic disk. And that was another case where I did a little bit of scribbling, on one sheet of paper, came up with this idea and wrote a short paper. But that was my interest in stellar population’s not n cosmology.
You didn’t see them linked yet?
No. Simply the fact that cosmology set an upper limit to things.
And that was it. But at that time you literally accused, or chided the astronomical community of its assumption that ages should be continuous between Population I and Population II and that this age gap was merely again a statistical effect. Do you recall that?
I don’t remember the chiding aspect of it.
Okay, it’s just a note.
Well you’re generalizing too much. It says: the, tacit assumption that the oldest known open cluster should have the same age as the oldest stars of the galactic disk. The paper is narrowly directed at that point, that it is not to be expected a priori that we’ll find any cluster that’s as old as the oldest disk stars. It’s not about everything being old or about any continuity between populations.
So no one interpreted it that way at that time.
Oh I’ don’t know. You make any strong statement and people will misinterpret it. I remember Icko Iben in one of his papers referred to this one in a very slighting way. I don’t know if he likes to take pot shots at everybody but he likes to take pot shots at me. He’s an aggressive person. I think he enjoys aggressive relationships. Once when he was giving a colloquium and I had introduced him, he looked at his watch and said: “There’s one boundary condition in this colloquium, at five minutes after five Ivan King is going to wake up.” I was sitting there in the front row and the minute I heard my name I sat straight up. (laughter) I made a point of asking him a rather well pointed question from the part of the colloquium where he accused me correctly of being asleep. The students claim that I can do that, sleep through an entire colloquium and ask a good question afterward.
That’s a technique that Henry Norris Russell is known for. King Well I’m in good company.
Oh yes. Where do you think then your direct interests in stellar populations began? By 1971 you wrote a review article on stellar populations in galaxies.
That’s right. I had always been interested in the problem of populations. I had never had any success with it. I remember the problem being discussed when I was at Harvard when Armin Deutsch was an instructor there. He used to ask the question very pointedly, “Why is there a correlation between the kinematic properties of stars and their spectral types?” That was the best that one could formulate at that time. This was after Baade’s paper, but this is within the Type I population and no one really sorted that out until Sandage and Schwarzschild and Schwarzschild and Hoyle in 1952 and 55 I think it was. So we didn’t really have the age sequence of populations straightened out.
I don’t exactly follow that.
I think you’ll find the history of this in that population review of mine because it really impressed me and I was in a position where I could step back and look at it since I’d been out of astronomy from ‘52 to ’56. And all of the important developments took place during that time.
Are you talking about varying kinematics with spectral type?
The high velocity, low velocity stars?
No. The high velocity had pretty much been connected by Baade with his Population II.
Just that the local standard of rest was different for different spectral types?
Maybe it was that. I remember the way Armin phrased the question and now that you press me on it I don’t remember the context that well. But I associated it with the age difference between what was finally laid out as the sequence of open cluster HR diagrams. Things like the Ursa Major stream, I remember, figured in this; why should there be such a thing as an Ursa Major stream with a particular kind of HR diagram and why do the lower main sequence stars have a higher velocity dispersion than upper main sequence stars, that type of question. The question hadn’t been asked right. If somebody asked the question: “Why do the Pleiades have a different HR diagram than M67” then it would have been clearer and more pointed.
That’s clear enough. I see how the Hoyle, Sandage and Schwarzschild contributions worked in there.
So that really developed while I was out of astronomy and then I came back and learned about it. And I’ve always kept up an interest in that population problem. I found it fascinating the way Sandage could take a luminosity function and an HR diagram and construct evolutionary tracks from it. At conferences or at meetings I’ve always argued that people ought to use the numbers more frequently than they do, matching up numbers of things and determining from that the duration of evolutionary stages. So, let’s see, the genesis of that paper was that I used to have a good set of lecture notes on this and then Bart Bok invited me down to Tucson for a week -- it must have been around 1968, ‘69, maybe even 1970 -- to give some lectures on stellar population types. Ray White took lecture notes. He may have been running the series. He gave me a copy of the notes on my own talks and I used them as a basis for this review article. PASP had just started its series of review articles and they asked me to write one. I think I may have suggested to them a change of subject, they may have suggested one and I may have counter suggested this because I wanted to write on it. It was very funny. A few papers before that, number 44 in the bibliography, that SKY AND TELESCOPE one on “Dynamics of Star Clusters,” I had given an invited talk to the American Astronomical Society on that star cluster subject. Somebody at SKY AND TELESCOPE asked me if I could write it up and I said sure. And I took a tape recorder and within a space of a single day I put the first draft of that onto tape and was able to edit it up beautifully. I somehow had the delusion that I could do that with the populations in galaxies paper. That took me a solid month. It took me twelve hours work just to check the references after they were already written down.
Completely different articles.
I don’t know how I could have been so naïve. But I’m awfully glad I wrote that paper because I regard it as one of the worthwhile things that I’ve done, pulling all that stuff together.
Certainly it was really fascinating. I didn’t read the whole thing, I read parts of the first part, but then I read your summary statement where you provided this incredible scenario of how populations fit into the entire scheme of things starting with the big bang. I thought that was really quite a fascinating statement.
Hm, I don’t even remember that. My office is still a mess. I still haven’t unpacked from Geneva so I had had this journal off the shelf a little while ago and knew where it was. Yes, that’s funny, I like summaries like that. At one time I used essentially that as my traveling colloquium and it went over very well. I expanded it into more detail but basically explaining why galaxies have the forms they do. Why elliptical are elliptical and why spirals are spiral, and irregulars are irregular. Some of the developments I was talking about at Yale have, knocked the underpinnings from that, at least as far as the ellipticals are concerned.
Right. This is why I wanted to bring it up. I don’t think you would give quite the same view today.
Not at all. My attitude in that paper was that we’ve learned an awful lot and. we’re really getting there, whereas at Yale I had the feeling that we thought we knew an awful lot and boy did we fool ourselves.
Right. In that ASP review paper you also said, and you wanted to point out, that you felt explosive events in the later stages of galaxy life were not important for the general evolutionary picture. Did I quote you correctly on that?
I don’t know if you quoted correctly, but it’s certainly what I would have said.
You also stated that you felt there would be some people who would disagree with you quite strongly on that. Now is this in reference to the association of quasars with the nuclei of galaxies, was that a statement like that at the time?
Partly that and also the original Ambartsumian idea of ten or fifteen years before about how groups of galaxies were formed by explosive nuclei splitting up galaxies.
Right. Well how do you feel about explosive events in galaxies now, still within the general evolutionary picture?
Within the general evolutionary picture I am quite unconvinced that a powerful radio source has any effect on the stars in an elliptical galaxy. Yet I’m very attracted by the idea, and I think Martin Rees even developed it in the Yale Conference, that quasars are an early stage of practically all giant galaxies. That looks like a very appealing idea.
The evolution of large mass galaxies is very much tied in with an explosive phase?
Yes. Not to exclude the low mass ones but so much of our information is concentrated on the high mass ones just because they’re more conspicuous.
Do you see seyferts and quasars as an evolutionary track or do you see seyferts as low mass quasars?
Let’s say low violence quasars. It looks as if there is a connection. I can remember way back at the Prague IAU in ‘67, Allan Sandage and Martin Ryle gave invited talks, I remember Geoff Burbidge complaining that the establishment had been allowed in and was set up for this and the dissidents weren’t being given a chance. Sandage and Ryle gave these back-to-back talks which tried to establish that there was a continuum of violence that ran from (I don’t know if they mentioned things like:) the center of the Milky Way where a little bit is going on through more disturbed galaxies like M81 which is only slightly more disturbed through seyferts and N galaxies and quasars.
That certainly isn’t the completely establishment view, is it?
Yes. I think it is. Go down to Santa Cruz, were you there recently?
Well I didn’t take part in the meeting.
But I’m sure that there was a lot of talk, and is a lot of talk of that at the meetings that are going on right now.
There is now, I was just wondering about let’s say in the past.
Oh, I think Geoff could see the future descending on him, the quasars being at cosmological distances was quite controversial then. There were many of us old dinosaurs who never doubted it for a moment. But the less conventional people were still arguing for quasars being shot out of something and poor Chip Arp is still there practically by himself arguing that.
You feel that the case is strengthened against Arp and the Burbidge’s in finding any quasars that are local? King Yes. I don’t know that the Burbidge’s are really arguing for any specific local quasars. When you examine Arp’s individual cases they all look rather weak statistically.
Okay, we’re at that point where it’s past three. Could I ask you just a few questions about contemporary AAS issues?
You’ve just taken over the responsibility of being AAS president and for the record be very interested to have your feelings about what you feel is in store for you and what the priorities are for the AAS and especially some of your feelings about the nature of the new duties of the next executive officer.
That’s rather difficult to comment on. One thing that I’ve discovered in the last two weeks is that a large part of the concern of the president is simply reacting to what drops on his head. There are an awful lot of things that have to be done and I’m still trying to get myself organized as witness this set of 25 file folders that I put titles on this morning trying to get the papers into them so that I can lay my hands on things when the phone rings as it does at a distressing rate. When I can get into the posture of acting instead of reacting I would like very much to look at the problem of manpower in astronomy. And man-power is really a euphemism for oversupply; the fact that we’re producing about five for every new job in traditional-type-research-capable astronomy. There are just a lot of things I’d like to explore there. In many cases we just have the facts and statistics yet I have some ideas about directions in which I’d like to go. I don’t think it would be fair to put that on tape now, particularly for something that’s in a sense archival. But the impact that I would most like to have is on the problem of too many young astronomers who are not satisfied with the opportunities that they find. There are a lot of unyielding boundary conditions here. But there are a number of places where I think things can be done to alleviate the problem, it surely won’t be solved.
Can you talk about how you think you might be able to alleviate the problem?
Well I’ll mention one prejudice that I have which is that the most productive area in which we should push is education. We should try to create more teaching jobs in astronomy. Teaching and public-interest or public-contact sorts of jobs to capitalize on the continually increasing public interest in astronomy.
You say “continually increasing public interest” in astronomy almost wistfully. Is there anything in that or are you just emphasizing that?
No, I’m emphasizing it. I’m really emphasizing the “continually,” it just never seems to stop. Since Sputnik we’ve had a big increase but we continue to have that increase. On this campus, during the most liberal swing of the academic pendulum, the campus dropped essentially all severe requirements for a degree. There was no longer any requirement that anyone take any science. This just made a one year plateau in our rising enrollments in elementary astronomy. And the enrollments continue to go up. People are interested in astronomy; they want to learn more about it. Surely there must be a way of coupling on the one hand too many people who want to work in astronomy with so many members of the public who want to know about astronomy. I hope that some things can be done in that direction. As I say I have some ideas that are more or less specific and I’d like to explore them.
Presently, at least in a position where I had been teaching and where I’ll probably be going back to for a while at least, there are quite a few physicists not trained in astronomy teaching astronomy, they’re in tenure positions. I’m putting this on tape because I want to get your feelings about this. In my opinion they’re not doing a very good job. Now what would be a person’s goal in a position like that? To try to get more astronomers of course, to teach the astronomy because the astronomy that is taught by these other people is not very popular. I don’t know why, I don’t know if it’s peculiar, but like to know if you are aware of this common situation.
I’m very much aware of it and that’s one of the places where we can hope to place more astronomers -- obviously not by kicking people out or making frontal assaults. But every department has some flexibility and some turnover and when there is a possibility of a change in a department I would certainly like to see a push for having an astronomer brought into the department who can teach astronomy and also teach some of the physics.
Is the AAS, or are you as president, thinking about actually a white paper or some sort of a statement to physics departments on this, or is that too much of an antagonistic move?
I don’t want to do anything antagonistic. I have always believed that you succeed when you find something that’s also in the other guy’s self-interest. Identify ways in which the person you would like to influence can also help himself by going in the direction you suggest.
In the case of physics and astronomy then what do you think would be in the self-interest of a physics department to have another astronomer when right now in many situations, as I mentioned, especially in the college that I’ve been associated with, many of these physicists are gaining employment by teaching the astronomy.
But they’re not gaining enrollment. You’ve said these courses aren’t very popular because they aren’t very good. It’s to the long-run interest of the physics department to introduce physics to more people and it can very much enhance the interest of elementary physics courses and certainly of the total elementary offerings of the physics department to have a good and well-taught astronomy course. At the same time they can broaden the interest in science within their faculty group. This may not be self-serving on our part to interest more physicists in astrophysics, but it is almost everyone’s experience that if you bring an astrophysicist into a physics department you get other people interested in those problems, It would help to liven up the departments and broaden theme With regard to the Society itself the big problem that I see there’s that the Society gets bigger and it gets more complicated and its affairs get more complicated. I think we need to streamline the working of the Society, enable the council to get through its agenda more easily, have council committees that will predigest items so that the whole council can deal with them I hope that the executive officer will do more in this direction, that we can get the secretary’s office to do more preparation for meetings, so that again we can engage in some initiatives and not just react to things that come to us. I think this can be done by looking around particularly and getting more work out of particular people
You're adding an education officer, you’re changing the nature of the executive officer. Now these are things that have already been put through and both of those jobs are presently open, and people are applying for them. What part did you play in the past in bringing these changes about let’s say moving the AAS offices from Princeton to Washington?
I played almost no part in it. These things had been completely studied and almost set up by the time I attended my first council meeting.
And that was when?
I first attended a council meeting at Atlanta in June of ‘77 as a guest. I didn’t become a member of the council until after the business meeting at that time. But I certainly spoke at the business meeting. That was a big discussion of the membership, about the Washington office. I spoke in favor of it because I very much wanted, in connection with trying to do something about the employment problem, closer contacts in Washington and had already initiated some of this privately and felt that it would be a great help to have the executive office there. But I had no participation beyond that because this big study that I think was run by Gart Westerhout (who certainly contributed an awful lot to it) had already been done. And it was a question then of hashing it out in the council and then by the membership. As you recall there was a membership poll taken which I think came back of the order of 5 to 1 in favor. It was very strong.
But there were a few councilors and there were scattered people who did oppose this move quite a bit?
Yes. There has been some strong opposition to it from two sources. People who didn’t want to involve the society in raising the dues, and people who felt that we should remain the old kind of scientific meeting society and not take on any (I was going to say) public responsibility, but that’s not the right phrase, responsibility toward the astronomical community.
Well I’m not going to ask you about the dues people, that’s a pretty cut and dry issue. But interested in people who didn’t want to create an advocacy situation, if I’m using the right word. I’m interested in what their arguments were, if you care to review them, and possibly identify them.
You’d have to ask them what their arguments were.
Well, could you identify them.
Yes, I think Frank Edmondson spoke fairly strongly against the Washington move. There was at least one other person at that meeting who spoke quite strongly. I think it was Leo Goldberg who made the best speech for the move. Leo sits back and keeps quiet and then once in a while he gets up and says something very forceful. I think his advocacy probably had more effect than anything else.
How did the Princeton people feel about it? That it was moving from Princeton.
Oh I don’t think it concerned them. They do not have particular contact with the AAS office. It’s off in a separate building.
Right, they’re out in the parking lot someplace.
Yes. Of course when Spitzer was president and set up the office there and then when Schwarzschild was president there was much closer contact but I don’t think that it makes that much difference.
Have you gotten into the searches for these new offices at this point.
The search committee has advertised. I was in Europe and didn’t participate even in writing the advertisement for the executive officer. Those advertisements are out, there’s a deadline of September 1st we have a number of applications. I’m the chairman of the search committee, I’ve sent out Xeroxes of all of the material that’s been received so far and asked for the first round of reactions and then when I get in August, really roll up our sleeves and get moving, order our candidates and interview the top ones and try to make a choice as rapidly as possible.
This is for both?
No, the education officer will be elected by the society membership; there will be a name on the ballot forwarded by the nominating committee, and an opportunity to nominate other people by petition if desired. The Executive Officer is an employee. The only slightly different situation about the executive officer is he does have a vote on the council.
Well that’s changed.
It was changed several years ago.
Why is the executive officer’s position appointed rather than elected?
I think the answer to that might be to some extent historical although it would be foolish to be bound completely by history. The postilion was set up originally when it became clear that the affairs of the society were too burdensome to be carried on completely by volunteers. We needed a paid employee. So the first executive officer was literally that, a paid employee who was hired to do the administrative work of the society as necessary.
That was Paul Routly?
That was Paul Routly. I guess there have been just the two so far, this will be the third. And I think Paul understood that he was hired to do the society’s job. I’m sure Hank Gurin understands the same thing. It’s still very much that kind of position, although. We’re looking for more initiative now and I think perhaps there’s an analogy with hiring a new professor in your department. You don’t put the position up for election, but you ask a group of people who hopefully have been chosen because they know the needs of the job well and they know the field well. And they choose someone and then maybe you put it to the department for a vote. In this case, the analog would be putting it to the council for a vote. I don’t see any appropriateness in putting a choice of personnel up to the whole membership.
I think then I’ve asked you all the reasonable questions about the AAS at this point.
Are you going to come to the unreasonable ones?
No, (laughter) I would like to have a general impression as a summing up of the interview of what you considered to be your most satisfying piece of work. You’ve given some hints on that already.
Yes. I really think that those two paired studies on the tidal radii and core radii of clusters, along with the dynamical models that seem to give a reasonable fit to them were the most satisfying things.
Thank you very much for this session. Let you get back to your work.
 NATURE 180 (1957) p, 943
 Deposited in King working file, AlP.
 Very Large Array
 AJ 63 (1958) p. 109, p. 114; p. 465; 64 (1959) p. 352; 65 (1960) p. 122
 AJ 64 (1959) p. 352
 AJ 66 (1961) p. 68
 AJ 71 (1966) p. 276; 73 (1968) p. 456
 AJ 67 (1962) p. 471
 ”Observed Radii and Structural Parameters in Globular Clusters” (W. C. J. Peterson) AJ 80 (1975) p 427
 APJ 134 (1961) p. 272
 AJ 67 (1962) p. 471
 “Cosmological Models and the Ages of Galaxies” OBS 81 (1961) p. 128
 APJ 151 (1968) L59
 “Stellar Populations in Galaxies” PASP 83 (1971) p. 377
 S&T 41 (1971) p. 139