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Interview of Arthur Upgren by David DeVorkin on 1977 March 14, Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics, College Park, MD USA, www.aip.org/history-programs/niels-bohr-library/oral-histories/4926
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Interview covers early education in Minneapolis and Washington, D.C. and early interests in astronomy and science; early contact with H. Luyten (1940); graduate school at the University of Michigan and continuation of graduate work at Case; Jason Nassau and galactic structure; research positions at Swarthmore and the Naval Observatory; move to Wesleyan, 1966; teaching and astrometric research; the FAR: Fund for Astrophysical Research; the restoration of Clark telescopes; influential astronomers: W. Luyten, P.van de Kamp, K.A. Strand, S. McCuskey, Bart Bok; professional conditions at Wesleyan.
I see that you had your undergraduate study in Minnesota and your graduate work at both Michigan and Case. I want you to talk about these years as a student, but I'd like you to naturally go back a little farther for a few moments in the beginning, for a biographical profile, and talk about your early education and some of your early influences.
Well, my early education was a fairly normal one in both Minneapolis, Minnesota and Washington, D. C. I was raised in both cities. There's really very little of distinction about it. I was educated primarily in public schools. I did my high school work at the University of Minnesota High School, which was a school which was run by the University in Minneapolis.
Were your father and mother associated with the University?
Yes, my father was a professor of economics, now retired. He was then at the University of Minnesota.
When did you leave Minnesota! I notice you were born in Minnesota.
I was born in Minneapolis. I was raised during the war years. World War II, partly in Washington, D.C. and spent a little time in New York City as well. My father took a position with the Department of Commerce. Then he returned to the Federal Reserve Bank system in Minneapolis and then later transferred back to the University where he had originally been before going to Washington.
I see. What is your father's name?
The same as mine. I'm a junior.
That's right, okay. When did you first become interested in science? What were your early influences?
I don't know. I was interested in astronomy from a very young age. It would be hard to say just how young, certainly in grade school. I had some friends who had at least a moderate interest in astronomy. It wasn't a consuming interest in the sense that it surpassed other interests, and I didn't think too extensively of going into astronomy until the midst of my undergraduate career in college. I knew Professor William J. Luyton from the age of seven. He was a neighbor of mine, and his oldest daughter and my sister were playmates.
I see. Could you say then that Professor Luyton was an early influence on you?
He was. Yes, I saw an example of an astronomer, and he retained an interest in the kinds of things that an amateur would be interested in: the sky, telescopes and so on. He kept in contact with that kind of thing and I could relate to it. I went over to the University on a couple of public nights and looked through the telescope. When I was seven I remember the five naked eye planets were lined up in the western sky, and Luyton showed me some of those through the telescope.
That was about 1940.
It was 1940.
You found Luyton a very open and inspiring person?
Yes, very inspiring. I took a course from him in general astronomy at the University. I started out in engineering, was not particularly interested in it, took a course from him in astronomy and partly through his encouragement transferred into astronomy halfway through my undergraduate career and ended with a combined major in astronomy, physics and mathematics.
I see. Was this the normal course for someone going to the University of Minnesota at that time?
Normal in what sense?
Well, the combined character with the different majors.
Well, for a person to major in astronomy, especially in a department which consisted at that time only of Mr. Luyton, physics and math rounded it out as they should probably any undergraduate major. So that my major was nominally astronomy but there was a considerable emphasis on math and physics.
While you were there as an undergraduate did you work on any special projects with Luyton?
I worked on his project as an assistant on the Bruce Proper Motion Survey, linking, and primarily measuring positions of stars that he found to have a perceptible proper motion.
This was before he started using the Schmidt plates from Palomar.
Yes, it was.
What kind of stars was he looking for?
His primary goal at that time and much of his work since was simply to obtain a catalogue of all stars with a proper motion greater than a lower limit. I was working on the Luyton 5-tenths Catalogue, which consisted of all stars covering almost all the sky who proper motions exceeded half a second arc annually. And then later I worked on the Luyten 2-tenths Catalogue, which did the same thing, containing many more stars, of course, because its limit was down to 2 tenths of a second of arc per year.
I see. So by the time you graduated, you were already well versed in astrometry.
I would not say well versed. I certainly had some practical astrometry, but there simply was not enough time on his part to teach formal courses. So I had some informal training more than formal training.
And then you went on to Michigan. To my knowledge there is not an astrometric tradition there, and I’d like to know why you chose Michigan.
I chose Michigan simply because it was a large department offering a large variety of astronomical subjects in which I could get interested.
Any particular names in terms of who drew you to Michigan?
No particular name drew me to Michigan. While at Michigan I probably worked most closely with Freeman Miller. In fact, as I was at Michigan I began to develop an interest in galactic structure, which Freeman Miller has been very interested in through the use of the Schmidt telescope there. In fact, I got a master's at Michigan and left Michigan for Case partly on his advice, because he was the only galactic structure there, and he was at that time transferring over to the dean's office. He became either dean or associate dean -- I'm not sure which -- at that time, and felt that at Case I would have more of a chance to work in the field of galactic structure. And so I got my master's at Michigan and transferred to Case. It was then Case Institute of Technology, now Case Western Reserve University.
Well, one of our interests is Michigan and the history of the department of astronomy there. I was wondering if you could give me some impressions of the department. At this time I imagine Lawrence Aller was there.
Leo Goldberg was the director; Lawrence Aller, Dean McLaughlin; Hazel Losh in general astronomy, who gave me some interest in the history of astronomy, and the history of the Michigan observatory. I was a laboratory assistant in her introductory courses. Bill Liller, who's now at Harvard, was also there.
Of any of these people -- you seem to single out Hazel Losh to a certain extent.
I would also single out Dean McLaughlin and Freeman Miller.
As being influential upon you, interesting people?
I think so.
In fact, the University of Michigan seems to have one of the largest 19th century legacies in astronomical education. There was man named Bruno there I believe, if I have the name right. Do you recall it?
I don't recall that name.
Okay. We're looking into him, but little is known about him, and I'm just trying all sorts of sources. Okay, let's go on to Case and discuss briefly your educational experiences there. Who did you go there primarily to work with?
Primarily to work with Jason Nassau. At that time Sidney McCuskey was in the mathematics department, though later I worked with him to some extent. The primary person whom I worked with was Jason Nassau at that time, and for many years previously he had been the director of the Warner and Swasey Observatory.
He's well known for a practical text in astronomy. Was your work with him primarily in this vein?
No, I would say the practical astronomy text was something of a sideline. His main interest was the use of the Schmidt. In fact, I'd say he was the pioneer along with the Hamburg Observatory in using a Schmidt telescope for survey work. The Case-Burell Schmidt was built about 1940. It was built before the Michigan Schmidt, which was essentially a twin. And Nassau pioneered in using both blue and infrared plates to survey certain kinds of stars, especially infrared surveys of luminous red stars, as tracers of the Milky Way. He was a pioneer in that kind of work
This is galactic structure again.
That's right. And were people like Peter Pesch and others there at this…
No Pesch came just before I left Case. I was at Case for about three years.
You would say Nassau was the guiding light with building interests in galactic structure there?
Yes, he certainly was the guiding light in that. But Jurgen Stock came just after I did and he became my thesis adviser, because I got very interested in a joint project with him using Hamburg's Schmidt plates which have a much lower dispersion but still are able to discern many of the important natural groups such as the giant branch. And I became interested with him in a thesis -- it became my thesis topic -- of determining the K(z) force perpendicular to the galactic plane from tracing giants to a considerable distance from the galactic plane in the galactic plane polar direction. I worked with Stock for part of my stay at Case, and then he was offered a very attractive position with Kitt Peak's Southern Observatory at Cerro Tololoas as many people know. And I finished up under Jason Nassau. He was my thesis adviser for my last year at Case.
Did you have any contact with Stock after he went to Cerro Tolola?
Oh, yes, right along. We published a paper together on the theoretical properties of objective prisms and about a year or two ago he and I had developed an NSF funded project in Venezuela to cover objective prism radial velocities. He is now the director of the large Venezuelan observatory which has a 1.0/1.5 - meter Schmidt with objective prisms, with a limit in magnitude on that array of about 15. So we're able to trace the structure both in the plane of the galaxy of (spiral arms), and also away from the plane of the galaxy to repeat the kind of problem I'd been interested in before: getting radial velocities as well as spectral types and actual stellar distributions in space. So he and I are very active in the current program. He is the director down there. I've been down to Venezuela twice, and Jack McConnell, former staff member here, has accepted a position with Stock in Venezuela.
While Stock Was in Cerro Tololo, there was some sort of a difficulty that he got himself into. There was nothing professional in this, was there?
There's been a lot of politics involved in the whole AURA (Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy) set up of the Tololo project. Stock handled one part of many different aspects of that, as I've heard it. I've heard a confused group of stories from many people. Certainly Stock was not the central issue by any means. However, he did fallout of favor with certain elements and certain other people in the AURA committee, as did a number of other people. And as a result left for the University of Chile at Santiago and later he was hired by the Venezuelan government to direct the present observatory near Merida and did well in setting up its telescopes.
Right. To your knowledge is there any different story than the semi-official story about why Stock left Cerro Tololo?
What is the semi-official story?
Well, to a certain extent he became involved with a Chilean girl and it became a very embarrassing situation. Is this an official statement?
I know the Chilean girl; I've met her several times. She is now his wife -- Sylvia. And certainly she and her family, as well as Stock, contend there was nothing untoward there at all. I've heard this from her as well as from him.
So this was a political maneuver that went beyond this and tried to create a smear?
Yes. I would certainly say that whereas Mrs. Stock might be an excuse, she certainly was not the cause.
All right. I know that not with Stock but with the Venezuelans there are different kinds of tenure policies that the Venezuelan observatory at Merida -- I was familiar with a fellow who was down there, Wayne Osborn…
I know Ozzie well.
I know you do. And I know that he had mixed feelings about leaving.
There were several reasons why Ozzie left. He told me that one of his children had an asthmatic problem; he felt that that problem could be dealt with more satisfactorily in the United States. He certainly impressed me as being homesick in the times I visited him. I think he felt interested in getting back into American astronomy, because the one problem in Venezuela yet is there is a certain kind of detachment and loneliness and isolation, and Ozzie felt this. Both Ozzie and Jurgen Stock have told me within the last year that it's very possible Ozzie may go down to Venezuela again for another stay.
I see. So they certainly did get on quite well.
But he did not choose to make Venezuela his permanent home. But they got on fairly well. Yes.
Well, that's an interesting sidelight that is of some importance, of some significant importance, the situation at Cerro Tololo and the involvement with various directors down there. I know they now have a director Blanco who is very acceptable to most people.
Victor Blanco I know very well because he was at Case when I was there.
And again we overlapped at the Naval Observatory. He was my boss there in my last year there.
You were at Flagstaff?
No, I was in Washington. Blanco started out in Washington. He may have been transferred to Flagstaff before he accepted the Tololo position.
We come up to the point where you have received your thesis; and if I'm correct, at least judging from the citations some of this research was quite well received. Was your paper, "The Space Distribution of Late Type Stars," in 1962 was that a direct outgrowth of your thesis?
Yes, and I continued that work for the next year or two.
This was in the last two or three years; this is still a well cited paper. And I was interested just to have a few comments about that, though we're not exactly prepared in this preliminary study to get too much into scientific letters. Let's move on then. You're now to the point where we have you as a research associate at Swarthmore and later at the Naval Observatory. What were your primary duties as a research associate at Swarthmore?
At Swarthmore I participated in Peter van de Kamp's program, which was an astrometric one, primarily intending to get extensive observations of a select group of nearby stars for the purposes of detecting stellar masses and perturbations. The possibility of detecting unseen companions by those perturbations. Barnard's star is probably the best known.
Right. Now, he'd been working on Barnard's star since The 30’s. That's right.
Literally. And at this point I guess when you were working with him, he had a general program, as you point out.
Which is something I wasn't aware of. How did you find working with van de Kamp? How were the working conditions and what are your opinions of his techniques?
I chafed there. I was something of a young Turk at the time. At that time van de Kamp had no use for computers in his work, and I felt that there should be more automation. The use of computers would significantly reduce the time, and would allow more of a freeing of mathematical constraints upon the parallax solutions. Something which was by no means I think original with me, but since at that time. the early '60s, has been adopted by every observatory. Because with hand calculations, an immense number of mathematical constraints must be imposed in order for the solution to be determined in a reasonable amount of time; and there was also a much greater chance of blunders with hand calculations.
Then he was using his certainly well-known method of dependencies for this work.
Did you do any of the actual reductions on Barnard's star?
Not on Barnard's star. I worked on one or two other stars of no particular interest.
How would you regard the reality of his findings on Barnard's star at this time?
Well, the main work that would tend to refute that is the work by G. Gatewood and H. Eichhorn. I have talked with Bob Harrington and several other astronomers, and the consensus is (and this is just a consensus, which I do not have any personal input on) that Barnard's star's perturbations may well be instrumentally induced. I’m simply accepting here what other people say. I have no internal evidence of my own.
And yet the use of the dependence technique seems to be such that it's suspect for such a small deflection in terms of perturbation?
It doesn't allow an examination of the residuals of the parallax star or of the reference stars. Sometimes the examination of residuals is very important in order to see what's going on.
Why do you think van de Kamp persists, other than the computer resistance, which is understandable in his generation -- Or do you think there is a resistance? Let's put it that way.
I'm not sure that he resists so much today as he did then. From visits to Sproul and many chats that I've had with Peter van de Kamp, I feel that he has now made use of computational methods, of digitized measuring machines. At the time when I was at Sproul we were using a single screw Gaertner style machine, which made measuring very slow and cumbersome and without projection screens, a great strain on the eyes. But not many years after I left, much of that was changed.
So he's advanced instrumentally, but I understand he's come up with the same results in a redetermination.
He has come up with the same results. He made one suggestion that there were possibly two planets around Barnard's star.
Then by instrumental errors. You would associate them with the telescope primarily.
That was the suggestion I believe made by Gatewood and Eichhorn. One of the ways to test that is to see if it shows up in other Sproul series taken at the same time. I don't know whether it does or not.
I recall in looking at some of van de Kamp's earlier papers (we are, of course, preparing to interview him, as I mentioned) that in his use of the method of dependencies, which he thought the most important advance in astrometry at that time, and I'm sure it was when everything was hand calculated, that he did devise methods for second order corrections.
I believe he did in some cases.
Did he discuss these or did you study the use of them?
No. I didn't study them very extensively when I was there.
So you really didn't learn any new techniques or any of the you might say secret techniques that he may have as an astrometer?
I certainly am not aware that I probably learned them in any great detail, no.
So then these two years that you had at Swarthmore couldn't be classed as a period when you rekindled your interest in astrometry directly or what?
I think I did. I think Peter van de Kamp and Sarah Lippincott had an old-fashioned element to their astrometry -- nonetheless their enthusiasm was, I think, to some degree catching. I think it was infectious.
Peter van de Kamp was an excellent lecturer, especially on a popular level, as was Luyton at Minnesota. Both of them brought to their lectures to introductory classes and the public a very interesting sense of humor and a style that I think promoted a great deal of interest.
I've heard them both myself at various times, and I have to agree with you, van de Kamp especially. At Sproul of course, in this kind of study that you did and the general studies that they supported, of course, have proven also extremely valuable for local distribution of stars in space and luminosity function work. What are the limitations in an observatory of that type for this kind of work?
Well, It would be hard to say in a few minutes. I think one of the things which I have attempted to do here, and I'm not sure whether it was even feasible at Swarthmore, is to use the parallax program to train students. We, however, have an active master's degree program, an active astronomy major program, which Swathmore, not having a graduate school of any kind, didn't have. Van de Kamp had a few graduate students at any one time, but it was a little short of an extensive program. I think this tended to place perhaps some limit on the program in the sense that many of the people who did the work were not themselves astronomers.
I see. They were undergraduate assistants?
They were undergraduate assistants, possible housewives, people in the neighborhood. For measuring that's probably the best source, because measuring is a very tedious and dull occupation. For observing, however, one gets undergraduate students primarily, it can be little difficult in the sense that observing is bound to conflict with their classwork and other things of that kind.
Yes. quite true. Okay then: you went from Swarthmore to U. S. Naval, and you spent three years there?
That's right, a little more than three.
And this was primarily in Washington.
Yes, it was entirely in Washington in the A&A division -- that's the Astrometry and Astro-physics division.
And you were working directly for whom?
Well, just after I came here, K. Strand succeeded G. Clemence as scientific director. He was succeeded as director of the A&A division by Stuart Sharpless, and Otto Franz became the assistant director of the division. Just before I left Victor Blanco succeeded Franz, who had succeeded Sharpless. Sharpless had left for a position at the University of Rochester. I worked not too extensively with anyone person. I was given some latitude and freedom to work on projects of my own choosing. Strand had an interest in the astrometric cluster plate collection at the Yerkes Observatory and worked on it to some extent. This was before Yerkes had obtained the services of Bill Van Altena, and at that time they had no astrometrist at Yerkes. Strand and I both went to Yerkes at various times for observing using the 40-inch refractor for second-epoch plates of clusters, though I didn't do an extensive amount of work on those plates before I left the Naval Observatory.
61-inch? I see. Then you didn't then have any contact with Kron or...?
No, the 61-inch was just getting going when I left. I did design or helped design (I believe Otto Franz had helped also) a cluster program for the 61-inch telescope concentrating on internal motions, motions of the stars relative to each other. Stars which are members of open clusters.
Future historians will be interested in the growth of astrometry, and in the last decade we've been going through quite a revolution, technological revolution, and also a revolution in reduction techniques. And at the Naval Observatory I think we see two elements of this revolution. The first would be Strand's measuring machine, the automatic measuring machine. The second would be just the use of reflectors for astrometric work. You mentioned just now that you didn't have any direct work with the 61, but you did have some indirect work with it. Did you have any contact with the automatic measuring engine?
Not much when I was there, but curiously enough quite a bit since. They have very graciously extended some measuring time both to us and to members of other astrometric observatories, and I or my assistants have measured quite frequently on the Strand automatic measuring machine.
Was this designed by Strand directly?
I believe some parts of it where. I think some of the research and development was done by the corporation that built it, but I think that Strand did design some of the components, though I haven't first-hand evidence of that.
That's certainly something that we can discuss with Strand. But I'm interested pretty much in working conditions at the Naval Observatory, one of our largest institutions, and how you personally found working alongside many of these people.
Well, working alongside the astronomers there was certainly very rewarding. Stuart Sharpless and Otto Franz in particular more than perhaps anyone else were very well worth having as companions; they taught me many things in the course of a day-to-day co11eagueship type of situation. The problem I encountered at the Naval Observatory -- and this was encountered by many other scientists -- probably seemed to be due more to the organization of the Naval Observatory. There's very little civilian staff at the Naval Observatory. Above the scientific director one immediately gets into military personnel, and I think it's well known that the military outlook and the scientific outlook often do not see things in the very same light. At times various people at the observatory would discuss the possibility of the Naval Observatory's being organized with or under the Naval Research Laboratory, and I think there would be much to be said for such an arrangement. Being under the Chief of Naval Operations offered many drawbacks.
I see. So this is NRL that you're referring to. That's an interesting idea. I never heard about that.
Well, this was a discussion from time to time by various people, not to my knowledge by anyone influential; it was just an idea that was kicked around.
Did the naval officers who were the administrative staff actually interfere in any of the work?
Some did and some didn't. It simply depended on the individual.
What was the nature of their interference?
Their interference was simply a total lack of understanding of the scientific commitment of the observatory. Many of them, including some of the commanders appointed as superintendents of the Naval Observatory, had no knowledge of astronomy at all.
So there was no selection?
The selection did not involve any priority towards astronomy that any of us could see.
I see. That's a very serious question, of course, that has to be looked at carefully. The Naval Observatory has a very long and turbulent history like this. There's a very large and rapid turnover of very fine people.
That's right. I understand the turbulent history has lasted a long time.
That's right, even from its inception. It was very hard to get it going. Of course, that's a 19th century question. I'm wondering now if you know anything about the future of the Naval Observatory.
No, I don't. I've visited there only a few times since. I know people there. I know for a fact that they have many able young astronomers in more than one division, but I simply don't know too much how things are shaping up. Strand has just retired, and I haven't seen him in a few months so I don't know how the situation is.
Well, when you were first there, these years in considering the tremendous turnover, you mentioned Clemence and others -- did you have any direct contact with them or with Raynor Duncombe?
Yes, Ray Duncombe. I spent one summer while at Case as a student employee of the Naval Observatory the summer I believe of 1959 in which I was in the Almanac Office working directly with Ray Dumcombe. He's a very fine person. At that time Edgar Woolard was also there. This was just before his retirement as director of the almanac office.
To gain a good idea (this is part of the purpose of exploratory interviews) of the history of the Naval Observatory, would you say that the names that you have already put forth would be the best sources for a study of the recent history 'of that institution?
I suspect so. These people are all around and except for one or two that have retired are still active.
Except Clemence recently died.
That's right, he recently died.
Who would you feel would be the most knowledgeable about the Navy interaction with the civilian scientists, and who would be able to speak most authoritatively on that kind of interaction?
I would just guess that Strand would be as scientific director, probably some of the division directors as well. Some were very outspoken to me about both pro and con concerning Naval interference.
Who were they? Was Strand one of them?
Yes, he spoke about it occasionally and some of the others who were in my division and others at the time.
Could you name anybody in particular?
Well, I'd rather not, because I'm riot just whose views were brought in, but I know there were some strong views expressed.
Okay, that's fine. We can certainly find from the published record of who is a director and who isn't, but we would appreciate some direction.
Well, during the three and a half years that I was at the Naval Observatory I had five bosses -- Strand was promoted to scientific director a few months after I came there; Stuart Sharpless succeeded him. My recollection is that Sharpless was not happy there. He about a year later accepted a position at the University of Rochester. He was succeeded by Otto Franz as either director or acting director of the A&A division I don't recall which. Otto was certainly also not happy at the Naval Observatory. That's my impression. And he left to take a position at Lowell Observatory. He was succeeded by Alfred Mikesell. He I think was in the nature of an interim division acting division director for a few months until Blanco was appointed division director. Blanco was there during my last year there for about one whole year until he left J and I think then he was succeeded by Paul Routly.
Well, those certainly are enough sources simply because they're very familiar names and important names.
At the Flagstaff station of course, Arthur Hoag and Pat Roemer were the two best-known astronomers. I got to know them.
While Otto Franz was at the Naval Observatory was he engaged as much as he is at present on imaging?
I don't believe so. I believe that at the Naval Observatory he was concerned more with Strand's double star program, and he started and I continued setting up a cluster program for the 6l-inch telescope.
Of course many of the imaging interests now center around double star work.
That's right and so there is a tie-in there.
He's quite an interesting fellow.
Oh, yes -- a very good friend.
Well, it's a nice circle of friends. Well, all right, then we've pretty much covered in profile at least the structure of your experience through the Naval Observatory, and that brings us up to Wesleyan in 1966. How did you come to Wesleyan? Who brought you here? How did you hear of a job opening? That sort of question.
I was contacted by Thornton Page, who was director of the observatory, and by Emery Fletcher, who for a semester was acting director of the observatory while Page was on leave. One or the other or probably both called me while I was at the Naval Observatory and asked me if I was interested and I would come up for an interview and I did. This was early in 1966. So that was how the contact was made.
So this was definitely not a publicized position.
Well, yes it was I believe they had two or three other people in mind as alternates, but I'm not sure. I think maybe they had looked over one or two other people or at least considered at some point one or two other people. There was no mechanism for advertising like the American Astronomical Society has today. There was no formal job register. Things seemed to have worked by the grapevine in those days.
Well, what was the main inducement for your coming here?
I think the main inducement was first of all some teaching. I was interested in doing some teaching, though not entirely. Second, taking over a parallax program, which had languished for about two years since Heinrich Eichhorn had left Wesleyan. And I had a chance to do research pretty much of my own plan. It was in a sense supported from the first year I was here. I got an NSF grant which has continued till the present covering the parallax work.
And so it was freedom and facilities.
Facilities, freedom, opportunity to do some teaching and yet not an exorbitant amount of teaching, and working with students, graduate students and so on, a university atmosphere I suppose.
When you started working here and you got your feet on the ground after a year or two did you find that the conditions were as you hoped them to be?
I think so. Page left here in 1968, a little less than two years after I came, and he was away a good deal, as everyone knows. But I think the conditions basically within the department and the observatory were primarily as I found them. That is, I found the people within the department extremely sociable, helpful. The graduate students were very rewarding to work with, and the other faculty members. At that time also Herbert Rood was here on the faculty.
So there were four people on the faculty.
There were four people on the faculty -- Page, Rood, Fletcher and myself when I came. I succeeded Frank Zabriskie who is now at Penn State.
Quite frankly, from an astronomy department of four to how many full time positions do you have…?
We have about one and a half positions.
It certainly reflects a rather unfortunate trend that is not unique to Wesleyan. Would you care to comment on possibly some of the reasons why at least at Wesleyan in particular this has happened?
I could. I was told unequivocally and clearly by Page, by Eichhorn, by Fletcher, and by two or three other astronomers who had intimate connections with this department, that I would under no conditions ever receive tenure at Wesleyan at any time. I was told unequivocally that this was due to the fact that the Van Vleck Will, which has a total estate of the order of a few million dollars, was to be left to the mathematics and the astronomy department because the original professor, Van Vleck, was in a joint department. Before 1916 astronomy was part of the mathematics department, and it split off at the time of the building of the Van Vleck Observatory about 1916. So I came here with the full understanding that I would never receive tenure, and I would never receive it because of the fact that the astronomy department was to be eliminated. This was widespread knowledge in the field of astronomy, and I was never considered at all to be betraying and confidences by discussing it openly with other astronomers.
So it was known that they were cutting off astronomy?
It was known that there was going to be pressure to eliminate. From what direction? From the direction of the administration of Wesleyan.
And it still isn’t quite clear why the administration would feel this way because the money was there at least jointly from the Van Vleck fund.
That's right, but the ostensible reason, the reason that was then and is today widely believed by the astronomers is that the chancellor of the University was a mathematician and that he favored the elimination of astronomy in order to leave it all to the math department perhaps -- I don't know. This is certainly the widespread view that is held among many astronomers and was before I was ever considered for an appointment here.
Was there any element in Page's frequent absences while director that could have contributed during this period?
He never took a leave of absence or sabbatical except where he was not only permitted, but encouraged by the administration to do. The administration strongly encouraged him extensively during his entire ten years here to take as many leaves as he felt in order to bring prominence to Wesleyan by his leaves. So his leave taking was an instrument not only of his own interest but also the interest of the administration and was the pattern extended to some of the physicists and geologists as well at that time. Page was not unique in this by any means.
That's an important element, because this is something that wouldn't be apparent to the general astronomical community. It did seem that Page spent a lot of time in Texas while he was director here on leave, was neglecting the situation. I think he was. I think he probably was neglecting the problems at home because he did have tenure -- he came here with tenure -- and was the only secure member of the department. It would have been nice if he had stayed around to try to put the department's house in order.
Is there any particular event that you can point to that could have changed this reduction in the number of full time staff?
I don't know what event might have happened. It certainly would have taken the form in those days of a facing down of the administration in front of the Board of Trustees.
Do you have any friends amongst the administration staff?
I suspect I do.
You being the astronomy department, people sympathetic to...
Yes, I found people sympathetic to astronomy among many places at Wesleyan.
Politically what are the most important elements that can maintain astronomy here do you feel?
Well, things have changed over the years that I have been here. First of all let me say that I have never found evidence that Wesleyan has an anti-tenure policy as such. However, every single staff decision that they've made over the last 15 to 20 years has been consistent with such a policy if they had one. In the last 15 to 20 years we have had over 15 people in teaching positions, and where some of them were in part time teaching positions this has meant an incredible turnover; a lack of being able to plan a course curriculum, something which I think has been very unfair to the students; of the fact that there has just been no long-range planning possible in this department. And to those people who got anywhere near consideration for tenure, it was made very evident that there was no possibility.
How would this affect, of course, research, especially astrometric research here?
I think extremely adversely. Astrometric research consists of examining the motions ,of stars. and one had to wait for the stars to move, and stars move very slowly; so that a university engaged in astrometric research has to plan in terms of decades rather than years. As a result, I think any time when you have such an uncertainty, both of the extension of the department and of the staff within that department, you are bound to have the program affected adversely, because you are always left with the decision: should I put the emphasis in terms of long-term observations, which may never be examined by anyone if the department ceases to exist, or should I switch over to short-term work, continue to work on the observations which have been made and put the emphasis there? This is a question which Heinz Eichhorn faced before me and which I have faced during my entire stay here. Where should the emphasis be put? Now, ideally in any department where you knew that there was going to be a certain durability, you would make long-term observations covering five, ten, even 15 or 20 years. But here with the knowledge that the department may cease to exist or that they may hire astrophysicists in place of astronomers or merge with the physics department, which has been tried from time to time, one simply can't do that. Just in the nature of what's best for astronomy. One is left with the dilemma of short-term versus long-term commitments.
The Van Vleck 20-inch is not an early refractor.
No, it's one of the most recent refractors built. It was finished in 1922.
Do you have astrometric material from that date?
I understand that you do have a considerable collection of plates of Barnard's star.
Yes, we do but nothing to compare with the Sproul collection.
But is there enough for let's say some independent discussion of that star? Has that discussion come about?
I loaned the plates to George Gatewood of the Allegheny Observatory, and I think his conclusions are based partly on Van Vleck material.
I didn't realize that. That's quite significant. Even though the amount of plates, as you say does not compare, that's probably because you did not have the same focus of interest.
That's right. Here we never carried on a long-term series to the extent of hundreds of plates. It was on parallaxes more than on orbital motion.
So here we see another possible effect of this turnover and There have been three tenured astronomers in the history of Van Vleck in this century; the observatory, I might mention, was finished in 1916; and at that time Frederick Slocum was director until 1944 when he retired -- Carl Stearns, who had been here earlier and accepted a position at Yale, came back to Wesleyan in a tenured position as director until his retirement in 1960. Stearns carried the astrometric program forward, and the program centered around parallaxes of nearby red dwarfs. This sounds like an obvious thing now, but, curiously enough, in those days before astro-physics had showed us just what kinds of stars we have, most parallaxes were obtained of stars which are so far away that the parallax is of little value in comparison to its error. So that Van Vleck has the longest-standing program -- possibly longer than the McCormick Observatory -- of obtaining parallaxes of nearby stars in large numbers where they can be studied statistically in groups. And this is something I have continued, because the parallaxes of these nearby stars are the ones which are much larger than their error. And it's the ratio of the parallax to its error that is all-important in determining properties of the stars, such as luminosity and distance: things of that sort.
Concerning some of the problems of the local distribution of stars and many of the questions of luminosity function now, which I imagine are used by Salpeter and others to discuss creation functions, what do you think is the state of the problem today in terms of galactic evolution?
First of all it should be mentioned that the parallaxes that we have today are primarily those listed in the catalogue prepared by L. Jenkins, which is the last edition of the Yale Catalogue started by F. Schlesinger. The great majority of stars there, and the realization that there have not been many parallaxes produced since, means that they did & swell as they could at the time -- in fact they did very well and parallaxes are not as precise as we can get today even with traditional instruments and traditional means of observing.
What do you mean? Clarify that.
By that I mean with long-focus refractors and photographic plates. Given nothing else but improvement in reduction techniques, we can cut the errors in parallaxes by a factor of 2 to 3.
Are these mechanical measuring engine improvements or reduction improvements?
Primarily measurement and reduction improvements, including more stars in the reference frame, which stabilizes the solution.
This involves automation among other things, automatic measuring?
To some extent. Even hand measuring, given more reference stars and better reduction techniques that are possible today with computers, we can reduce the errors by a factor of 2 or more. This means that you can extend over a much greater volume of space an astrometric accuracy down to a liven level. "If you can reduce the parallax error in half, you've doubled the distance over which you can get a parallax to a given percentage error. If you double the distance, you raise the volume by a factor of 8. That's of great importance. And this is something that must be done before the galactic distance scale can be significantly improved. Today we know to a 2% error or less, only ten stars in the universe, and they're all very, very nearby ones. Barnard's star is the only object outside the solar system whose error in parallax is less than 1%, whose distance then is known to a 1% error.
I know that your interest in the distance scale has been a continuing one, and the most important cluster for the calibration of the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram by the Hyades cluster is something that you've made a long-standing project from time to time, especially your papers in 1974, which have been highly referenced, on the distance to the Hyades. Was this work stimulated in part by the paper by Hodge and Wallerstein in 1967?
Yes, certainly, that was the paper which brought the problem to the fore, the fact that what we now refer to as the classical Hyades distance -- we put it in terms of modulus 3.0 being the difference between apparent and absolute magnitudes.
3.0 is not the present value.
No, that would be the so-called classical Van Buren distance. And Paul Hodge and George Wallerstein, for somewhat erroneous reasons, pointed out that that seemed to be very much too low.
What were their erroneous reasons? I know that some of the reasons had a certain degree of knowledge behind them. Others were erroneous?
They used an equal weight for several distance module of varying values.
I think the material on the Hyades is of tremendous importance. You had indicated that the fourth astrometric conference was when you had first become quite interested in the problem.
Approximately the first. That was in 1969.
Okay. Could you take on from there then?
Yes. At that meeting it became evident that there was a strong interest among about a half a dozen observatories to observe the same stars and thus provide more information the difference between telescopes. And Bill Van Altena presented a list of 20 Hyades members which he felt would very well define the distance to the Hyades as a whole being seemingly located, from their motions and positions, in the middle of the cluster. So Van Vleck along with several other observatories obtained parallax observations of the Hyades members. We had a fair number of series by about 1973, and at that time certainly all appearances was that the parallax program at Van Vleck would be brought to an end, and I published a short paper in the ASTRONOMICAL JOURNAL giving the parallaxes as they came from the plates at that time, since it appeared that that probably would be the only contribution that Van Vleck would make. As it turns out, we've gotten many more observations since, and will measure all of the plates again and improve on the parallaxes in that note, which might be considered somewhat provisional.
If I recall, there was this feeling at that time that you didn't know that the program would continue (this was in '74).
For tenure? '73, sorry. And this was the first year that you had come up for tenure?
Yes, I came up for tenure at that time, and at that time there was considerable support -- in fact, widespread support -- from the astronomical community. Though Wesleyan, in order to not have a tenured astronomer, provided a four-year appointment for me, which I'm now in.
How much time during this period of tenure application did you spend actually working toward tenure as opposed to doing your normal research? How much time did it actually waste?
Well, it wasted a fair amount, I suppose. I think I mentioned in an earlier tape that I came with the probable presupposition that I would never get tenure here; certainly everyone that I talked to made that unequivocal. At that time the job market was good, and I took this position with the feeling that I would probably spend eight very pleasant years (and they have been pleasant) and then go on to another position. Since that time, of course, the deterioration of the job market has meant not only for me but for all of my staff a great deal of concern in the fact that we really must provide for our future employment, which we know to be a fact. This has adverse effects on all of the decisions -- teaching and research -- in the sense that we can only think of things in the very short term. For years now none of the staff or faculty of the observatory has had appointments which last long enough until the present freshman become seniors, and as such we cannot plan a teaching program that has any kind of coherence over a several year span. This isn't so bothersome to the master's program, because most people spend only two years in the master's program, nut aside from myself, it's been many years now since anyone has held an appointment longer than a single year. And my position. in order to keep with the American Association of University Professors provision, must be less than half time teaching; so that the teaching falls primarily on people who have terminal appointments of one year capacity, and therefore they have taught well. extremely well. We've been very fortunate in never having had a poor teacher here. Now the students can't get the benefit of a long-term association with the faculty that they're entitled to.
The two points of contact concerning the tenure problem and the fate of astronomy at Wesleyan that we had covered on that segment of the tape that wasn't preserved was your discussion of the opinions of the past names who have been here and also the role of the physics department vis-a-vis the continuance of the program and the maintenance of staff positions. Which would you prefer to discuss first?
Let me divide the past personnel into groups, because I am now thinking back upon what I said a few moments ago, I think it could best be considered in two groups. The personnel prior to the retirement of Carl Stearns and the appointment of Thornton Page as director were Stearns himself, who took over in 1944 upon Slocum's retirement, and n. Sitterly, who had been here from the '20s until the 1940s, and Storer and Matthews. These were the primary staff over those years, and I think there may have been one or two other people as well. I talked with all of those people, especially with Stearns, at considerable length, and Sitterly. And Stearns and Sitterly -- and the others: Storer and Matthews as well -- expressed disappointment both then and now (that is, disappointment with the administration of Wesleyan at that time and now) in not granting the kind of tenure that allowed stability of the parallax program. They all felt the parallax program was important. They felt it needed long-term appointments, at least one or two; and the denial of these kinds of appointments they felt very bitterly about, both as to their own personal situation here and as regards to the present. Since 1960 we have had a succession of people here. Thornton Page came to Wesleyan in 1958 in a tenured capacity, and. he was here ten years. But aside from him we've had about 15 people here in a series of short appointments, lasting from my own several-year appointment down to many one-year appointments. And this I think has created a great deal of discontinuity in the department, a great deal of frustration, when the job market became difficult. I think it was the fact that in a good job market you could have a transitory situation and people would work, teach, and then move on. In a bad job market people have got to put their primary interest in the future position, not in the present one. Now, as regards the physics department, there has been a considerable effort by the administration supported by some members of the physics department to terminate the astronomy department's position, and kind of interest, and start an astro-physics department program contained within the physics department, since some of the people in that department had astro-physical implications although they were not astro-physicists. And these people were interested in creating a group of perhaps a couple or three astro-physicists who would have a much more different outlook than the observational department which we have had, and which would not have made use of the observational facilities that Wesleyan has now, which are very good for a small university.
I think that you have reviewed the important elements to the point where we have now recaptured some of that material. So let's move on to the FAR.
I believe it's now called the Fund for Astrophysical Research. Could you give me some idea of the history of this and who is...
Yes, it's incorporated as a foundation or fund as a corporation in the laws of New York State in about the mid-1930s -- I seem to recall by Theodore Dunham, astronomer, and two or three other people, partly with monies from some of their families. Their interest was in providing seed money for projects of astrophysical interest, among them, some of the solar instrumentation at the Mt. Wilson Observatory that I believe they worked on in 1940. Ted Dunham is still president of the FAR today, and I was asked by the FAR. Especially as I was looking for other employment at the time, to be executive officer covering about 40% of my work. And the Wesleyan administration agreed to this, and so for two years here -- 1972 to '74 I believe --40% of my time was on leave to the FAR, primarily to develop a project in collaboration with the University of Tasmania using Australian money and money raised by the FAR in the United States for an American-Australian Observatory which the United States and Canada (or astronomers from those two countries) would use for facilities in the southern hemisphere. And the facility is to be a 60-inch reflecting telescope with Cassegrain and Coude spectrographs. The FAR's Board of Trustees is made up primarily of astronomers, including Lawrence Aller, Gerald Kron, K. O. Wright, Ted Dunham, myself and Harlan Smith and I believe one or two others. There are, of course, several lawyers and businessmen involved. One of them is Dunham's nephew, a lawyer in New York City. At the end of that time, the executive officer position was phased out and they voted me vice-president of the corporation with Dunham as president and his nephew as secretary-treasurer. And about two years ago the Australian government voted 200,000 Australian dollars (about 250 to 300,000 American dollars) for their portion of the project to erect this telescope. Then shortly after. inflationary problems put a freeze on that and many other funds by the government of Australia. But I just received word a couple of months ago that those funds are once again freed, so that the probability exists that if we are successful in raising some American money in addition to the FAR's own resources, that we will be able to once again to get going on the project. It's a project which I think has some considerable chance of succeeding because the mirror is now being figured at Victoria, the Dominion Observatory, and is a 50-inch blank, as I recall (I think I said 60 before). I think it's a 50-inch blank with high reflection Cervit optics, and we have about the capacity of a standard traditional 70-inch reflector, and the building is already built. What we need yet to provide is the mounting for the facility as a joint project.
Quite a substantial instrument.
Yes, it is.
I have two basic questions about the Fund. First of all, how do you acquire the resources, and second, how do you go about deciding what to fund, what to support?
The decision to fund this came about through Ted Dunham's and Lawrence Aller's association with the University of Tasmania. Dunham himself has put in a great deal of time and effort into developing the general site. I don't recall your first question. DeVork1n: Where did the money come from?
Primarily it just comes from fund-raising efforts in this country.
Amongst what kind of groups?
Amongst private sector groups primarily: NSF and the other government funding agencies are pretty heavily committed in the southern hemisphere to the Chilean observatory at Tol0lo. And I think that most interest that we have uncovered so far comes from the private business sector with Australian interests.
I see. Are they anonymous?
Well, I would say it's a little too early in the game for us to have a very clear picture of more than the fact that there are a number of places that do seem to show an interest. We're too early in the fund-raising procedure.
You'd prefer not to name them?
I couldn't name them. I simply couldn't because we haven't really approached them in a systematic way yet.
Well, in the past, since the '30s, what have been the sources?
I think there again it was primarily American private sector money. but I couldn't say just what. I don't recall. I've only been associated with the group for the last three or four years.
Yes. But has the interest been always for instrumentation in the southern hemisphere?
No, instrumentation not necessarily in the southern hemisphere. The project which comes to mind most is some of the solar instrumentation at Mt. Wilson. It need not be southern hemisphere-confined. And I think also that there's quite a connection established through the Dominion Observatory in Victoria, British Columbia. Harvey Richardson there has done quite a bit of work in working with the optics of mirrors which FAR has acquired.
Many years ago I talked with Jerry Kron about this -- I didn't realize this was the name of the group, -- but when I talked with him, it was also my impression that you looked for equipment that wasn't being fully utilized and was available to be used to other observatories. Is this still being done?
Not on any systematic basis. I would say that the group has not been particularly active outside of this project, which has been called Project Canopus of constructing a telescope in Australia. The group has not been active in any systematized way with respect to any other project.
Are there any publications or semi-official histories of this?
Just general documentation and occasional reports of the president from time to time.
Where are these kept?
In-house memos. I have some of them in my files. They're not circulated except occasionally as we have had operating grants, grants for operation.
How would this group differ from AURA or some of the other better-known, more visible groups? Is there a difference in governmental support? I mean would you class this group as a very unique entity?
I think it is unique. AURA is an association of about 12 universities and has that kind of very organized structure and of course is funded by the Federal government on a regular continuing basis. Although there are some assets of the FAR, the assets could only really be considered seed money. They don't have the kind of working capital to provide the costs themselves of the projects in which they've become interested. So the group primarily is one of their individual astronomers who receive nothing from their institutions perhaps more than some of their time to work on their projects as granted to them by their home universities -- to my knowledge, that's all -- individual astronomers working with lawyers and businessmen have essentially worked as a group of individuals, although the funds of course are incorporated so it does it in a corporate status. But in that sense it's an entity that I think has no parallel that I know of in astronomy.
It's a very interesting group. Have you had any contacts with the MIRA (Monterey Institute for Research in Astronomy) group?
I know some of the people involved, though I've not had any formal contact with them.
Could you comment on what the status of their work is at this time?
No. I couldn't. I know approximately what their general goals are, but I don't know how far along they are with the procedure. I'd say they might turn out to be the closest equivalent to the FAR I know within the field of astronomy.
Do you believe this is going to increase? I mean where do you see the future sources of funding coming from for astronomical research? Do you think there are going to be more groups like this formed by necessity?
I think there will be. I think necessity is forcing astronomers to look to sources that might have been not systematically approached in the past. The FAR has consulted a professional fund-raising organization, and I've worked with these people to at least a general planning extent, though the Australian freeze prevented us from going to any systematized approaches yet. There was no need for it.
I see. Can you tell us the name of that?
Yes, the Cumerford Fund. I don't know whether it's Fund or Corporation. I think it might be Corporation. I've worked primarily with Mr. Daniel Earle of Providence in establishing the kind of plan of attack. We've consulted with the Australian Consulate in New York City to generate lists of American firms and Australian counterparts of Australian franchises, because these businesses seem to show quite an interest in anything that strengthens the ties between these two countries -- cultural, scientific or any other kind of parallel. So I think there are these sources. I'm very optimistic about any concerted plan in this kind of attack, because I think that there are many people interested to the point where interest can be self-generating. And one thing the FAR does is at least have seed money with which to further attract other funds for the purpose of establishing a particular project. But I think the project has to be very carefully defined, perhaps even a little bit better defined than we have in the past so that one goes with a very succinct plan and not a generalization. But I do see things like this happening in the present and in the future, because of the fact that federal funding and the interest in our society in general science has so obviously fallen in recent years.
Do you see in the future approaching industrialists, individual people, as much as the entrepreneurs at the turn of the century did?
I think so. I think we might go back to a George Ellery Hale type of approach. My own thesis adviser, Jason Nassau at Case was very very successful at developing first with Mr. Warner and Mr. Swasey of the Warner and Swasey Company and later with other people in Cleveland a personal basis among some of the enterprises in the Cleveland area as a firm financial foundation for the Warner and Swasey Observatory. Although it was associated and always has been associated with the Case Institute of Technology, much of the financial support of that observatory comes from Nassau's personal contacts with the Cleveland community -- the great majority.
It seems like we're in a very critical period, as you point out. You've not identified the sources that you're going towards, because as you mentioned, they're not identified as yet even to you. But do you have any particular ones in mind?
We would certainly look towards corporations and foundations, much as the Perkin Foundation and the Perkin Elmer Foundation have shown an interest both in Ted Dunham and our work. We have had an operations grant from the Perkin Fund. That kind of corporation and fund is the kind that we would consider approaching in this regard. They have not so much an interest in Australia as they have an interest in optics and astronomy generally and have shown quite a considerable interest. So, as I say, we would probably go through drawing up lists of probable interested corporations and individual personal contacts wherever possible -- people we happen to know on a personal level within those corporations on the board of directors or trustees, and approach these people personally: do it primarily through a personal contact level. Much of this is Mr. Earle's conception and apparently he's an extremely successful person in the field. He has been associated with Brown University in the past, but I don't believe he is at the moment.
I see. Does the Fund Committee actually meet physically from time to time, or do you just do your work by correspondence?
It’s a little hard because we’re scattered all over North America and so we haven’t met as a body. Often two or three of us might be present at an American Astronomical Society meeting and we’ll get together. I do a lot of chatting with both Ted Dunham and his nephew over the telephone. And as I say, we have been sort of in a stagnant position because of this Australian freeze. But I think that now that that’s been just released. we probably might very well get active again. One of the problems, too, is that this is bound to be a secondary concern. Ted Dunham has retired, but the rest of us have positions at universities and this is bound to be our secondary concern. Our primary activity is going to be centered around the work at our respective universities.
Do you see Theodore Dunham actively involved then?
Oh, very definitely. Although retired, he's extremely active in this and I think certainly has put in the most time as anyone involved by far.
He has a very long history of being a very fine instrumentation…
Yes, and I think that’s where his expertise counts very helpfully, too in designing the Coude Spectrograph and in using instrumental design -- his own and other people’s.
Does he have very good contacts and rapport with people in corporations and business?
I don’t know that he does personally to a great degree.
Did his interest develop mainly through the Tasmania position that he had for a while?
I think primarily that although he's also looked into the possibility of a site at Perth because Perth has a somewhat clearer sky. My own feeling is that our ties in Tasmania are strong enough that the only modestly inferior site still would be preferred because the buildings and much of the cost and the land is already developed; the site is a developed site, as we think of it, with a road access, facilities and so forth. Perth would have to be a whole operation that would start from scratch.
Does this have anything to do with the fact that there seems to be a radio window over the Australian sub-continent and over Tasmania? I remember recalling about a decade ago. In fact, that it was a particularly radio quiet area for a certain range of wavelengths.
Yes, this would be an optical telescope, and I don't see any obvious connections there. One of the reasons for associating it in Australia is that Australia has two things. It has seismic stability -it's not an earthquake area -- and it has political stability. And there are very few such sites in the southern hemisphere. The southern hemisphere is primarily a water hemisphere. If you look at the land area of the earth and take Antarctica out of consideration, most of the land of the earth is in the northern hemisphere. So we're stuck with southern South America. South Africa. neither of which is politically or racially among the most desirable sites in the world, and Australia. The second benefit of Australia, of course, for American observers is that Chile is directly south of the United States -- the east coast of the United States primarily -- and for some synchronous periods that occur in astronomy, it's very handy to have an east-west baseline in addition to the more obvious north-south baseline. The most obvious example is Mars when it comes into opposition with its 24 1/2 day period has about a 50-day beat period, so to speak, with the earth. During an entire opposition anyone longitude see pretty much only one aspect of the surface of Mars. Whereas, the Mariner and any other space exploration vehicles can do some other work, they can't do it all. There is still some earth-based astronomy left to do with stars, and if not Mars there is certainly more with other variable stars and other things with a one or an N-day period.
It's extremely important for variable work, short-period Short-period binaries.
We're talking about a lot of short-range phenomena now that were unknown a few decades ago, and it's very important to get a spread in longitude. David Dunham's work on grazing occultations requires a big longitude range, too, to take advantage of observations. Do you know David Dunham by any chance?
No, I don't. I've talked to him once or twice on the phone at which times that our observatory is able to provide a photograph or two.
Right. Okay. Well, I think we have a pretty good background on that group. There's one other thing I wanted to discuss and that's Wilmott-Fleming Company.
Over lunch we had a discussion about the Wilmott-Fleming Company and the restoration they used to support of Clark telescopes. And there was a man that you were particularly in contact with. Could you tell me about this man and also about what you know of the origins of this company and their interests?
Yes. As you know, many of the refractors in the United States have optics made by the Alvan Clark Company and mountings manufactured by the Warner and Swasey Company. There's a certain family resemblance between the mountings of most of the large refractors in this country. The Warner and Swasey Company has not pursued an interest in telescopes, either the building or the refurbishment, renovation of the telescopes for a number of years. And when I came to Wesleyan in 1966, it had been several years since Heinrich Eichhorn had left, and the telescope had not been active in parallax research, and it was very evident that this neglect showed up in the condition of the instrument. So in order to make the instrument fully operative, I looked into the procedure -- first of all of simple restoration and secondly the renovation: that is, a modernization from the old hand controls to automatic controls. So I looked to those people that were in this kind of work and found from Peter van de Kamp at Swarthmore College, who had just had the 24-inch refractor at Sproul Observatory renovated, that the Wilmot-Fleming of Philadelphia was active in this kind of work, and I found that one of their chief engineers, whose name was John Size, had been given from Warner and Swasey Company many of the blueprints for Warner and Swasey telescopes and essentially had been handed the business, such as it was, of telescope renovation. So Mr. Fleming and Mr. Size visited Van Vleck at my invitation -- at that time Thornton Page was still here. They looked over our instruments and then made a bid on what they could do, what we wanted, and we got together on a bid which later I submitted as a grant to NSF and other places. At that time the state of Connecticut had a research corporation, which also awarded grants, and we got a grant from them, too. So through Mr. Size I developed a plan by which we would first replace the 16 wheels on which the 34-foot dome of the 20-inch refractor rode. The wheels when I came here were literally crumbling. One could break off pieces of cast iron in one's hand. And, of course, if one wheel gave completely, it would put more stress on the others, and you could have something amounting almost to a chain reaction. So we braced the dome up and had the wheels replaced as a first critical step and then went on to renovate the rest of the 20-inch telescope. John Size was the person with whom I worked, and he had the entire tube of the telescope dismounted, broken down into several pieces, and the entire mounting part way down to the polar axis, the declination, the counterweights, the delineation circles and all of this was hauled up out through the slit and onto the truck and down to Philadelphia where it was completely modernized. Together we designed a console which the telescope did not have before. I did have one stipulation, and that is that the telescope can be operated manually in every way. The dome can be turned by hand, the slit could be opened by hand, the telescope can be guided by hand -- everything except the drive can be done in the event of a power failure. That is, one can continue observing for a while and close up in the event of electric power failures, which in this region of the country are very frequent.
What would be the source for the drive in that case?
The drive there would have to have a wind-up capability, which we don't at the moment have, in order to continue observing; but at least one can close up.
Yes, that's very important.
In the event of a power failure. Everything can be done by hand with that exception.
So you do have mechanical override for the slit.
In case it snows on you.
Well, this fellow John Size seems to be a very interesting person.
He's a very interesting person. He's developed a number of individual specialties, one of which was telescope renovation.
It seems like he may have more experience with Clark telescopes than anyone alive.
He thinks he may very well, at least with their mountings; he's not an optician. But as far as the mounting aspect of it, I think he has a considerable amount of experience, perhaps more than anyone else.
Okay. Did you have other bids to your knowledge?
We didn't. And part of that was we simply couldn't find anyone else who we thought was both interested and capable.
That's quite significant. Did NSF or any of the other funding agencies worry about this?
Not to my knowledge. There was no concern over the fact that Fleming was the only one.
And then when they were given the go ahead, did you have any difficulties with them or was it smooth sailing?
Smooth sailing. There was only a very modest delay, nothing significant, over the time which they had hoped, but nothing of any great note. There were two months in the first job with the dome wheels in which the dome was frozen in position, but parallax observing stays very close to the meridian especially with the flexure problems of long focus refractors -- so we actually became specialists in fixed-slit observing, not through intent but in the fact that for two months we were frozen in position, but this slowed us down only marginally. But it was an interesting little experience. Also, John Size renovated the 6-inch refractor, which dates from 1836. I found, and he restored, the original Honduras mahogany mount for that telescope.
That's quite a beautiful instrument. Did he say anything about that telescope as far as any special characteristics that it might have had when he did the renovation to your knowledge?
Not too much, no. As I say, he was not an expert on optics at all, simply on the physical performance. He was a vibration specialist, so one of his features was to study and remove vibrations that might be caused by anything, whatever might cause vibrations: air conditioning equipment or anything else. That was another of his specialties. But he primarily was interested just in the engineering of the mount and was not an expert in the optics. He simply took the optics as they were and provided a renovation of the mounting, the drive mechanism, the circuitry for the 20-inch. I think he subcontracted the console design, as I recall.
Well, if I decided to contact Mr. Size or the Wilmot-Fleming Company, just to find out what the status of those blueprints are and possibly even to talk about their recollections renovating various telescopes may I use your name?
Okay. And would you mind if I were to give this information, just this particular information, to Deborah Jean Warner of the Smithsonian?
That would be fine. Mr. Size has another interest, and that is the design and building of boats, and he's since left the Wilmot-Fleming Company and lives in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. And I'm not sure that he is still interested in telescope renovation, because his interest is now in boats. As you know, Ft. Lauderdale is a great boating center; and he has quite a few bids for construction of various small craft.
But he is still quite active.
He seems to have an active interest in amateur astronomy.
I mean active in general. He could be interviewed.
Oh, yes indeed.
What's his approximate age?
I would say he's probably in his fifties, something like that. And he's very friendly and easy to contact and chat about, and if he is not himself involved, he certainly would be a great help in discussing the possibilities of who might remain interested in that kind of work.
And, as you say, he might have the blueprints or Wilmot-Fleming. Probably he or Wilmot-Fleming Company would have it. In any case Warner and Swasey does not.
That's my understanding: as I recall, that he got access to most of their blueprints.
Other than the Van Vleck telescope and the Swarthmore telescope. do you know of some of the others that he's worked on? You said he worked on all sizes.
Well, I don't know of any large telescopes he worked on. He worked on a number of telescopes of approximately the 12-inch size.
You mentioned Dave Garroway.
Yes, Dave Garroway, the television star, is a very interested amateur astronomer and has a telescope -- I think it's a Clark, and I think it's located somewhere in Long Island. And Size did some renovation work on that instrument. The Clark instruments from 6-, 8-, 10-, 12-inch, that general size, was probably the primary source of his business. As I say, I do not know of any of the large research level instruments that he has worked on, though there might possibly be some.
Since you know a good number of astronomers we would like any of your comments, recollections of them, what their major areas of interest are and just some free association about them, possible personality profiles, professional profiles, anything that could lead us into their careers in a way that would be different from impressions we could get from their published literature. Who would you like to start with?
Willem Luyten. My position with regard to him in astronomy is unique.
Okay, fine. Then let's start with him.
Luyten has of course had a very interesting career, colorful you might call it; and unfortunately for a number of people he comes across as being very cantankerous and argumentative. He has had a number of fights over many of years with a number of other astronomers, both widely known and younger astronomers. And a lot of people don't see Willem Luyten for the kind of person he is. He's a very sincere person, extremely sincere person, but he makes these great blasts at other astronomers, some of which come in print. These challenges of other astronomers' work make him appear to be a complete kook, which he's not at all. Luyten moderately well since I was seven or eight years old, and he is totally sincere. When he gets into a fight with people and he seems to get into any number of fights with people, not only in astronomical matters but around Minneapolis and University political matters, it is as if he were trying to educate them. When he "punishes" somebody in print, it's almost as if he's trying to simply instruct them. because he has a great desire to instruct. I remember several times visiting him at his house when I was in high school and later in college. and he would be very informative. One could not spend an hour around Luyten without learning many things, mostly about astronomy but often about many other things as well. Being around Luyten you would learn many. many things about astronomy no matter what kind of an astronomer you were. His knowledge is extremely widespread on many little facets of the field. He also has an extremely droll sense of humor. With just a slight corner upturn of his mouth, he could make a statement which would absolutely bring immediate laughter to an entire room. Also, it would appear from some of his attacks in print -- and especially, I think unfortunately, attacks on younger astronomers, people like Donna Weisstroph(?), for instance -- I think one might get a mistaken impression of how he would be around students. As a student I found him excellent to be around. He gave me nothing but encouragement. He was very quick to tell me when I did well on an exam. Fortunately I was a good student, at the time, of his, and a very interested one; he talked me into astronomy; he gave me every bit of encouragement to stay in the field. But this. let's say argumentativeness -- I can't quite think of the right word -- did not extend to students who worked for him. He was extremely encouraging at all times, extremely fair-minded, encouraging and positive -- a very positive influence. And this is something which I am perhaps the only professional astronomer who knows, certainly the only professional astronomer who worked under him and saw this from the student's point of view.
Did he have many students who went on?
Very few. You see, he was one person; he taught a modest number of courses, but a lot of those were just these large introductory courses. And I can't think off hand of another student of his as an undergraduate who later went on for a doctorate in astronomy. There may have been some. But primarily the people who came out of the University of Minnesota came out of the physics department, people like Bob Danielson I believe is one; Erickson might be another. I know he was there at Minnesota. And so there were very few that came out of an astronomical background.
There's quite a large institute of astronomy there now. Did he have a hand in that?
He had nothing to do with that. He was rather at odds with them, as I recall. There were primarily two camps: Luyten and the others, and the other is of fairly recent origin. Luyten was astronomy there I think pretty much up until he retired about ten years ago.
He's still relatively active, isn't he?
Oh, very active, yes; He's exceedingly active and dedicated.
How old is he now?
He is about 77 or 78, in there.
How is his health?
Excellent. I just met him last summer and Mrs. Luyten, too, and I think he's in fine health.
Is this just a trait of his personality, that he's misunderstood in the literature?
Well, he attacks people, and I think he goes too far. He doesn't seem to realize it. It seems to be just a strange trait, that he just can't contain himself in print, which I think is not the place to do it. and sometimes in an address before the Society he simply makes attacks which I think goad some people. And I think most astronomers finally get over it and they finally just realize that it's their month to get attacked by Luyten, and they just kind of pass it off: people like Bill van Altena and me and various other people have once in a while. And we pass it off: "Well, there's Luyten sounding off again." He seems to have to do this periodically.
Do people listen to him, though?
I think they do. That's the danger. The danger is not when he attacks somebody like Greenstein or somebody who's professionally recognized, Maarten Schmidt, any number of people, but when he attacks a younger person. He can damage a person's career, and I think that's when he steps over the limits. But I also want to mention that he's to my knowledge not only not done it to students, who are the most vulnerable of all, but if anything, bends over backwards the other way.
What I really meant was: would you say that people still respect his opinion and are his criticisms usually constructive?
His criticisms are often constructive. He has a damnable way of being right. On this M dwarf business he has turned out to be more right than people might have thought a few years ago. So that his opinion -- if you can divide the opinion from the vitriol and the vituperation -- is often a very, very well founded one. He just clothes it with all these attacks that makes people become instantly hostile towards him. and I think he shouldn't do that. I just disagree with that as simply not the way to do science.
Do you think if he had spent more of his career in a larger department this would have been different?
I'm not sure. It's a case of which came first -- whether he was in a small department, essentially a one-man department, for so many years that he came to this, or whether he was of this kind of personality where he could only function in a one-man department. I'm not sure which of those was the case. But I think he would have a hard time in a large department because he would be fighting with many people all the time about his, that and the other.
If we interview him, would he be the type of person who would be amenable to questions about his personality and about the types of controversies that he's had with people in the past?
I think he would be. There's certain frankness in all this, a blunt frankness. His attacks are widely known -- his exchange with G. Kuiper and his exchanges with F. Kopal are almost classics of overstatements; each has even accused the other person of unethical conduct and things like this. I think these things have gotten out of hand. Nonetheless I think he is open and frank, and whereas he may be under the misunderstanding that his attacks don't hurt, they do hurt. Still I think he would be willing to discuss them rather candidly. I think he realizes that he has been a controversial person.
Okay, that gives a very nice profile of him I think for our preparations, for our needs. If there's nothing else particularly in mind about Luyten, could we move on to one of the others? You've mentioned that you're very well acquainted with van de Kamp, of course, and with Bart Bok. Who would you like to take up next?
Well, Peter van de Kamp is also like Luyten.
He's like Luyten?
Well. like Luyten he's an astrometrist; he's from the Netherlands. Luyten and van de Kamp have known each other since they were very young men. Van de Kamp is in one way the opposite of Luyten. He's hardest on the people who work under him. Those are just the people that Luyten was easiest on. It was very difficult to come up with a new idea at Sproul, and there were such clashes of personality. I've observed van de Kamp clashing with people on his staff, not with other astronomers, though there may be some exceptions to that. But Peter is an extremely versatile person. His interest in music is beyond challenge. He has extraordinary musical ability, both as to playing the piano, understanding music -- I've chatted with him about music, which is one of my major interests, and his collection of Chaplin films is very well known. Like Luyten, except a bit more theatrica1ly,he can give a lecture superbly. Luyten does it almost with understatement and in a very droll way. Van de Kamp is a little bit more theatrical but also comes across very strongly. And both of them I'm sure have turned on countless students in introductory courses. I speak of that from first-hand experience in both cases.
Concerning van de Kamp, of course when one thinks of van de Kamp one thinks of Barnard's star. It seems like, from his published work, he's both a specialist in long focus astrometry and in the reduction techniques and a specialist in the study of nearby stars and primarily astrometric binaries and perturbations. Would this pretty much classify his entire career? The astrometry he does is certainly different from Luyten's. Luyten works on proper motions and general surveys; van de Kamp doesn't seem to do this. But in addition to Barnard's star, what would be the most important element of his career?
I think stars like Barnard's star -- I think looking at the development of a long series on nearby stars such as Epsiolon Eridani and Kruger 60, Lalande 21185, various other stars, generally within 5 parsecs, for the purpose of studying the very long-term changes in these things, the possibility of perturbations or if they are known, binaries or mass-rations. I think he's done a great deal in determining very highly valuable mass-ratios of known binaries, of those that are resolved an even in some cases unresolved astrometric stars. I don't know about his early years so much, but in recent years I think that sums up his central contribution.
Is there a chance that his preoccupation with Barnard's star and finding objects of planetary mass and the recent results criticizing this work have cast a pall on his general life work and on the astrometry in general?
It could have. He is known to be probably the most old fashioned of astrometrists active today, and for a while he was very resistant to new methods, especially the use of computers and the use of more general constraint-free reduction techniques. And I think considering him as old-fashioned, and therefore thinking that a lot of the stuff is open to question, probably does stem mainly from Barnard's star, where he perhaps did over-interpret his data. And there's a very considerable possibility that he may have done so. I don't know all of the stops that he did in Barnard's star. I know the general conclusions, but I don't know it step by step.
From looking at his bibliography, the only recurrent theme of course would be astrometric binaries, mass-ratios; and the other theme would be on reduction techniques and general reviews of the field. How do you think his opinion of the growth of the astrometric field, the growth of astrometric knowledge, has been respected throughout his career? Or how do you respect it today?
I would say that he is probably -- maybe not in the last few years, especially he's now retired; he's about 75 -- in the years prior to his retirement he was considered Mr. Astrometry by the people well removed from the field. If somebody far removed from astrometry needed an astrometric opinion, they probably first would go to van de Kamp. He was sort of the leading figure, and they asked Peter, "What is it?" and Peter would say, ''Well, I think it's like this." And toward his later years there was a considerable difference of opinion in the field. Younger people were trying newer methods, more extensive methods, especially of reductions, also of observations. And a lot of these people just weren't being consulted due to the fact that they didn't have the name. So I think there was some resentment of that. I think he was held in very high regard by people outside the field. There was certainly something of a generation gap in the field with van de Kamp on the older side along with several others, not alone. The younger people were chafing at the bit. There were very few people in astrometry for a variety of reasons.
Could you identify those reasons?
There are several. First of all I think there has been a preoccupation, almost an obsessive preoccupation, with the flashy new things in astronomy -- obviously Quasars, which for a while were a center of interest and now are not worked on so much; Pulsars and now of course Black Holes. We find Black Holes everywhere. And I think that this obsession with "quickie" astronomy, however it came into being, has had a very adverse effect on astrometry. People feel it's crank turning; it's a cookbook discipline. "Schlesinger did it all and all we're doing is repeating everything Schlesinger did over and over again" without realizing that we can get so much more precise parallaxes and answer many astrophysical problems. And I think that people like Luyten and van de Kamp. (who have worked at institutions without Ph.D. granting facilities), and Strand in the government: the senior astrometrists for one reason or another have not reproduced younger astrometrists. Luyten van de Kamp and Strand have not been at places with Ph.D. facilities. Very few astrometrists are.
That's an interesting point. We were talking about Willem Luyten and then van de Kamp and it seems like there's quite a contrast between those two people. And then we were talking about some of the reasons why younger people have been shying away from astrometry. Are there any other elements other than the lack of students?
I'm sure there are. I think it's a snowballing process. As astrophysics becomes more and more doctrinaire, more and more the way people do things. more and more universities do not want to make the commitment for a long-term program in astrometry but hire astrophysicists. For instance, the University of Virginia, which has several astrometric telescopes and no astrometrist except a chairman who is obviously far too involved in administration to himself do much in the way of observing.
Is that Lawrence Fredrick?
Yes. Phil Ianna is there too but that isn't enough of a staff to use their telescope. There's a great pressure on the part of universities and departments to hire astrophysicists. Maybe observational. maybe theoretical, but not people who need to have a long baseline of time in order to develop a program. It seems to me there's one other thing I wanted to mention, too. In regard to astrometry.
Anything to do with the nature of the research itself or the possibility that the controversies in the field have kept people out?
The controversies in the field might have been. It escapes me now.
Okay. When we approach van de Kamp. from your knowledge of the man, the man's personality -- how would you suggest he be approached?
By flattery. Quite simply. He thrives on it.
He certainly thinks a lot of Schlesinger to my knowledge. I was going to start there, and of course in any formal history talk about his early education. Did he ever talk about his own teachers or about this contacts with Schlesinger?
No, I don't think so. I do remember one time he mentioned he started at Leiden just after Kapteyn died. He missed Kapteyn. Other than that I don't recall right now either Luyten or van de Kamp discussing their early teachers a great deal. Luyten was certainly impressed by Hertzsprung a great deal. I think Luyten was a student of Hertzsprung. I'm not entirely sure of that. Strand certainly was a student of Hertzsprung. There's no doubt about that.
Why don't we move on to Strand then and talk about how he might be best approached and some of the most important aspects of his work.
Strand again is a controversial character, again has fought with a great many people. I found in my own personal dealings with Strand that whereas I would be vastly annoyed with the man and/or he at me, he had a quick cooling off rate. He didn't seem to hold a grudge, at least as far as I was concerned. If I got annoyed with him or he with me, on or the other of us would stomp out of the room but the next day it was 411 over. So I felt that on the long-term basis I had no real problem with the man. The man is not very tactful at times, and this is so evident it's nothing new for me. He'll make tactless remarks, sometimes cutting. Sometimes I think a little unfair, and so he can be very annoying; but, as I say, I found at least that he could be worked with because of the fact that even if he got mad at something and gave you all kinds of hell, the next day it was all over. And if you could manage to forget that -- sometimes it was a little hard but usually I could; I'm not sure everyone could -- the next day why you just carried on from there.
Did this have serious repercussions let's say on the day-today, long-term work at the Naval Observatory?
Yes, I think some people could not get over an attack he made. I certainly was well aware that he wasn't singling me out in any way. If he attacked something I did, I just happened to be the person in front of him that day. He certainly was no more angry at me than he was at any number of people. and so I knew that there was nothing personal about it in that sense. I think some people didn't make that (observation). And so I think some people either were hurt by something he said, not realizing that that was just his nature; he said those kinds of things about everyone. Or maybe just also (they) got into a kind of argumentative situation with him. With me, as I say, I might be furious at the moment, but the next day I’d say, "Well, now, okay that was that." And he was of the same kind of nature, at least with me. I think there might have been a few individuals he was unduly harsh on, but I'm not sure.
What were his primary research interests?
Double stars primarily. He developed the photographic double star camera and the program whereby one could make very many observations, mostly of an automated nature, so that guiding wasn't imperative. He did a lot in developing and causing to come into being the 61-inch astrometric reflector. I don't know how much of that was his own design. Nor do I know how much of his own design was the automatic measuring machine, but he certainly was the one under which they came into being.
Did you consider these certainly to be positive advances in astrometry?
At the time at least when they were proposed and built, was the Naval Observatory really the only source of funding that would allow for such infusions of money to do astrometry?
Yes, I think so. There just hasn't been that kind of large infusion elsewhere.
This is quite significant then. How did he actually go to the Naval Observatory? Do you recall?
He was there long before I was. He as at Northwestern before that, and why he went from one to the other I just don't know.
Okay. That would be a question we would ask him.
Okay. And the best way to approach Strand to your knowledge?
I think just straightforward, just interviewing him.
It would be different than van de Kamp then.
I think you could interview either one of them. I think with van de Kamp it's nice to play to him a little bit. With Strand probably a little less important. On certain things he's very, very particular about.
What would those be?
The measuring machine and the 61-inch. He's very possessive about them as his personal developments.
To your knowledge how has the design for the 61-inch borne up as an astrometric instrument?
I think very well.
No flexure problems?
There was a thermal problem. But I think they refrigerated the floor of the 61-inch dome. And as I recall, that removed it. But Art Haas and Jerry Kron know a lot more about that than I would.
Well, we're covering a number of very important names here. Strand as a student of Hertzsprung is very important in that regard, too, as is Wesselink at Yale. You’ve also had good contacts with S. McCuskey. I don't recall exactly right now. You were never actually his student?
I was never actually his student. I took a couple of courses from him. During the time that I was at Case, Nassau retired from the directorship, though he didn't retire as a professor until a few years after I left. And McCuskey became the director of the Warner and Swasey Observatory and the chairman of the department of astronomy. Up until that time he was in the mathematics department. He has had positions in both departments. And I didn't see a great deal of him until he made the move. And then I took a course or two from him. He was an excellent and superb teacher, one of the best I've ever had. In fact, the whole group at Case - Nassau. Stock, Blanco and McCuskey and Stevenson -- were people that fired up my enthusiasm. As a group they were far better than the group at Michigan. All of them certainly had the effect on me of interesting me in the kind of work that Case did. And McCuskey was no exception.
What were his primary interests at that time?
At that time he was completing the luminosity function study in the galactic plane from about nine LF regions. I don't just recall what "LF" means, but they are fields of the galactic plane in different longitudes, each about the size of a Schmidt plate, in which he classified essentially all of the stars and determined the distribution with distance, having to take some account of interstellar absorption.
I see. LF might be luminosity function regions?
It may be something like that. I'm afraid I just don't recall at the moment.
But But this is the standard term in the literature that we could look up.
Yes. And his publications would have it. He analyzed each of the fields and then put it together in a summary and in a review paper.
This is interesting. I've never really looked into his bibliography, but just from the fact that he was a co-author with Blanco of the basic physics of the solar system text, I always thought that he was more in gravitational theory and that sort of thing.
I don't think he's done as much work in celestial mechanics, although he's certainly well versed in the field. I took an advanced celestial mechanics course from him, which was excellently taught, and I stress his ability to teach pretty profound theory in a very clear way.
His true astronomical interest, though is galactic structure, isn't it?
Galactic structure, certainly from a publication point of view, is what I think of when I think of his papers.
Quite some time.
Very good, okay. Do you know anything biographically about him?
He was a student of Bart Bok, as was Freeman Miller at Michigan and not much younger than Bok. Bok was a professor very early. And both Miller and McCuskey spoke extremely highly of Bok. In a sense they all are in the field of galactic structure, very similar fields.
That's right. Well, that brings us to Bok, who certainly is very, very high on my list, an extremely important person. What's the state of his health at this time?
I think basically pretty good. He mentioned to me last year that he had had a little trouble -- I believe it was his heart -- but I think he is basically pretty well. He's traveling around on his own. The death of his wife was certainly a very severe blow, no doubt about it. They were very close. Professionally and personally. There's no equivocation about that point at all. And I think the death of his wife was a more severe blow than anything about his health. Both Bok and McCuskey have had a little health problem in recent years, but to the best of my knowledge they aren't terribly severe.
Bok seemed to be such an open person and also in a sense non-controversial to my knowledge. There seem to be no dark corners that we have to avoid or worry about.
No, he is extremely frank and I think extremely highly respected by very many young people. I find this not only my own personal opinion, but that personal opinion jibes with those of one person after another. I can illustrate it very clearly with myself. In 1973, when I was to come up for tenure, at that time feeling certain that I would be leaving Wesleyan very soon, I wrote to him a very personal letter asking whether he thought I should consider coming up for tenure -- I had the option of not coming up at all.
Had you known him previously?
Not well. I never worked with him. But he made it very clear that he would be willing to write a letter of recommendation and support me. He wrote back saying, "By all means, stand for tenure. You've got a stronger case than you think.” And over the last several years, he. more than any other single person. has supported not only me but the department here at any time he was asked, and owe more to him than anyone else, so I feel very indebted to him. Partly that goes back a long way, because in high school my parents gave me that little red book that was his first edition of The Milky Way by Bart and Priscilla Bok.
Is that the Harvard series?
The Harvard series. And I got very enthused by that book. That's probably a factor -- that that book turned me on to things like the HR Diagram and things like that in high school, so that I suppose that's another factor in my astronomical interest over the years.
So he's had a long-term effect on you.
He's had a long-term effect on me. I think he's an extremely open person. And another thing, I think that there seemed to be several years -- my own precarious situation made me very aware of this -- that there were many astronomers who didn't realize the job market was as bad as it was for several years. And I think Bok -- those were about the years he was president of the Society -- was much more aware; I think he brought the Society to an awareness that many young people were in very serious jeopardy.
This culminated in his presidential statement?
His presidential statement, which I believe was the Las Cruces meeting somewhere around 1972.
That was quite a shock to a lot of people.
It was a shock. But was no shock to me at all.
Do you think that statement had a positive effect on the discipline?
Very definitely, very difinite1y. The discipline was I think over-concerned with, well, what I think of now as the Greenstein Report of about '70, '71, which called for an inordinate amount of hardware which obviously Congress would never have funded. And those were not the problems we needed to be concerned about. Also, "women in astronomy" was a great big issue at the time. I think astronomy, if it's unfair to women, is far less unfair than most any other field I can think of. And what he did was bring astronomers to the issue which really counted, namely that there are young people who get Ph.D.'s, are in the field for a few years, and then don't stay in through none of their own fault, and I think he brought us back to the problem that really counts.
Did he have anything to say or did you talk to him at all about the influx of physics-trained students into astronomy? Was he concerned at all with this?
He was concerned. I think he was concerned. I haven't talked to him at any length about it.
But this would be something to talk to him about.
Yes, it would I imagine, the fact that something like 50% of astronomers hold degrees only in physics. In fact, as I understand it, this is the reason that about 15% of the Ph.D.'s in astronomy are women but only about 8% of the jobs are held by women -- the figures I last heard -- was the fact that half of them come from physics, which is a field in which 2% are women and the average of 15 and 2 is 8.
And I've never seen anyone go beyond the analysis of that point to say that there was any other prejudice against women in the field.
But he is aware of all these things? Bok is aware?
Oh, yes indeed. I would think he would be.
He would be able to give us a pretty good profile of the state today.
He's been very helpful with advice to me personally, extremely. I've talked over many things with him.
Scientifically how do you view his contributions?
I think considerable. He developed the 90-inch and the department at Arizona from a small department to a large one. Before that he was at Mt. Stromlo. I'm not very acquainted with the situation at Mt. Stromlo. And before that at Harvard.
Do you know why he left Harvard?
No, I don't.
Because there seems to be a period there when a number of people were leaving.
After Shapley retired, it seems to me that there were some numbers of turnovers.
Right and we're not exactly clear on what was happening there. I hope that at this point he would be open to discussing the history.
I think he's a very open person. I feel you can discuss absolutely anything with him.
He's at Tucson now?
He may be traveling, but that's certainly where he is.
His home base. Okay. Gee. Thank you for this extra material. This will help us immeasurably in discussing correctly and efficiently the oral histories of the people that we really do have to get now in the next few years. Having 20 years, we can come back and talk to you again.
When I'm an old man.
You'll qualify in 30 years maybe. Okay. I think we've covered the points now. Okay, thank you.
 Astzon, J. 67 (1962) p. 37
 ApJ 193 (1976) p. 359; AJ.79 (1974) p. 651
 PASP (1966)p. 411, vol. 78
 Problem: with the tape recorder caused the retaping of about 20 minutes of the early part of this interview. This was accomplished during the interview on March 14.
 S. McCuskey. "Distribution of Common Stars in the Galactic Plane." Stars and'Stellar Systems V "Galactic Structure" Chapter 1 p. 11.
 At that time those were little red books.
 Milky Way (Blakiston. 1941)