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Interview of Arthur Adel by Robert Smith on 1987 August 12,
Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics,
College Park, MD USA,
For multiple citations, "AIP" is the preferred abbreviation for the location.
Family background, early life in Brooklyn and Detroit, high school; undergraduate studies at University of Michigan, switch from mathematics to physics. Graduate work at Michigan, 1931-1933; thesis research combines quantum mechanics and infrared spectroscopy. Difficulty finding academic job during Depression; works for Lowell Observatory while at Michigan, 1933-1936; devises long-path absorption cell, research in infrared spectrum of earth's atmosphere. Joins faculty of Johns Hopkins University (Gerhard Dietz), 1935-1936. To Lowell Observatory (Roger Lowell Putnam, V. M. Slipher, E. C. Slipher, C. O. Lampland), 1936; living conditions, constructing the prism spectrometer, studies in earth atmosphere, atmospheric chemistry of Venus, discovery of 20 micron window (Carl Sagan); constructing the grating spectrometer. Adel forced out of Lowell; problems encountered by Adel at Lowell; anti-Semitism. Wartime work in Washington, DC, submarine degaussing (Arthur Bennett), summer 1942. Returns to Michigan, 1941-1945, joins program for training military meteorologists; research to determine causes for failure of lcm radar. Joins McMath-Hulbert Observatory, 1946, discusses staff, autocratic research style. Accepts Air Force contract to build lab at Holloman Air Force Base, Alamagordo, NM to examine effective radiation temperatures of ozone, 1947-1948. Joins faculty of Arizona State College in Flagstaff, 1948; fate of the ozone lab. Air Force funding of Atmospheric Research Observatory at Arizona State College, 1950, establishing a database of ozone research; Yerkes Observatory Symposium, 1947; Gerard Kuiper, Otto Struve. Adel's place in infrared astronomy. Also prominently mentioned are: Ernest F. Barker; Professor Dennison; Edward Epstein; Henry Giclas; Leo Goldberg; Percival Lowell; Ohren Mohler; Henry Norris Russell; Edward Teller; George Uhlenbeck; Harry Wexler
I'd like really to start back with your birth in Brooklyn in November 1908, and ask a little bit about your family background, who your mother and father were, if they had any scientific interests, those kinds of things.
All right. As you indicated, I was born in Brooklyn, New York, on Fifth Avenue, as a matter of fact, on the 22nd of November 1908. My parents were Orthodox Jews who had emigrated with their parents, my mother from Poland, my father from Russia. I know they came when they were quite young, but I don't know how young. I don't know much about my father's parents, but my mother's father, maternal grandfather, was a distinguished calligrapher and scribe, and I venerated him and appreciated his accomplishments. Neither my mother nor my father was trained in any field, and it was therefore expedient for my father to take any work that he could find in order to support the family. He was not entirely successful in New York, and thought that things might be easier, it might be easier to find a well-paying job if he went to an industrialized city like Detroit. He never succeeded in getting into the industries themselves in Detroit, but he did the sort of merchandising that could be offered to those who did work in factories. That wasn't entirely successful, and they moved between Detroit and New York, New York and Detroit, a couple of times at least, until they finally made a permanent move to Detroit, and even then he had to do menial tasks. He knew nothing about science. My mother knew nothing about science. I had, and still have, two sisters and a brother, none of whom have gone into science in any way. My brother, for example, lives in Detroit and he has devoted himself to acquiring used heavy machinery, rebuilding it and selling it back to industry in Detroit, and apparently he's been fairly successful at that. Well, I went through the customary grade school.
This is in Detroit.
In Detroit. And from about age 10 on, I had to find some means of helping the family financially, and so I began by caddying. I remember my beginning at the Detroit Golf Club, and my beginning wage was 15 cents an hour, and if 18 holes took three hours, well, that was 45 cents. If one was fortunate and was caddying for someone who tipped, he might get another dime or 15 cents. And caddies at that time were graded on their efforts. There was a caddy card which was given to the player at the beginning of the round, and he turned it in to the caddy master at the end of the round, and the caddy was marked either excellent, good, fair or bad. I remember one person in particular for whom I caddied, Horace Rackham — he was one of the original Ford investors in Detroit, and later he contributed funds with which the Rackham School of Graduate Studies at the University of Michigan was established. He's the man. Well, I used to caddy for him occasionally. He never tipped. An immensely wealthy man, but he never tipped, and you had to knock yourself out to get a grade of fair or good. No caddy for him was ever excellent. And another person for whom I caddied was Eddie Guest, the popular poet Eddie Guest. People today don't know much about Eddie Guest, but when I was a boy his poetry was very popular. Well, then, I graduated from caddying to having a newspaper route, and also for a time I hustled newspapers on a busy street corner in Detroit. In fact, I remember where it was — Second Avenue and Grand Boulevard, I think. And that was a very tough occupation. One didn't deal; a boy who was selling newspapers on the street corner did not deal, directly with the people who published the newspaper. He dealt with an intermediary, someone who had a contract with the people putting out the paper, and then he hired a group of boys to stand on different corners. It was a very tough occupation. I grew up almost overnight in that job and acquired a second vocabulary.
How old were you?
I suppose I was eleven or twelve. I know it was before high school, so I was eleven or twelve, and it was after I'd caddied for a couple of years. And I remember one day, my boss came to see how I was getting along at my street corner, and while we were there, he was approached by a prostitute. I was just a little kid and not supposed to know about these things, but I did, and I remember to this day — gee, she was a beautiful young woman, but he sent her away, and I remember he said, "It's too much." She wanted five dollars and he was willing to pay three. Well, anyway, this gives you an idea of the environment in which I grew up. Oh, I remember, I had another job at a grocery store cleaning out the chicken coops. Anything to earn a few pennies. That's about what it amounted to, in order to help pay for school books, clothing, even coal with which the house was heated. And then, I graduated in '22, 1922, and I can't recall how I spent that summer, but in the autumn of '22 I entered the Cass Technical High School in Detroit. It was not really a trade school. It was one of the regular public high schools in Detroit supported by the Board of Education, and it was a marvelous school. It offered not only subjects dealing with the trades, for example mechanical arts, electrical arts, graphic arts, music, sheet metal and other trades, but it offered also all of the basic courses in liberal arts, mathematics, social studies, history, English. So it was possible to do what one could or might have done in a standard liberal arts high school, and in addition by being willing to go to school from 8 in the morning until 5 in the afternoon, learn a trade, which is what I wanted to do. At that time — today, you know, a youngster is confronted with an almost impossible list of opportunities and possibilities. You can do this or that, study and prepare for this or that. But at that time I felt the only thing open to a young man was engineering, and particularly, since we'd always lived near railroads in Detroit, locomotive engineering. I'm sure this was the dominant thought in my mind. And so I enrolled in the mechanical arts program, a four year course, and during the four years, I'll summarize it, during the four years, I had eight semesters of mathematics. In fact, the last formal course I had at the high school was college algebra, and I remember the name of the book we used, Rietz and Crathorne. To my surprise, as a freshman at the University of Michigan — I didn't go directly from high school to the university, and I'll tell you about that in a moment — but the first course in mathematics I took at the University of Michigan was college algebra from the same book, Rietz and Crathorne. I'd already had the course. So it gives you some idea of the adequate preparation one got at Cass Technical High School. I suppose I took, in fact I know I took only the amount of English, the number of English courses I absolutely had to, and the same would have been true of geography and history and social studies.
Did you do any physics?
I did have a year of physics, and I remember the professor's, instructor's name: Hoyt. And I also had a year of chemistry, but I don't remember the name of the chemistry instructor. But in the course of the four years, and my emphasis on and my interest in the mechanical things, I had seven semesters of drafting, that is, mechanical drawing. That training went up to and included taking an elaborate piece of equipment and dissecting it and making detailed drawings of each part, and then a drawing showing the assembled unit. I also had several years of foundry practice, including ferrous, regular iron foundry, and non-ferrous, brass and aluminum. In fact, one of the jobs I had at the high school, continuing the theme of working as I went to school, was in the foundry, first as an assistant. It was my job after the cast iron had been poured into molds and the furnace had cooled, the cupola had cooled, to put a hood on and go inside the furnace, with all the jagged materials sticking out of the side, and chip off the slag. That was one of the things I did. I enjoyed that very much. I liked working with my hands, and I particularly liked making patterns and making the molds from the patterns and casting the molds. So that was one job I had. Another job I had in that Technical High School was keeping the lathes in the wood turning shop in order. In those days, lathes weren't built as well as they are today, I suppose, and belts kept coming off. It was my job to arrange the pulleys and things so that the belts wouldn't come off, and I don't know how successful I was in that. But anyway, I had the mechanical drawing and I had foundry practice. I had wood and metal pattern making, the patterns for foundry use, and quite a lot of machine shop practice, lathes, milling machines and so on. And so actually in the four years, I acquired a great deal of experience. I should say that I took off very slowly. In fact, I think I failed the first high school algebra course I took and had to repeat it. I just couldn't get the concepts. And then I failed the second algebra course I took and had to repeat it. But I was determined. And finally, I don't know, it's as though a cloud had cleared from my brain. Finally it began to be very apparent, certainly by the time I took the 7th or 8th semester of mathematics, the college algebra under Mr. Leonard, that I'd become very proficient. There's a story about him, which I should tell you as an example of the change that took place in me, over the course of four years in high school. At the close of the semester, there may have been a day or two left and I was about to not only finish that course but also graduate from high school — Mr. Leonard decided to conduct, to take a poll in class. There were about 35 students in the class. I remember there were about 35 people in the class, none of whom I knew really, because when I wasn't in class I was busy working, and had no opportunity to form friendships. And not only that: considering the social class from which I came, they might not have wanted to be friendly. I don't know. There were some who did show signs of friendship, but I had no time to spend with people, so I knew none of them. Mr. Leonard had us put down on a slip of paper the name of the student we thought had done the best work during this semester of college algebra. And I sat there thinking for a moment and thought, well, I'm sure I'm not going to get any votes from any of these people, they don't even know me, I don't know them, but still I've worked hard and I've been successful. I've been able to solve every problem that Mr. Leonard has assigned. He's often had me go to the board and discuss my solutions. And I think I deserve at least one vote, and I'll vote for myself. This is a very unethical thing to do, but it shows the state of mind. And I did, I voted for myself. Mr. Leonard collected the slips of paper, and counted the votes, and then he announced, the vote was unanimous. And I was terribly embarrassed, of course, because it was a dead give-away that I'd voted for myself, but I was also terribly surprised. I didn't expect them to vote for me. So it wasn't an act of conceit, but rather a realization on my part that I'd made enormous progress from my start there, the two years in which I'd failed the first two courses, to the final year of mathematics at that high school, when I was able to solve any problem in the book and do anything Mr. Leonard had asked. I didn't have enough money to enter the University of Michigan, after finishing high school, because the small sums that I had earned while in high school were just enough to get by. That reminds me — each summer, between high school years, I found factory jobs, and I remember that one summer I worked for a pharmaceutical company in a suburb of Detroit called Hamtramck. It was the summer after either my freshman or sophomore year in high school, I don't remember. Now first I'll tell you how they used to make capsules of medicine at that time. It was very much like a foundry. They had a drag, which is the lower part of a mold, with hemispherical indentations. They put a sheet of gelatinous material on that. Then they poured the medicine of the day onto that gelatinous material, took another sheet of gelatinous material, put it over the first and tacked the edges, so one had an envelope, square envelope filled with medicine. Then the upper half of the mold was brought down, the cope was brought down and it stamped out against the lower part, producing the spherical capsules filled with medicine. My job was to stand at a vat all day long and peal the capsules off of these sheets. I did that for an entire summer. And of course, one had to work fast, so there were a lot of accidents. A capsule would break and I'd be splattered with the medicine. By the end of the day I was generally covered with this medicine, and smelled like it. That was one job I had. In fact they wanted to know if I was there permanently, and I lied. I needed the work. I wasn't going to tell them, I'm going back to school in the autumn. I couldn't have gotten the job if I had. In any event, I remember there was a fellow who worked alongside me. He was older than I was, and he was one of their permanent employees. I remember he chewed tobacco, and he swallowed his cud one day, and he was choking to death. I didn't know anything about the Heimlich maneuver at that time, but I pounded him on the back and he coughed it up. It's amazing what one recalls when one begins to talk in this fashion. But anyway, there was another job I had. I worked for a short time, not very long but for a short time, at the Detroit Grey Iron Foundry. This was one summer, part of one summer. I didn't work there the entire summer. Well, I had jobs of that sort during the summers and earned enough to buy some of the clothing I needed, some of the books, and as I indicated earlier, to help buy fuel for the home.
Do you recall at what stage you thought you'd go to college? Was that something that was always in your mind?
It was there at that stage. It was certainly there during my last year in high school. Quite probably it was there before that, but I can't be specific about that: but definitely during that last year. My father was opposed to my going, because it had been tradition in his family that when a son was old enough, he would help support the family. Here I was graduating from high school and he thought that it was time that I found work, found a job and contributed to the support of the family, in a larger way than I had been able to do before. So I was the first member of the family ever to go on to university. Even to this day only two others have, my brother's children. I have no children, but my brother Sid has both a son and a daughter, Mark and Barbara, and Barbara attended the University of Michigan and graduated, and Mark went, where? Wayne University perhaps, somewhere, but anyway got his degree, she in psychology and he in business, I think. But this was long after I went to the university, so I was the first in the family, and did so against great resistance. I'm quite sure my mother was in favor, but my father was very strongly opposed, but I did it anyway because I felt I had to. So, after graduating from high school — I told you something about the jobs I had while in high school — after graduating from high school, I found employment with the American Electrical Heater Co. in Detroit. I was perfectly honest with them, and explained that I needed work so that I could accumulate funds to enter the University of Michigan. Tuition I think at that time was $90 a semester, but I didn't have the $90. And I told them about my background. Now they used to manufacture electric flatirons, electric soldering irons, and electric glue pots, pots in which glue was melted. They would be used by carpenters and so on. The product line was called the American Beauty Line. As it happened, there were two engineers at the factory, a Mr. Thomas and a Mr. Lockwood, and they were both graduate electrical engineers from the University of Michigan. They had a small instrument shop, and the instrument maker was Charlie Hanson, Charles Hanson. I suppose all these people are dead now, because this was 60 years go. And I was hired to assist Charlie Hanson. If he needed a small casting made, then I would use my foundry experience and improvise a way to provide a small casting. I worked on machines, using my machine shop experience, doing the usual things that an assistant in a machine shop would do. I acquired a set of machinists' tools while I was there, purchased them, and I remember one evening after work, Charlie Hanson went with me down to an instrument shop in Detroit somewhere to help me pick out a tool box, which I still have. I still have a little office at the university. It's beneath my desk at the university, so it too is 60 years old. I've given most of the tools away since, but I did use them. In any event, I began work in '26, and then it was in '27 that Lindbergh flew the Atlantic. I remember betting about it with Mr. Lockwood, one of the two engineers. He said, "He won't make it. “He bet a box of chocolates. I said, "He will make it," and of course he did. Meanwhile, I'd gone up to the University of Michigan while I was working. I went up to Ann Arbor from Detroit, that's about 36 miles, I think, something like that, maybe 30 miles. There used to be an interurban line, a sort of glorified street car that ran between Detroit and Ann Arbor. It's no longer in existence. And I rode that up and spoke to the registrar, and told him that I wouldn't be entering until the autumn of '27, but that I wanted to major in engineering. I still was obsessed with the idea that all one could do was engineering of some sort, and probably and preferably railroad engineering. So he said, "Well, tell me about your high school work," and so I did, and he said, "Well, because it was a technical high school, you'd have to take some additional work in order to qualify for entrance to the University of Michigan," so I said, "Very well, "I'm working now, but I can go to night school," and so I did. Then I said, "Would courses in metallurgy, would they satisfy the requirements?" "Oh yes." So I took two courses, one or two, I think two from a Mr. Patterson, whose father was a doctor, I remember he told us that, in metallurgy in night school. Lo and behold, when they examined my high school transcript at the University of Michigan when I entered, they said, "This will never do. What you were deficient in was liberal arts courses, language courses, something of the sort." So I had to take one year of German at the University of Michigan as a freshman without credit, and I did that. Despite that, I finished at the University of Michigan, my undergraduate work, in three and a half years. Well, anyway, I entered the University of Michigan, enrolled as an engineering major, engineering of some sort, I no longer remember. Now, it was while I was working that I went up to the university and said I would want to register in engineering. I don't know if they made a record of that or not. It really didn't matter. But meanwhile I had been given some problems to solve by both Mr. Thomas and Mr. Lockwood while I was working for American Electrical Heater Co. They looked at the results and they said, "Your interest is held much more, and your ability shows much more in mathematics than it does in engineering," and they said, "We think you should change your major when you do enroll." And so I did; I changed it to mathematics. As a mathematics major, I remember, the first semester I took college algebra, which I had already had in high school. I took physics from Professor Rich, who has long since passed away from diabetes, and I took astronomy. I know the laboratory instructor for astronomy was Hazel Losh, and she died recently, but I can't remember at the moment the name of the man who did the lecturing in astronomy. And there was some other course, and of course gym, gymnasium, and I don't know what else. I was excused from gymnasium after a while. One day we were wrestling and I got a shoulder dislocated. It's a shoulder that has dislocated from boyhood on. But you can't simply go into the director of the gym and say, "My shoulder dislocates and I want to be excused." I suppose you have to demonstrate the fact. So we were engaged in a wrestling match one day and out it came, and he had to set it. Terrible. It had been out any number of times before that. The injury began when I fell down a flight of steps as a very small boy and I think landed on my shoulder, and stretched ligaments and things so that the shoulder never really was strong after that. I had even chipped some bone, as an orthopedic surgeon recently discovered. Now, I was telling you about summer jobs that I had between semesters or years in high school. They were generally across the railroad tracks, to some factory that I was in, and I used to hop freights to get to work and hop freight trains to get back home. One day I slipped one off. I was trying to get onto a freight train going in one direction and there was one on the adjacent track, there was a freight going in the other direction, and I'm very fortunate to have escaped with my life. I slipped. I grabbed the rung on the freight car and I had a lunch pail in the other hand, and I slipped and dislocated my shoulder and fell on the road bed between the two sets of tracks. And I lay there with a dislocated shoulder. At that time it wasn't so bad but what I could set it myself. It was excruciatingly painful, but I could set it, and I got up and completed my journey. I don't know which — I was probably going home then. But anyway, I took gym but was excused from it. Then during that first semester Professor Rich, who lectured in physics, took me aside and he said, "You know, you shouldn't be majoring in mathematics, you should be majoring in physics." Evidently I was doing reasonably well with the subject. It was hard work. I recall something in relation to that which might be of interest to you. I don't regard myself as being bright, but rather determined. Now in those physics courses, we were generally assigned four problems to do over the weekend. I would very often, for that first semester at least, take the interurban back from Ann Arbor to Detroit to my home. Once I got there I would spend all Saturday, all day Saturday and as a rule all day Sunday until it was time to get the interurban back to Ann Arbor, Michigan, working on those four problems. I was never satisfied until I'd solved them. It was, as I used to tell my students when I taught much later on, a valuable experience. I think that to work on something and not succeed is really not very helpful. But no matter how much more time you might have to put in on something, than someone else might have to, if you succeed in the end, it's extremely valuable. You've done something to yourself as an individual. You've rearranged circuits in your brain. You've created new circuits. You've succeeded. And so I worked terribly hard, and I always solved the problems. Eventually Professor Rich took me aside and said, "You should be majoring in physics, not in mathematics," so I switched to physics. As a matter of fact, I took what was at that time enough mathematics to qualify for the PhD, and of course enough physics too, but I wrote the dissertation in physics. So I got my AB in physics.
Just for the dates, you got your AB in January of 1931?
Yes, I entered in '27, I graduated from high school in '26, worked until the summer of '27, entered the University of Michigan in '27. Then the summer of '28, which was the summer after my freshman year, I got a job as a machinist with the US Rubber Co. in Detroit. My job was working on an enormous lathe. It stretched from here to the cabinets you can see in the kitchen. I was turning out rollers for the rubber mills of the US Rubber Co. And of course, that's the year, which was the summer of '28 then, which I saved $700. I remember I worked for 50 cents an hour. It was before the Big Crash of '29. I worked for 50 cents an hour, and there was a tremendous amount of overtime. I'd work 14 hours a day, five days a week, and twelve hours on Saturday, and worked possibly eight on Sunday. I don't know, anyway, at 50 cents an hour plus overtime, I saved $700. I was living at home, so that I could save everything I earned, and that got me through my sophomore year. What I'd earned at the American Heater Co. had gotten me through my freshman year at Michigan. What I earned at US Rubber Co. got me through my sophomore year. The next summer, the summer after my sophomore year, was '29. The Crash was already on its way in full swing, but Mr. Raab, I remember his name, was the foreman of the machine shop at US Rubber, Mr. Raab knew that I would be returning to school in the fall. He said, "There really is no place for you here but I'll take you on. There won't be any overtime," and there wasn't. It was still, I think, 50 cents an hour and I saved, what, $500 that summer working like that, but that got me through my junior year, and after that I had fellowships. Well, I had assistantships first, teaching laboratory classes in physics, and then fellowships, university fellowships, which paid $500 for the year. They were very difficult to come by. But Professor Randall, who was the chairman of the department of physics at the time at Michigan, got the university fellowship for me for a couple of years at least, maybe it was three but I think two. And I remember, there was one faculty member who argued against my getting it. He's dead now and I don't wish to malign him, but I remember, I was told this by someone who knew. It was Professor Goudsmit. Uhlenbeck and Goudsmit were the discoverers of the spinning electron. Now, I'd never taken any courses from him at Michigan. He was an import from Holland to Michigan, so was Uhlenbeck, and I didn't take any courses from Goudsmit. I don't know whether he was upset about that or not. But in any event, Professor Randall did get the university fellowship for me. I should point out that, just in passing, to indicate how hard I was willing to work to get an education. The first was while I was working either for US Rubber or for the Foundry Co.; US Rubber, I think. It was a long bus ride from home to the factory, and a very long bus ride home. It was generally in the evening because of all the overtime and I would invariably fall asleep on the bus going home. When I got home I'd be too tired to eat supper, and many nights, many evenings I'd turn in, go to bed without having had supper. And there was one other thing I wanted to mention. In those days, one had to take not only college algebra but trigonometry, a separate course, and analytic geometry, a separate course, and so since it was such a long ride, from home to US Rubber, I bought the trigonometry book that was being used at the University of Michigan at the time, and worked through it solving all the problems, while on the bus going to work. I was too tired to do anything on the way back in the evening. As a result they gave me credit at the university for trigonometry without having to take it. I still have that book, and it's just covered with grease. There are grease prints from my work, of course, greasy hands, all over the book. It's up at my office. I got the fellowships. I got my — now I'm ahead of the game, let me think — when did I get the fellowships? I must have had them, I know I had them when I was in graduate school; but we were talking about undergraduate, when I'd worked for US Rubber the summer of '28 and the summer of '29. Then I had assistantships. It's a little hazy. I know I graduated. I finished my work, my course work in January of '31, after three and a half years as an undergraduate. At some point, there was a transition from assistantships to the university fellowships, I don't remember exactly when, but I had them while I was a graduate student, I do know that. And so I took my AB degree with the class of '31, even though I'd finished at the end of '30 in three and a half years. Then, at the end of '30, beginning of '31, I began my graduate work. I'd already been taking some graduate courses, I remember. In fact, I took the theory of functions of a real variable and the theory of functions of a complex variable from Professor Hildebrand in mathematics, and I did that as an undergraduate. I also took some graduate courses in physics while still an undergraduate. But anyway, I went on then as a graduate student. In that day they didn't have, what do they call them, preliminary examinations. They didn't have those in that day, '31. They had a final examination, and in my case it was an oral examination. I took the necessary courses, you know, mechanics, analytical mechanics, electricity and magnetism, thermodynamics, things of that sort — these were graduate courses that everybody took, yes. Then I went and talked with Professor Dennison, David M. Dennison, who is no longer with us either, and he was the outstanding theoretician in infrared spectroscopy worldwide, I asked Professor Dennison whether I might do my thesis work under him, and he thought about it a while, and he asked me a few questions, and then he thought I might. So he wanted me to work on my own, for, how long was it? Half a year, something of that sort. He wanted me to research a problem, and not to bother him. I selected, whether through his suggestion or my own, I don't remember, the carbon dioxide molecule, the infra-red spectrum and the molecular structure of the carbon dioxide molecule.
Do you remember how you became interested in the entire area, in quantum mechanics? Was there any particular courses you'd taken that drew your attention to it?
Let's see, how did that happen? The university was famous then, of course, for its summer symposia. It brought together the leading physicists from all over the world for summer symposia, Sommerfeld from Germany, Heisenberg, Oppenheimer, Pauli, who was the man who was famous in magnetism? I can't think of his name at the moment. Van Vleck, the American. And any number of other Europeans whose names at the moment escape me. There's a photograph. You know, not too long ago there was the 50th anniversary celebration of the American Institute of Physics, and there was a publication, was it PHYSICS TODAY or something, and it had, amongst other things, a photograph of some of the attendants at one of these summer symposia, and I was standing next to Oppenheimer in that. Just a young kid.
This was as a graduate student?
As a graduate student, yes. So you can dig up that photograph and you'll see me standing, I think I'm on Oppenheimer's right. And I think of some of the other people who came for these symposia. Oh, Bohr. Bohr was there, yes. And Krammers, surely. I didn't understand everything that was being said, or perhaps much of what was being said, but I was becoming saturated with the feeling. Quantum mechanics was not only in fashion but making tremendous strides at that time, and I knew I wanted to do something with that. Why did I get into it in the infra-red? Oh, I had a job assisting Professor Slater, who was one of the faculty in physics at Michigan, and he very often undertook work from the outside, in infra-red. He was an infra-red experimentalist, and he needed an assistant, and I worked for him. That's one of the ways in which I was brought into infra-red spectroscopy.
So you solved problems like —
No, experimental work. Experimental work. I actually never took a course in infra-red spectroscopy. It's strange, but I never did, nor in atomic spectroscopy. Goudsmit, the man I referred to earlier, taught the atomic spectroscopy, and he may be the reason I didn't take a course in it. But it is surprising that I didn't take a course in experimental infra-red or in infra-red spectroscopy. I don't believe such a course was taught. The principal experimentalists in infra-red there were Barker, Ernest F. Barker, professor of physics, Harrison M. Randall, the chairman of the physics department, and Professor Slater. Who else worked in that field? It doesn't matter. These are the principal ones. And that leads to something you'll notice, you may have noticed or will in the future if you look for it, in Bill Sinton's paper about the history of infra-red spectroscopy. He thinks one of the contributions made by Michigan was the training that people like John Strong and I got from Randall and Barker. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I learned nothing from Randall or Barker. I never went to them for help. See, infra-red spectroscopy was largely a manual dexterity sort of thing. It fit in extremely well with the training that I had at Cass Technical High School, where I'd learned to work with my hands. Infra-red spectrometers in those days could not be purchased. They had to be made. They were homemade. Well, I could do this sort of thing. And I could improve upon the spectrometers that others had made. They were just large boxes that they'd put together with a grating or a prism and mirrors or prism and grating, and I felt very much at home in that field. I was comfortable with the equipment. I could make some of it. I could design what I couldn't make and needed to have someone else build. I could work with it, once it was put together. And because of the training that I had at the high school and in the shops where I'd worked later, and because of my own nature and my own tendencies and inclinations, I developed, for want of a better word, a fastidiousness, a neatness, an exactness. I could never work in a crummy laboratory. Everything had to be picked up and so on and in place and properly adjusted and working well. This was an advantage I had, if one can speak of it as an advantage, over purely academic people in the field who had not had the kind of training I'd had at that Technical High School. Most of the people in infra-red spectroscopy had never worked with equipment or things of that sort. They would realize the essential nature of a prism or a grating, but they might not put things together as carefully as they should. They might not take as much care in building the amplifiers and the spectrometers and such, and in making the measurements. I remember the remark that Professor Barker made to me when I succeeded first time in measuring the width of the absorption line. This was during World War II when I returned to Michigan; Bill Sinton talks about it a little. Nothing like that had ever been done at Michigan, or anywhere else in the world, for that matter, because it required exquisite technique. I don't take credit for innovation or brilliance in this matter, but it took the most meticulous care. It took using an infra-red grating, grazing incidence, it took having everything in tiptop shape. Anyway, I succeeded in doing it. Now Professor Dennison, I remember, had along with Uhlenbeck asked me to work on that problem because a radar had been built which wasn't working. When I told him I thought I'd succeeded, Professor Dennison said, "Well, I'd like to see. May I come down?" So he came down and watched me run through a number of lines. And he said, "You know, I thought I'd never live to see the day." So I was glad that he did see it. But what I began to tell you was that Professor Barker then said to me, after I'd succeeded when no one else ever had, he said, "You know, I could have done that." Well, he couldn't have, because his technique was too sloppy. If he'd had good technique, there was nothing magical in what I'd done. If he'd applied himself to see that everything was in perfect adjustment and done a little mathematics to find out how to get the best resolution, he could have done it, of course. Any of them could have done it, but they didn't. What I'm trying to highlight here is the advantage that I think accrued to me as a result of having had certain training prior to going into infra-red spectroscopy. But as to how I got into it, there was the assistantship work with Slater, who was doing outside jobs. There was also the fact that the laboratory — which was known as the Randall Laboratory of Physics — but anyway, its forte was infra-red spectroscopy. That's what the University of Michigan physics laboratory was known for.
So you're imbibing this in the atmosphere, in a way?
That's right. Yes, here I was at a laboratory where virtually everything that was done in the graduate school had something to do with infra-red, so why wouldn't I choose that? So I began work under Professor Dennison. As I said for a half year I was on my own, and then I showed him the results of what I'd done. The carbon dioxide molecule was of great interest because amongst many others there are two energy levels in particular, two vibrations of the carbon dioxide molecule, one of which is almost twice the frequency of the other. So there is opportunity there for a resonance interactions. Now Fermi used to come to the summer session symposia also, and it was Professor Fermi who first picked up on this resonance phenomenon in the carbon dioxide molecule. The frequency ν1 was just about twice the frequency of the vibration ν2, and he did some analytical work showing how small disturbances would perturb the molecule and split the energy levels a little bit, and it's called the Fermi Resonance Phenomenon, I think. Now, was he the first? No, I think even before Fermi, Teller, famous for his hydrogen bomb work and his fight with Oppenheimer, Teller and another Hungarian, he was still in Hungary at this time, and another Hungarian by the name of Tiza I think, Teller and Tiza published a paper on the resonance phenomenon in the carbon dioxide molecule. And then Fermi did some, and I think it was Teller and Tiza first and Fermi later. He did some work on it, and it sounded like not all the bands, not all of the important absorption bands of carbon dioxide had yet been observed, and the energy system had not yet been worked out, so I thought that would be an interesting problem.
Did you ever discuss this with Fermi at the summer school?
I discussed it with Teller and I mentioned it to Fermi too, yes. They didn't have anything to say, except, you know, here they were prominent theoretical and experimental physicists and I was just a kid working on these things. They acknowledged it. But much later I did have lunch with Teller. They brought him in as a scientist to address an honor group at Northern Arizona University, and I was invited and placed next to Teller, so we had an interesting conversation during the lunch period. He invited me to send some of my work, when I told him about a problem that I was working on. But I didn't bring up the carbon dioxide. This was just comparatively recently, five or six years ago, many many years after I'd done the carbon dioxide work. So I don't know whether the carbon dioxide suggestion was Professor Dennison's, it might well have been, or whether I mentioned it. It really didn't matter. It was a problem that awaited solution. Some work had already been done on it by Teller and Tiza and by Fermi, and the people at Michigan had picked up some of the carbon dioxide bands. But as I said, there were many bands yet that remained to be found in the laboratory, and the energy level diagram had yet to be worked out. So it was agreed I would work on that.
This is when you went away for six months on your own, you worked on the carbon dioxide molecule at that time?
Yes, I was, but not experimentally. In fact, the thesis wasn't an experimental thesis, as it turned out. When I began to get theoretical results, I would pass them on to a Chinese graduate student there at the time, he was from China, Ta Yu Wu. He's back in China, I think, and he's brilliant. He's a brilliant theoretical person, but he was interested then in experimental work too, so whenever I found as I was doing my dissertation work that I could predict new bands, I would tell him about it, and he'd go down and pick them up. So yes, I was away during that half year period, just on my own. It might have been just the summer, I don't know, but I think it was the half year, and Professor Dennison didn't want to be bothered. I came up with some theoretical work; some formulae that I'd developed that I thought would apply to the carbon dioxide molecule, and particularly to the interaction between rotation and vibration. A molecule not only vibrates in various ways but it rotates, if you think of the classical quantum mechanical picture of a molecule, and the two modes of motion interact. Each interferes with the other. That's right, that's the thing I worked on during that period during which I was sequestered from Professor Dennison, and I came up with some very elaborate complicated expressions, describing the interaction. I know that after that Professor Dennison asked me to give a colloquium. We used to have Tuesday afternoon colloquia. A colloquium at which Uhlenbeck was present, and the entire faculty, in fact. I remember, as I was talking about these complicated expressions and putting them on the blackboard, I saw Professor Uhlenbeck look at Professor Dennison, and the feeling I had was, that he didn't see the, I don't know what it was, the solvability or the feasibility or something in what I'd done. It was too theoretical. And I think that I remember Professor Dennison smiling, not to me but to Professor Uhlenbeck. But anyway, I came back down to earth then when I began to work. I made some use of this material in connection with the vibration-rotation interaction later on in my dissertation. But for that moment I set it aside began. I wish I had my thesis here. I don't. I've given it to someone at the university. Anyway, I began working. I set aside the vibration-rotation interaction and began working just with the vibrational spectrum of the carbon dioxide molecule. I succeeded in working out the energy level diagram. Now in fact it was just at that time that Adams and Dunham at Mt. Wilson Observatory had put carbon dioxide into a very long tube, and duplicated the bands that they had found in the spectrum of Venus. They'd found absorption bands in the spectrum of Venus. They didn't know what they were, but they used a very long absorption cell filled with carbon dioxide and picked up these bands. So they knew then that the gas on Venus that was producing these bands was carbon dioxide, but they didn't know which transitions. I'd developed the energy level diagram of carbon dioxide well enough so I could tell them: well, these bands that you've picked up are 5ν3 and 5ν3 plus ν1 and 2ν2. The reason for the plus ν1 and 2ν2 is again that the vibrational frequency ν1 in the molecule was almost exactly equal to twice the vibrational frequency ν2. That's the thing that Teller and Tiza and Fermi and then later Dennison and I worked on. And that appears in my thesis, the identification of the energy levels corresponding to the bands that Adams and Dunham had picked up to discover CO2 in the atmosphere of Venus.
Do you recall how you heard about Adam and Dunham's work? Was that through the astronomy people at Michigan?
Well, of course, they published in the ASTROPHYSICAL JOURNAL and I may very well have seen it there for the first time. I had a very good friend in the department of astronomy, Ohren Mohler. He died about a year or two ago. Ohren Mohler was at one time chairman of the department of astronomy at Michigan, and was a professor there for many years. He and I got our degrees at just about the same time, he in astronomy and I in physics. We were good friends, and he may very well have told me. He kept in touch with what I was doing, and he knew everything that I had done at Lowell, for example, though of course what I did at Lowell was much later. But Ohren may have known. I don't know. I honestly don't remember how I first learned about it, either by seeing it in the literature or someone in astronomy telling me about it, or perhaps Adams and Dunham may even have written to the University of Michigan, to the physics laboratory about it, because they knew of course of the prowess of the university in infra-red. It may have happened that way. I think it probably did. I think they may well have written, because Barker knew about it, knew about their work. That's right: Barker knew about their work. So that's how that happened. But in any case, I then completed my dissertation work. Working on the energy level diagram I was of course in a position to predict the positions of a lot of bands that had not yet been observed, upper level bands, bands that begin in absorption, not in the ground state but at upper energy levels and go to still higher ones. One finds some of those in many planetary spectra. You won't find them in the spectrum of Venus, because the Venus spectrum hasn't yet been examined at those wavelengths, but one finds such bands in the photographic region of the spectra of the giant planets, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and there are some in Venus if one ever observes it that far. As I got it, I gave this information then to Ta Yu Wu, and he'd run down to the lab and pick up the bands. So it was really exciting and fun for quite a while. And then I got my degree in '33, had the oral examination.
So that's I guess just a bit over two years?
Yes, that's right, formally just two years. Formally two years. I received my AB with the class of '31 and got my PhD in '33. I'm not sure that I was as well informed as I should have been as a physicist at that time, but it had been a long hard grind, combination of schooling and work all the time, and I was anxious to get out. And I'm not sure that I could really have absorbed a great deal more even if I had spent more time, formally in graduate school. Now as it turned out, '33 was the very depth, summer of '33 was the very depth of the Depression, and there were no jobs. Oh, there as an occasional job. A colleague of mine who got his degree the same year, Norman Wright (he's now retired in Florida, I can give you his address if you want it) he was the department favorite. He did his work under Professor Randall, his PhD work, and Professor Randall thought very highly of him, took him under his wing. Professor Randall's daughter was very fond of him. Anyway, when a job opened up at the Dow Chemical Co., Midland, Michigan, Norman Wright got the job. Some of the other graduates were kept in mind for academic positions, teaching positions, teaching and research, when such things opened up. They were very few and far between. I know one of them, Lester Earls, who's retired from Iowa State University or the University of Iowa, one or the other. He was professor of physics. Back when he first graduated Professor Randall kept in touch with him, and when a job opened up at either Iowa State or the University of Iowa, he saw to it that Lester, who was teaching at some small school in the Deep South, was given the opportunity to interview for that job and Lester got the job. But somehow, it may have been the time, nothing was open when I needed work, beginning in June of '33. However, the people at Lowell (it may have been Roger Lowell Putnam, the trustee, either he or V. M. Slipher, and I suspect it was Roger, I'm not sure) wrote to the University of Michigan to say that they were interested in finding someone with infra-red training who could apply himself to astronomical problems. The situation was, as Henry (Giclas) may have told you, that there were the three old men out here, V. M. Slipher, C. O. Lampland and E. C. Slipher, who hadn't done anything in years, and hadn't done any research, hadn't published and weren't going to apparently. Roger Lowell Putnam wanted to return the observatory to an active life, as it were, and I must give him credit for realizing that infra-red astronomy was opening up as a new field, and a very useful and productive field. He or someone at his behest wrote to the leading infra-red laboratory in the world, addressed I suppose to Professor Randall, though I never saw the letter. If it wasn't written directly to Professor Dennison it was certainly called to his attention, and then he told me about the opportunity. Now for some reason it was thought that V. M. Slipher would be at a June joint meeting of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific and the American Physical Society at Salt Lake City. So Professor Dennison suggested that I send in a title based on my thesis, carbon dioxide molecule and its application to the planet Venus, and that I talk about that at the meeting. And so I did. I had no money for transportation, and so Professor Dennison loaned me $100 at no interest to be paid back whenever I found employment at $10 a month or something. And I remember Catharine, with whom I was going at the time, bought me a suitcase. I think it was made out of paper. You know those are probably no longer available, those old rectangular things. And it was my first trip west of Michigan, and I went out to Salt Lake City and it turned out that V. M. Slipher wasn't there. That was the state of affairs at the Lowell Observatory at that time. They were so damned relaxed, you know. They felt that they had no responsibilities toward anybody or anything. I wasn't even notified he wasn't going to be there, though we'd been led to believe that he would be there. But I presented my paper. I remember, Serge Korff — he's the permanent secretary of the Explorers Club in New York City, and he's still there; he's in his eighties but I think he's still active — he was at the meeting, and he took me under his wing, and when I finished my talk I remember him saying to me, and this was 54 years ago, I remember him saying to me, "That sounded as if you'd memorized it." Well, I didn't admit to him that I had, but in fact I had, because I had at that time still, and for some time to come, great difficulty in being extemporaneous. So I returned to Ann Arbor, and I can't remember how — I was indignant, of course, but there was nothing I could do about it. Here I was $100 in debt, and except for having had the trip, I had nothing to show for it. Somehow, and I honestly don't know how — I told Professor Dennison, of course, and whether he found out, or whether I wrote or called Lowell, I don't know, but we learned that V. M. Slipher indeed had been in England at that time, receiving the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society for his work on the planets, and well deserved too, and that he would be returning by way of Chicago, returning to Flagstaff by way of Chicago, for two reasons. I knew of only one at the time but Henry has since told me of another. First, Roger Lowell Putnam, the sole trustee who was operating the Package Machinery Co., Springfield, Massachusetts, would be exhibiting his products at the World's Fair in Chicago in 1933, June of '33. Second Henry has told me since that David Slipher, V. M.'s son, was working at the Fair that summer, so V. M. stopped to see both Putnam and David, and it was agreed that I would meet with them during V. M. Slipher's visit, with Roger Lowell Putnam and V. M. Slipher. However they didn't tell me where they were at the World's Fair, and it took me a long time to find them, but I finally did run them down. There was a Physical Society meeting going on in Chicago at that time also, and I remember asking the secretary, whose name I can't recall at the moment, he was secretary for a great many years, if he would announce the fact that I was looking for V. M. Slipher and Roger Lowell Putnam. They had nothing to do with the meeting, but I was desperate. And I don't know whether he did or not. He was unhappy about it. I don't think he did announce it. But I finally did find them, and we sat down at a little table out of doors somewhere, and V. M. didn't have much to say, but Putnam talked. He said he wanted to have some research done at the observatory in infra-red. He didn't say that the other men weren't doing anything. He didn't tell me that until much later. He wanted to know something about my qualifications, whether I had any ideas and what I would do if I had the opportunity, and I told him about the equipment I would need. "Well," he said, "we don't have money to buy anything like that, but we might be able to build some things." And he said, he seemed to think that perhaps I could be useful to them. He said, however, that the university would have to pay for everything virtually, provide the laboratory. It was to be a one year contract. He wanted me to do the work at Michigan, they were to provide the laboratory space, all the raw materials, an instrument maker, a glass blower, and an office, and pay for the cost of publications, everything, and the Lowell Observatory would then give me $500 for the year's work. Now, I should have mentioned that even before I got my PhD, because I was — I had only the university fellowship, which paid $500, and I was courting Catharine at the time, I worked as a dish washer.
This is when you were working on your PhD?
Working on my PhD. I worked as a dish washer at the Lincoln Cafe, the corner of State and Packard in Ann Arbor, and all I got for it was my meals. So at the meeting I told Mr. Putnam, "I've no money and I'm working as a dish washer to keep body and soul together." I didn't tell him I'm in debt for my room and in debt for some clothes that I'd purchased because I was going with Catharine. I didn't tell him that, but I said, "I'm washing dishes to keep body and soul together, but I still won't do what you want for $500. However, if you double it, I will, $1000." He said, "OK." And I should have inserted that Professor Randall, chairman of physics, who knew I was going out for the interview, said that any arrangement "which is acceptable to you will be acceptable to the physics department and to the University of Michigan," and I thought that was wonderful. So when I returned from Chicago and I reported to both Professor Dennison and Professor Randall, and indeed perhaps to Professor Randall first, I told him, I got as far as the $500, and he exploded. I never got a chance to tell him that I'd insisted they double it to a thousand. He said, "Why wouldn't $300 have been enough?" Can you imagine that? Things were that bad. But of course the people for whom he was getting academic jobs, or jobs at universities, they weren't working for $300 or $500 or $1000, they were getting a lot more, maybe $2000 or $3000 but it was a lot more than $500. So I never quite understood why he felt that I should have settled for $300. I had a PhD. I'd already published a couple of papers. But anyway, I told Professor Dennison that it was $1000. And I had a free hand, an absolutely free hand in the physics department. They let me build the first, I think, of the really very long high pressure absorption cells. It was 22 1/2 meters long. Moreover, the source was at one end, with a mirror at the other, so the light was actually reflected back through the absorption cell, and that made the path length 45 meters, and I introduced gas up to pressures of more than 40 atmospheres. So I had tremendously long path lengths. It was clear, what I was trying to do was get enough gas together so that I could duplicate the spectra of the giant planets.
I think I've got a picture of the apparatus, from the PHYSICAL REVIEW, Vol. 46, page 903, figure 3 has the apparatus there.
That's it. That's the first thing I did. What I was trying to do is duplicate these spectra. These are spectra that V. M. Slipher obtained, and it's a remarkable achievement, and he did that early on in the century, and I think it's mainly for this that he got the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society. So I thought, well, as the first problem, I'll try to duplicate those spectra. Since Jupiter occupies a volume more than 1300 times that of the earth, and has an enormous atmosphere, I'm obviously going to need a lot of gas. So I built this. I had the instrument maker build this absorption cell for me. I designed it and had him build it, and I remember, I used a Hilgar E1 spectrograph. When I got plates I could see that they were indeed duplicating the planetary spectra that V. M. Slipher had obtained. Oh, first of all, before I go on, I should say Rupert Wildt, who was then at Princeton or Yale, one of the two, had done some research using an absorption cell not nearly as long as the one I built, a rather small absorption cell, as it turned out. He discovered that he could identify a couple of the bands in V. M. Slipher's spectra with methane and ammonia, so he's the discoverer actually of the fact that the atmospheres of the giants contain methane and ammonia. Well, I went on from there. He had identified only two bands, and there must be a hundred bands there, whatever it is, I enumerated in my paper. I decided that if I'm going to duplicate these bands, I have to accumulate a lot of gas, get a lot of gas together and a very long high pressure absorption cell. So I built that. And then as I got the plates and saw that I was duplicating the bands, I sent the plates out here to Slipher. I should have kept that correspondence. I'm sorry; I don't know where it is. But I remember him writing back to say that he was excited and impressed to see how much the spectra I was getting looked like the ones he had got. He said, in fact they had exactly the same kind of diffuseness in the absorption bands, the same relative intensities, all that sort of thing. And recently — well, recently, three or four years ago — Bill Baum, the director of the planetary center at the observatory, asked me what had become of those plates. And I said, "Well, I sent them all to V. M. Slipher, and he wrote back about them. I know he got them, and he was impressed with the appearance." But the plates are nowhere to be found at the Lowell Observatory, and I think that's too bad. I took hundreds of plates, because I filled that long absorption cell with methane, with carbon dioxide, each time removing the gas that had been in there, and with ammonia. Ammonia liquefies at a pressure of, I've forgotten, something like seven atmospheres perhaps, but anyway, as much ammonia as I could get into the absorption cell, and each time I filled the cell, I took numerous spectra, and sent these to V. M. Slipher. I examined them myself, of course, and knew that I was actually getting the bands that appeared in his planetary spectra. I sent them to him for inspection. At that time, I was using pressures as high as 40 or 45 atmospheres, and the steel that we were using for the absorption cell, steel or an iron alloy of some sort, developed pinhole leaks, so that I had to take time out to repair those leaks. When the leaks developed, of course, there was cooling due to the expansion of the escaping gas, and when there is a temperature difference of that sort in a gas path, then the index of refraction changes and the light takes the most marvelous and circuitous paths through the absorption cell. But however marvelous, it wasn't very useful for getting spectra, so fixing that took time. But in any case, at the same time I began to work on the theoretical aspects of the problem, fitting all of these bands into an energy level diagram, which is also in that PHYSICAL REVIEW paper. Do you have it?
That's right; we have the energy level diagrams on page 905.
Yes, that's right. Yes, that was the culmination of that first effort for the Lowell Observatory, the first experiment, building the absorption cell, duplicating the spectra as they appeared in V. M. Slipher's spectra of the planets, and working out the energy level diagram.
So when you put the gas into the cell, then in effect you were trying different amounts of gas, sort of trial and error?
Different amounts. I wasn't trying to duplicate the intensities that he observed in the planetary spectra, just the bands themselves. If I found a band, I didn't care whether it was as strong as one that he had recorded or not quite as strong. I knew I had the band. For example, there's a band, if I still remember, it's 4860Å, which Menzel thought was due to hydrogen. As it turns out, it's due to a very high harmonic of a methane vibration, and I think it must be listed in that energy level diagram. I know it's listed in that energy level diagram. Maybe I even mention it specifically. It doesn't really matter. 4860Å? Yes.
Which I think you find in Uranus and Neptune.
Yes, that's right. Yes, Neptune, because there's more methane available for absorption in Uranus and Neptune than there is in Jupiter and Saturn. The ammonia has pretty well condensed out in Uranus and Neptune. But in any case, to encapsulate that first experiment, that first problem that I attempted for the Lowell Observatory was to duplicate the spectra experimentally and then work out the energy level diagrams theoretically, and I did that. And Henry Norris Russell, who was the dean of American astronomers, I remember remarked on it to V. M. Slipher, or possibly he did this in print, but he told the people out here also, he said, "That was a tour de force," the fact that I'd gone through that entire spectrum and showed that virtually everything there was due to methane, a little of it due to ammonia. It didn't mean that I had discovered the methane and ammonia. Wildt did that. But Wildt, on a visit out here, told E. C. Slipher, as a matter of fact, that the origin of the absorption bands in V. M. Slipher's spectra of the giant planets wouldn't have been known except for my work. Well, I told you what Professor Russell said, and then another person who was impressed was an astronomer by the name of Atkinson. He wrote a book on Uranus. Robert Atkinson. There's a reference to it. Did I give you a copy of a paper written by Monica Joseph?
Yes, I have that.
Well, there's a reference in there to it. She found it, I think, that reference. But in any case, the people at Lowell and Roger Lowell Putnam were exceedingly pleased with that work, as well they should have been. It turned out, I had to send, if one looks through the literature, this is only a rough sort of an impression I have — I had to write a small letter or a manuscript for publication almost every month in order to get my paycheck of 80 some dollars. See, the checks went from Springfield, Massachusetts, Roger Lowell Putnam's establishment, to the Lowell Observatory, and then V. M. Slipher had to detach 80 some dollars of that and send it to me at Ann Arbor. I had a devil of a time collecting those, and I found that if I sent something for publication, it helped. In fact, V. M. Slipher skipped one payment and it took me about a year to recover it, but anyway.
I was also wondering about the authorship of the papers. I wonder what Slipher's contribution was?
Nothing. I had to put the names of V. M. Slipher and Lampland on many of my papers.
Because you were using in effect the spectra that Slipher had —
But that was published.
You could have gone to the journals and —
— that's right, I did. He didn't give me any unpublished data.
So there's no real reason to put his name, except for the fact of keeping your paycheck coming?
That's right. That and keeping my job. I had to do that, and neither he nor Lampland nor E. C. Slipher, none of them really knew what I was doing, had a real understanding of it.
What the quantum mechanics was —
Oh no, no. They didn't know anything about infra-red spectroscopy. They didn't know anything about spectroscopy. They really didn't know anything about this work that I was doing, or the work I did in Ann Arbor. Yes, that's what we're talking about, the work I did in Ann Arbor. In fact, when I was in Ann Arbor I didn't know there was such a person as Lampland or E. C. Slipher. I knew only about V. M. Slipher. But it was expedient for me to add their names. I'm inclined to do that in any case. I can't say they stood over me with a hammer. It was a little more subtle than that. But I'm inclined to do that. Now, at Michigan I did things like that. When was the first one ever to measure the width of an absorption line, Barker had nothing to do with that, but I put his name on it. I was using the laboratory that he in a sense had control of, and so I added his name to the paper. I've done that many times. But it was a little more pointed here, because I knew the older people didn't want me out here, and I'll come to that presently. There was some of this even when I was in Ann Arbor doing these things, the original far infra-red spectroscopy of the sun and the earth's atmosphere, and published papers in the PHYSICAL REVIEW and the Astrophysical Journal which showed a lot of deep absorption lines; the spectra had quite a different appearance but they agree with the spectra I got here at Lowell later. I even put V. M. Slipher's name on that. As you say, it helped to get the checks. OK, then, they were so pleased with the work that they offered me a contract for a second year. There was never anything in writing, just a verbal contract, and Mr. Putnam said they would increase the salary to $1200. That was $100 a month up from $80 (a thousand dollars a year) and I said, all right, because I had other ideas I wanted to try. It was at that point that I wanted to start investigating the far infra-red spectrum of the earth's atmosphere. It had been done as well as could be by Langley and Abbott and F. E. Fowle, but they were way off in their wavelengths, and the location of their absorption bands. They didn't show absorption bands crisply. They showed no fine structure. There was no grating work. They had done some prism work with a rock salt prism, but it wasn't satisfactory. I knew that should be repeated, and then I knew that there should be a grating spectrum. There was one problem. The Randall Physics Laboratory is a building that's four stories above ground, and three stories below ground, and all the infra-red spectrometers were in the second and third sub-basements, and there was no way of getting solar radiation into that without punching a hole in the wall. Now Professor Barker was chairman at the time I think, he succeeded Randall, or maybe Randall was still chairman, I don't know. But I asked Professor Barker, who was sort of in charge of the infra-red, if I might have a hole punched through at the second or third sub-basement level. That would mean drilling down and then knocking a hole of about 15 inches in diameter in what was then a fairly new building, and I was surprised that I was given permission. He said, "Of course, go ahead." I'd already completed this long absorption cell. Maybe he was impressed with that too, I don't know. But I got permission to do that. That meant establishing a mirror device, high up on the building, to capture the rays of solar radiation and then direct them down to a mirror placed outside this hole, and to send them through the hole into the laboratory with the infra-red spectrometers. So I had the instrument shop of the physics department build this heliostat. It wasn't a celostat, it was a heliostat. It rotated at the rate of once every 24 hours and it actually rotated the image of the sun that it produced for that matter. When I built equipment to do that kind of work out here at the university, N.A.U., I designed and had a built celostat that rotates, has a period of 48 hours and does not rotate the image. In any event, at that time I had a heliostat built. I had a hole punched through the wall I think at the second sub-basement level, had optics made that carried the radiation from this heliostat to a mirror outside the hole, through the hole in the wall to mirrors inside the laboratory and ultimately to a prism infra-red spectrometer. The first thing I wanted to do was duplicate what Langley had done, and the work I did in the beginning was pretty rough. there's some of it published in the ASTROPHYSICAL JOURNAL, maybe some in the PHYSICAL REVIEW. But I knew that I was on the right track and I could see at once that Langley had made a number of mistakes in positioning the bands, in saying where they were. The most important band that they had mislabeled was the ozone band at 9.6 microns. Well, I went on and did what I could with the Michigan equipment. I can't remember the order in which I did it, but I know I did both prismatic work and grating work, and the grating work at those wavelengths is something that no one had ever done before. And I published all of that. I published both the prismatic work and the grating work.
There's one paper from the ASTROPHYSICAL JOURNAL in '36, where you're looking at the interval from 77,000 to 110,000 angstroms, and there you were talking about the winter of '34, '35 and summer of '35, you looked first with low resolving power, then high resolving power, starting off with a prism.
Yes, the prism was the low, the grating was the high. Now, if it was published in '36 — see, I took up residence out here in the summer of'36, September of '36, but that's from the title that you gave me, I would say that's work I'd done at Ann Arbor.
Yes, the paper is dated July, '36, which I guess is just before you arrived here?
Yes, that's right. That's right. So I made the beginnings of my work in both the prismatic field and the grating field while still at Ann Arbor. Oh, and then, toward the end of the academic year, '34, '35, it was in the summer or spring of '35 —
You've got the year at Johns Hopkins too.
That's right; I was going to tell you that. The end of '35, academic year '35, I hadn't heard from the people at Lowell or from Roger Lowell Putnam. This is the second year on the Lowell contract.
The verbal contract, you hadn't anything in writing.
That's right. No, nothing in writing, but I was finishing the second year of the verbal contract, coming to the end of the second year, exactly, and I needed to know what lay ahead in the way of employment. The people at Lowell had said nothing. It turns out, they assumed that I would continue working for them and that I would even move to Flagstaff to the Lowell Observatory, but no one had bothered to tell me that, you see. And meanwhile Professor Dennison told me, he said, "Now, there's a fellowship available, a post-doctoral fellowship available under Gerhard Dieke at Johns Hopkins University." I guess it was Rockefeller money and it would pay $1500, I think. Professor Dieke at that time was working on the hydrogen spectrum. Well, that's atomic spectroscopy and I knew very little about atomic spectroscopy, but I thought I might be helpful, and so since there'd been no offer from Lowell for another year's work, I decided to accept the offer through Professor Dennison from Gerhard Dieke. Catharine and I had been going together for two or three years by that time, and I said to her, "I'll be going to Baltimore to the Johns Hopkins University, shall we get married so you can go with me?" And that was perhaps not much of a proposal, but she said yes, and so we got married and we went to Baltimore. I then learned that the people at Lowell were exceedingly unhappy; Slipher I think was under the gun from Putnum, and Putnam was terribly unhappy, that I had interrupted the work for the Lowell Observatory and decided to spend a year at Johns Hopkins. They said they would give me leave of absence, but they were very unhappy about giving me a leave of absence for that year. Well, as it turned out, I think the observatory gained by it. I was supposed to work for Dieke, and I spent as much time as I could, I did what I could, for Dieke. As it turned out I don't think it was very much. But when Dieke couldn't use me I spent as much time as I could in good conscience with the late Professor Pfund, Alfred Pfund of Johns Hopkins, probably the leading experimental infra-red spectroscopist in the world, and the discoverer of the Pfund series in the hydrogen spectrum. So I learned a lot from him that I later used when I came out here to Lowell to live. He made some filters for me, for example, that I later used out here. So it wasn't a wasted year for the Lowell Observatory. It was a good year for them.
You were developing experimental techniques?
Developing experimental techniques (filter techniques for the elimination of stray radiation) that I would use here, but not with the time that I was obligated to spend for Professor Dieke. He was after all paying for my post-doctoral fellowship, and I did what I could for him. I remember a very embarrassing incident that occurred while I was working for Dicke. I was at a large comparator measuring the positions, lines in the spectrum of hydrogen, and a guest was brought in to my room as a visitor to the laboratory. They were showing him what was being done at Johns Hopkins in physics, and they didn't introduce me, they didn't tell me who he was, and I didn't know, so I explained to him how a comparator worked, and I offended him deeply. It turned out, it was Professor Percy Bridgman of Harvard, the high pressure physicist who experimented with very high pressures, and so, I couldn't have done more to offend him, I guess. But in any event I measured lines in spectra that Dieke had obtained. I didn't get the spectra. He had gotten them. I was then supposed to do something with analyzing them, and I never did do a great deal with analyzing them because I didn't know enough about atomic spectroscopy. But for me, the year at Johns Hopkins was a very profitable one, and I did in all seriousness and good conscience do as much as I could to help Professor Dieke. Oh, he was very nice about it. He knew that I'd just got married, and he thought I could use added income, so he arranged for me to teach the night course in astronomy. For that course we used a small telescope they had on campus. They may still have it, I don't know.
I think that was taken down a while ago.
So we used that, and I taught astronomy for that year, and that was my first course. I had assisted in laboratories at Michigan but this was my first experience lecturing, and it was a difficult experience. I worked hard at it. I think the students got something out of it, possibly an erroneous idea or two also. One of my students was Joseph Ashbrook: it was the first course in astronomy he'd ever taken. Joe Ashbrook later became the editor of SKY AND TELESCOPE, so apparently I didn't completely destroy his interest in astronomy because he went on and did very well.
So this was developing your fluency as an extemporaneous speaker also?
Yes, exactly. However, I got a more thorough workout in that regard when during the war, I found myself, after the first half of 1942, back at the University of Michigan, and I'll tell you about that. So the year at Johns Hopkins came to an end, and I was waiting to hear from V. M. Slipher, since apparently they wanted me to come out here to Lowell. I was waiting for him to tell me to come out, and I wrote him. He was so busy with I suppose his real estate and other interests, furniture store, that he wasn't a good correspondent, but finally I got him to say that I should expect to begin work out here the 1st of September of 1936. I'm not sure that anything was said about the salary, and I can't remember exactly what it turned out to be. However, it wasn't much, roughly $1500 a year, something like that, plus bare bone living quarters, and I'll tell you more about those. So I spent the summer in Ann Arbor taking some courses in astronomy from Dean McLaughlin, professor of astronomy. He's dead now. And then we drove out, Catharine and I, and we were accompanied by her sister Dorothy, as we crossed the country, and arrived here in Flagstaff the 28th or 29th of August, 1936.
Was this the first time you'd been to Flagstaff?
No. I'd forgotten about that and I'm glad you brought that up at this point. They were evidently so pleased with the work I'd done for them at Ann Arbor that they brought me out there. It sometime during the second year of my work for Lowell at Michigan. I think V. M. Slipher wanted to expose me to the other senior staff members, wanted me to be seen by them, perhaps he and Putnam had been talking about my coming out here to work, I don't know. So they invited me out and said they'd pay my railway fare. So I came out for a brief visit, and Lampland took me, where did he take me? He took me to Meteor Crater. He may have taken me to the Grand Canyon, I don't remember, but he took me to Meteor Crater. I also met E. C. Slipher, and looked around the observatory, and of course, I was carefully looked over by Lampland and E. C. Slipher and looked over again by V. M. Slipher, and I think I even met Mrs. V. M. Slipher, with whom I became fast friends after a while. And I didn't spend any time with the men at the telescopes at night. I'm trying to remember exactly what I did do. I remember Lampland asked me questions about puzzles, and I'm not good at that sort of thing. I resented being asked, you know, questions of that sort, and I know I didn't answer many of them correctly. He might have told me a little about his infra-red work on the planet Mars, work he and Coblentz had done, and perhaps asked me whether I would be able to make measurements that would help him correct for water vapor in the earth's atmosphere, things of that sort, and I'm sure I told him I thought I could. But as I recall, it was essentially a visit in which we looked each other over, and no work of any kind was done. And then I returned to Ann Arbor. They didn't tell me at that time that they wanted me to continue working for them; otherwise I wouldn't have accepted the post-doctoral fellowship at Johns Hopkins. So after the year at Johns Hopkins, we arrived. I spent the summer in Ann Arbor, and Dieke may even have let me out a little early, because I think I'd exhausted what I could do for him. We then arrived in Flagstaff, Catharine, Dorothy and I, 28th or 29th (it was a Sunday, so we can pin down the date) of August, 1936, and I found out where Mars Hill was. I'd forgotten exactly where it was from my first visit. Then we located V. M. Slipher's house, and he was home, as it turned out, and when I identified myself I'm not sure he remembered me, and told him that I'd come to work. He said, "What, are you here already?" I was due to begin work the 1st of September and this was Sunday the 28th or 29th of August, which shows again how relaxed and in a sense irresponsible they were. He had promised me a furnished apartment, amongst other things, and when he finally got over the shock of my being there, he said, "Well, I don't have any place to put you." I said, "What about the furnished apartment that you promised?" "Well, I don't have one." I don't know whether he thought he was going to put me in a furnished apartment in property he owned or the observatory, but in any case, he said he had nothing, but he said, "There is a room on the second floor of the administration building, the west end, where the young men were going to display transparencies." The "young men"' were V. M. Slipher and C. O. Lampland and E. C. Slipher, they were young in Lowell's day, when the young men decided they needed a new building, Percival Lowell said he would go along, they could have one, he'd pay for it, provided one large room was set aside for him in which to display transparencies of the planets. So this was the room, on the west end of the second floor of the administration building, that was set aside for that purpose, and V. M. Slipher said to the three of us, "Let's go up there." So Catharine, Dorothy and I went up, and it was a room that had been built for Percival Lowell, but which he had never got to use. In fact, the area for the display of transparencies hadn't even been completed. Wires were hanging out and so on. The astronomers had used this room as a place to store junk that their wives no longer wanted, so in this room there was an old broken down bedstead with rusty springs, no mattress. Are you old enough to have seen the large round oak dining room tables? Circular, very large, with spaces for additional leaves? There was one of those that had broken down, that was stored there. There was a couch, a studio couch. The upholstery, the stuffing was coming out of it. And then there was the fireplace and some fireplace tools. This was the "furnished apartment". Catharine held herself in check until he left, and then she burst into tears. While I had come from not precisely a poverty stricken home but one of very limited means, and we had only the necessities ever, she came from a reasonably well-to-do family, and had been accustomed to the finer things. So I could understand her reaction. And then her sister Dorothy said to her, "Catharine, look at those beautiful fireplace tools," in an attempt to cheer her up. (I've just reached the point, Cathy, where we'd just got into the apartment, the big room. Can you remember where we lived while we ordered furniture for that big room? At Lowell? Did we live in a motel?)
We lived there.
In what? There was that old rusty bedstead and the couch with the stuffing coming out, and the round table, that's right (crosstalk)
And then there was a little table in the kitchen with white chairs.
Was there? You remember that?
We lived there.
Until the Sears and Roebuck furniture came, OK. Then I can continue here. So my head of course was filled with thoughts of, what am I going to do to get started working? I was concerned about the living quarters but there wasn't much I could do about it. So V. M. Slipher left us then, and apparently we did live there until furniture that we ordered from Sears Roebuck came. Across the hall from the large room was a very tiny room, the one that Catharine just mentioned, which had a table and some white chairs, I'd forgotten all about that. It had a sheepherder's stove in it, one of these little truncated conical things that a sheepherder would use in his camp. And there was no hot water, no running hot water. Was there a sink in that room? I don't know. Catharine can tell us whether there was a sink there. And that was it. Then down the hall — see, this was the large room and then across the hall, this little room, and down the hall, what seemed like a quarter of a mile but it was very far down the hall, was another set of rooms. Oh, Cathy, was there a sink in that kitchen?
There was. OK.
There was a little table, and there was sort of a cupboard, open cupboard, then don't you remember, the long cupboard was —
In the little room next door; that was Percival Lowell's pantry. It was a pantry, that's right, and the old sheepherder's stove, OK.
There was a little four burner stove. But you know, a conventional wood cooking stove has a firebox, and then it has a provision whereby the hot air from that firebox goes under the oven, you know, and then up and out —
Then flows across the top.
But this didn't have anything going underneath, the fire box was here, and it went over the top of the oven and out the chimney, so there was no heat at the bottom of the oven.
Just a sheep herder's stove. In any case —
So you can imagine, what it took to bake something.
Down the hall was a room that we could use as a bedroom. Visiting astronomers had used that. I remember Henry Giclas, I think told me that he'd used it. Bill Shaw of Cornell University who used to come out to do astronomy, he used it. And we were told that we could have that as a bedroom. Right next to it was a bathroom with a tub. And that's where Catharine had to do her wash, wash clothes. Also, since there was no running hot water, if we wanted to both bathe on the same day, she would bathe first and I would bathe using the same water. I'd spend half a day heating the water on that little stove. We bought a copper wash boiler and we heated water in that on that stove, and I built a small cart to hold wood, and put it on casters, and we put the hot water boiler on that filled with hot water and rolled it down the hall, emptied it into the bath tub and then in succession bathed in that. But with the furniture we ordered, Katherine made a very delightful living space and place out of the rooms that had been given to us. But we had no stove. Winter was coming. We had no stove for the large room. We had no way to keep warm.
We had the fireplace.
I told him about the fireplace. And that autumn, it was October, V. M. Slipher and Emma, his wife, went back by Santa Fe train to the old homestead in Indiana that he had come from, and I suppose Emma must have asked him, between Flagstaff and Albuquerque, what we were going to do to keep warm. It was the bitterest October I've known in Flagstaff. And he probably said to her, I'm just guessing but he probably said he hadn't even thought of it. So he dropped a postcard in the mail in Albuquerque, didn't bother to telephone, dropped a postcard in the mail in Albuquerque to his brother E. C. Slipher, and said, "You take Dr. Adel down to Waldhouse's second hand furniture store and pick out a stove like the one in the kitchen." I knew then that there was going to be trouble. Such a stove would be totally incapable of heating that enormous room, and I didn't want another stove like that. So I went down to Waldhouse's with E. C. Slipher, and sure enough, there was a stove down there, second hand, just like the sheep herder's stove we had in the kitchen, and it was $5. E. C. said, "Now, this is the kind of stove my brother wants you to have," and I said, "Nothing doing." Equipment was being built for me by Stanley Sykes, the instrument maker in the shop at that time, and we'd invested a lot of time here, but I was ready to pick up and leave. I said, "If we can't have a better stove than that, I'm not staying." He said, "All right, but my brother Ves won't like it." I said, "I don't care whether he likes it or not." There was an old Victoria type stove, square cross section, large, tall and big in breadth and depth with a great fire box. I said, "That's what I want," and he said, "But that's $10," I said, "Well, I'm sorry, but that's the stove I want, and if I can't have it, I won't stay." So he said, "All right," and he repeated, "My brother Ves won't like it." We got that stove and that kept us warm as toast. We could put logs in there at bedtime and they'd go all night long and the place would be toasty warm in the morning. So that was the state of affairs. Now, I didn't know how bad the situation was until the following spring. Roger Lowell Putnam came out for a visit to the observatory, spring of '37, and when V. M. Slipher learned that Putnam was coming out, he immediately went down to his furniture store in Flagstaff and had a modern wood burning kitchen range sent up for our kitchen. I still remember the colors. Wasn't it in cream color and green? Yes, with a warming oven and everything. They took the sheep herder's stove out and disposed of it and put this new stove in, so that Roger Lowell Putnam would see the style that we were living in. And when he came, we invited him to dinner. I had no complaints. I wasn't going to complain to him about anything. He came to dinner. I can't remember what we served but it was a good dinner. After dinner, this was in our apartment in the administration building, he asked, "how have you been treated?" And I wondered why he asked, because it had been rough. For example, while I was waiting for my equipment to be built by Stanley Sykes, the instrument maker. I was permitted the use of the 24 inch refractor. That's the one that Lowell did most of his work with. And V. M. allowed me to put the spectrograph on, the one that he'd got the spectra of the planets with, and even the grating, a little grating, a Brashear grating, and I immediately turned it to Venus. I used new photographic plates that Eastman was making, MP and Q plates, I think. These plates had to be hypersensitized with ammonia and one thing and another, and then they became sensitive out to about a micron or so, one mu. So with this equipment, the first thing I did was pick up the bands, the carbon dioxide bands in the spectrum of Venus that Adams and Dunham had discovered at the Mt. Wilson Observatory years before, which meant that V. M. Slipher could have done that. He could have made the discovery of carbon dioxide in Venus at the Lowell Observatory. Well, I didn't pay particular attention to that; it didn't mean anything to me. I was naive enough not to realize how offended he would be if this was called to the attention of somebody, and I inadvertently called it to the attention of people. Dunham came for a visit to Lowell in '37, Theodore Dunham, and I was foolish enough to mention it. I did it out of enthusiasm, not to show anyone up, not to say anything about myself but simply out of enthusiasm. I told him that I had photographed the carbon dioxide bands that he and Adams had discovered in the spectrum of Venus, and I showed him the plates. V. M. was present, unfortunately, when I told Dunham this. After that, I was not permitted the use of any of the telescopes on the Hill. I thought that was bad, and it was. However, I didn't realize how bad things were until Mr. Putnam, following dinner, asked how we had been treated, and I wondered why. He then said, "Because I put you in here over the heads of the old men." Then it all became clear to me. It was apparent to me, they really didn't want me, and they'd have been delighted if they'd found some way to get me out, but I was doing work that was too useful, and it was breaking ground. It was bringing attention to the observatory. It was really the beginnings, I think, of modern infra-red astronomy.
Putnam was endeavoring to try to bring the observatory up to date?
Yes, precisely, he told me just that. He said, "These people aren't doing anything. Now, there are observatories where they insist that everything be 100 percent right. I'd settle for work that's 90 percent right and published." And my work, I think, was more than 90 percent right, and it was published. So he told me, he was very pleased with the work that I was doing here and he hoped I'd stay. By that time, some of the equipment that Sykes was building for me, I don't remember the exact dates, was beginning to come on line. The first instrument he completed for me was a little prism spectrometer, rock salt prism spectrometer, the base. It's the one that's on display today in the rotunda. I don't know that you've seen it, have you? You should look at it before you go. It's in the rotunda. That's the instrument he completed first. Lampland supplied the rock salt prism, and then I was on my own. Oh, I needed a laboratory, of course, and there were no laboratories available for me. However, there was an old junk room, Henry can confirm this, there was an old junk room in the basement on the northeast corner of the administration building. In addition to rats which used it as a home, it was filled with junk. Just any equipment that astronomers wanted to discard they put in there. I was told I could have that room, but of course I'd have to have access to the sun, and so it was agreed that a hole would be cut through the roof of the building and all the way down into that basement room. That was done, and I cleaned up the room, and there were two parts to it. There were two rooms there actually, a south room and a north room. I put the prism spectrometer that Sykes had completed in the south room, on some kind of sewer pipe that Lampland had got for me. He was very helpful that way. When I needed something on which to mount the spectrometer, he got the sewer pipe and he also got some discarded switchboard plates that the electricity company in town had discarded, and we put the prism spectrometer on that. We brought the solar radiation down through pipes that had been installed in holes that had been cut into the building. Each day I would determine the amount of water vapor in the earth's atmosphere, using a technique that Fowle of Smithsonian had developed, and I would also record the near infra-red spectrum of the earth's atmosphere, using the sun as a source. That would run from perhaps 6/10 of a micron out to 3 1/2 microns, something like that. And then I would also observe the far infra-red spectrum of the sun out to 14 microns, from about 4 1/2 out to — 5 1/2 perhaps — then from 5 1/2 out to 14, the limit of transmission. This was before the 20 micron window had been discovered. I accumulated these spectra, and I did a number of things with them. First of all, I demonstrated which absorptions were present, that is, the absorptions produced by the gases in the earth's atmosphere. I located the big ozone band at 9.6 microns correctly. It was off by 10,000 angstrom units, by an entire micron, if I remember correctly, and I put it in its right position. I used those spectra to discover nitrous oxide in the earth's atmosphere. I found a new band and ultimately identified it as nitrous oxide, and again Lampland was helpful there. When I needed nitrous oxide, he went to the hospital (it's used as an anesthetic) he went to the hospital and got me a little bottle of nitrous oxide that I could use. I also made the first observation ever in that 5 1/2 to 14 micron spectrum of heavy water in the earth's atmosphere, HDO, deuterium hydroxide. In other words, it was the first, and I think I say so somewhere, either in the literature or in some of the accounts of my work that have been prepared since, I say that it's the first definitive rock salt prismatics solar spectrum out to 14 microns, and that's true. It's the very first one that defined the spectrum. The earlier attempts by Langley and Abbot and Fowle were very crude by comparison, and were characterized by error in location of the features. They didn't know where the spectrum ended. They didn't know where the bands really were situated and so on. So I was pleased with that. Oh, also I should say that before I did all that work, while I was waiting for the equipment to be built, and when I was denied further use of the telescopic equipment, there was nothing for me to do but some theoretical work. I decided, on the basis of my observations of the CO2 bands in Venus but especially on the basis of published, Adams and Dunham observations, that I would make a theoretical determination of the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere above the reflecting layer of the planet Venus. No one had done that. There's an enormous amount of carbon dioxide on Venus, probably a hundred times as much as we have in total atmosphere here on the earth, but the CO2 bands are developed in a portion of the atmosphere close to the top. The light from the sun goes down only so far. It's such a turbid atmosphere, it goes down only so far before it's scattered back out into space, some of it coming back to the earth. So I knew I couldn't determine the amount of carbon dioxide in the total atmosphere. However, I could determine it at least in the layer which developed the absorption bands, and so I worked, it was quite a long problem, and I published the results. It involved determining the electric moment in the vibrating carbon dioxide molecule and from that determining the quantum mechanical probabilities for the transition from one state to another, in order finally to determine the intensity of absorption bands. I think it was published in the ASTROPHYSICAL JOURNAL. But at any rate, when I completed the paper as best I could, I submitted it to V. M. Slipher. He didn't understand a word of it. Neither did Lampland or E. C. Slipher. But V. M. Slipher said, "Now, Bernice, Henry's wife, Bernice Giclas, she was good in mathematics, and she was a high school teacher, and I'll just show her the paper." Oh, he showed it to his wife Emma too, and she corrected one word — didn't correct it, I think what I had there to begin with was correct — it was the difference between got and gotten, or something of that sort. Anyway, after showing it to Emma for English, he showed it to Bernice for the mathematics and physics, and of course there were six-fold integrals in it, you know, not triple integrals but sextuple integrals, all sorts of things of that sort. It didn't mean anything to her. So then he said, "Send it to Professor Dennison before you send it in to the ASTROPHYSICAL JOURNAL for publication," so I sent it to Professor Dennison, and he wrote back after he read it. He said, "I think that's about as well as one can do at the present time." I showed the letter to Dr. Slipher and then I sent it to the ASTROPHYSICAL and they published it. So that's in further explanation of how I filled my time between when we got here to the unfurnished apartment, before the equipment that Sykes was building for me was ready. And I think I've gone through essentially the main things that I did with that equipment. Oh, I did one thing of real importance, two other things with that prismatic equipment. I got the first infra-red emission spectrum of the moon out to 14 microns, which was the first one that demonstrated that the moon radiates as a black body. And also, to mount with that prism instrument, I had an absorption cell built, nothing like the one I used at Ann Arbor, but one a couple of meters long perhaps, it may still be at the observatory. Into it I introduced methane first and ammonia or vice versa, carbon dioxide, and ran far infra-red spectra. See, at Michigan I'd done only the photographic region with the Hilger spectrograph, but with this little infra-red prism spectrometer and this absorption cell, I got absorption of methane and ammonia out to 14 microns. I published it, anyway, and however far it was, the Russians got hold of it. I remember reading an account in a paper one of them wrote in a Russian journal, translated into English. The gist of his remarks was, he was convinced that the spectra were authentic. They looked good to him, this Russian, and I know they were authentic, and they showed absorption spectra one would get (perhaps somebody has got them by now, I don't know) in the spectra of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, if he could go out farther into the infra-red. So those were the main things I think I did with that instrument. I got the first definitive rock salt prismatic spectrum, solar telluric spectrum; the spectrum of the moon, that was the first to show that the moon radiated as a black body; discovered nitrous oxide in the earth's atmosphere; and discovered heavy water in the earth's atmosphere. Urey's the one who discovered heavy water. Everyone knows that. But this was the first spectrographic evidence that deuterium hydroxide's in the earth's atmosphere. Then I turned my attention to a grating spectrometer. This might be a good time to break for lunch, or shall we go on until 1?
Maybe just one short question. I just wondered to what extent, when you were doing the work, you had to get Slipher's permission to pursue these various projects?
Oh, that was absolute hell, because Lampland didn't really know what I was doing or how to do it, but whenever my back was turned, he'd go into that laboratory. You had to go outside the building to get to the basement where my lab was and go in. And he would tinker with things, and I always knew when he had. I would set things, it's my nature to set knobs and things at certain values and in certain positions, and I always knew when he had been there. I didn't much like the idea, because if a man is responsible for work that's being done with certain equipment, the condition of the equipment is his responsibility. No one else should be permitted to fool with it. I let Dr. Slipher know that I felt that way about it, and then Lampland and I had a number of rows about it actually. Lampland would go in to V. M. to complain to him, and then V. M. would call me in and tell me that he was sick and tired of hearing Lampland complaining about me and so on. And there were no grounds for complaint. It proved later, when I was away after the outbreak of the war, Lampland had all that equipment to himself, and never did one single solitary thing. In fact, he duplicated some of the equipment. He had another prism spectrometer built and put it out in what used to be the dome of the 13 inch telescope, and never did one solitary thing with it. So I wasn't hindering him in any way. Work of this sort had never been done at the observatory. Lampland didn't know how to do it. He didn't know anything about it. He didn't know what my goals were. If I had allowed myself to be completely under his thumb, nothing would have gotten done. This was never expressed explicitly, but I'm sure what he wanted me to do was make a record and bring it up and give it to him, and then it would have been hidden and nothing would have been accomplished, you see. I think he and V. M. Slipher both felt that anything I did down there belonged to them, but I didn't feel that way, because the ideas were not theirs, the work was not theirs. The understanding wasn't theirs. And I had the responsibility and the obligation to accomplish something. It was work that I began at Michigan, and the journals showed that. Maybe the prismatic spectra that I published out of Ann Arbor don't look as finished as the ones I finally published out of Flagstaff, but that was not Lampland's or Slipher's doing, that was mine. I improved the amplifiers and the detecting and recording system. That's why the appearance improved. But in essence, everything I did here was a continuation of what I began back at Michigan. So things were rough, and V. M. Slipher resented the fact that his business life didn't allow him to spend much time doing anything at the observatory. He kept business books at the observatory. E. C. Slipher's office, his brother's office, was across the hall from V. M.'s business office. My office was just east of V. M.'s office. The very large east end corner office Jay Gallagher's [Current (1989) director of Lowell Observatory] in now, V. M. was in there also. Next to his office just to the west was E. C. Slipher. I often heard them talking about how to cheat the government out of federal taxes. I rarely heard them talk about astronomy. Lampland was way down at the other end of the hall where Henry Giclas is now. His principal interest, his legitimate interest in my work, was in how much water vapor there was in the atmosphere on any given day. Say he'd made observations the night before; well then somehow he was going to need to know how the water vapor was interfering with radiation coming from Mars, let's say, for his radiometric measures. He'd leave notes in my mailbox, "Make a run with the SR, the Spectral Radiometer." I'd make such a run anyway whether he'd ask me to or not and I'd reduce it immediately and tell him how much water there was in the atmosphere. What he needed more than the amount of water was the amount of absorption, and I was determining that too, you see. By getting the spectra all the way out to 14 microns, which was the limit of anybody's observations in those days, I picked up all of the absorption bands, so I knew precisely how much energy was being absorbed by the atmosphere between any two wavelengths. I don't think he ever made use of this, but this is the sort of thing he would need. Bill Sinton is making use of it in connection with Venus. Frank Gifford, who worked at the observatory for a few years, made use of my observations in connection with Mars.
He worked through Lampland's observations and —
That's right, Frank Gifford did it for Mars and Bill Sinton and his wife Marge are doing it for Venus. There used to be a chairman of physics who was a friend of mine at Ohio State University, Harold Nielson, and during the war he used my spectra for some kind of secret transmitting infra-red work that was being done in connection with the war effort. But as far as I know, Lampland never used it. But in any event, you were speaking of the frustrations and the irritations and the relationships. Lampland, though he didn't know what I was doing, was terribly jealous and wanted to interfere all the time. V. M. Slipher didn't know what I was doing. He didn't care, but he didn't want Lampland complaining to him. And E. C. Slipher was generally busy with political matters. So it was rough, and of course as I pointed out, I learned why, in a sense, when Roger Putnam told me that he put me there over the heads of the old men. Well —
In a sense, I get the impression from your account that they were interested in not rocking the boat.
Exactly. Exactly. They wanted Putnam to believe that it was almost impossible to do any publishable research out there, that the work was too difficult; they didn't have the right equipment, something, that he couldn't expect anything of them. But he knew better, of course. And I was put out here expressly for the purpose of getting something done.
And the fact that you were actually doing something, publishing papers and so on —
— embarrassed them terribly. And this was another reason for putting their names on things. I tried to alleviate that situation by putting their names on papers. But they knew of course that they had nothing to do with it except supplying me with the material I needed, so apparently that didn't do the job. They didn't stand in my way when I wanted to proceed to grating spectroscopy, and get an order of magnitude or better greater resolution. Oh, I must add — another thing I did with the prism spectrometer, and one of the most important things, was discover the 20 micron window. I don't know how I forgot that. I knew that Abbot was interested in it and perhaps had even tried to find it. John Strong had tried and failed, and Rubens and Ashkenas, way back at more or less the turn of the century, had tried and failed. I wanted to try. But to do so I would need a potassium bromide prism, and of course, one way of showing their unhappiness at the observatory was to say they didn't have money with which to buy a potassium bromide prism. Now, to backtrack a bit, just after I began work with the prism spectrometer, I was offered in 1937 or 38 a grant of $1500 by the US Weather Bureau. It was not known then as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, but the Weather Bureau. I knew the person who was in charge of research. I'll think of his name later. I can't now. He's dead now. Harry Wexler — Harry Wexler's the one. He knew what I was trying to do, and so he got a grant for me from the Weather Bureau for $1500. This was after Sykes had built the equipment, I'd cleaned out the room and punched a hole through the building, and I had begun working in that little laboratory with the prism spectrometer. Harry Wexler got me a grant of $1500 from the Weather Bureau. Of course in return I had to promise to do certain things. I would need to use the money to buy certain pieces of equipment. Now at this point V. M. Slipher said, "You may not have that grant unless you turn it over to me." I said, "But if I turn it over to you, then I don't have it available for buying the things I need to keep the promises I made to the Weather Bureau." "It doesn't matter; you've got to turn it over to me." I refused to do it. He said, "Well, then you may not accept the grant," so I told Harry Wexler that and he was just astounded. And Mr. Putnam of course knew about it. I don't know whether Wexler told him or I told him or what. He was out to save face for V. M. Slipher. He said to me, "You didn't handle it correctly." Well, how else could you have handled that? But he said, "You didn't handle it correctly." Anyway, I lost that grant because of that. Then later, and what I'm talking about now is the refusal of the observatory to buy anything that I needed, later Lampland applied, possibly to the American Philosophical Society or maybe the National Academy of Science, for a small grant based on my work. He submitted my published papers for references, and he got the grant, but I never saw a penny of it. Never a penny of it. So when I needed a potassium bromide prism, they said they couldn't afford it, couldn't get one for me. They thought that would make it impossible for me.
They weren't prepared to go out and try to get a grant?
Absolutely not. Absolutely not. They didn't even know why I needed the potassium bromide prism, nor would they possibly understand why even if I told them. But nonetheless someone, and I don't know how this came about, someone at the University of California at Davis was following my work, evidently. How he knew or how it came about that I wrote to him, I haven't the remotest idea. His name was Brooks, I think. I think it was Brooks. He wrote to say that if I were interested, he would intercede on my behalf and write to C.G. Abbot of the Smithsonian to see if he could help me. So he did, and I got a letter from Charles Greeley Abbot saying that he was interested in the 20 micron window, if there was one. He was interested at least in exploring the spectrum beyond 14 microns. On a recent visit to Germany he'd bought two cylinders of potassium bromide that had been grown and if I wished and if I gave him the specifications, he would have one of them cut into a prism for me — which he did. He also had some plates made. I needed plates for filters. On these plates I was going to deposit selenium, evaporate selenium, and then sinter the selenium. This is something I'd learned from Pfund at Johns Hopkins. Sintered selenium will keep out short wave radiation and prevent it from contaminating the spectrum. And so he had the prism fabricated and the plates fabricated and sent them to me, and with that, and that prism spectrometer, I discovered the 20 micron window. Incidentally, while we're talking about the 20 micron window, Carl Sagan wrote a review article for PHYSICS TODAY, and this was, what, maybe ten years ago, oh, more than that, maybe twelve years ago, I have a copy of it here. In it he gave credit for discovery of the 20 micron window to Rubens and Ashkenas, two spectroscopists who were working in Germany. I looked up their paper, because I didn't think they had discovered the 20 micron window, and they say flat out, with no equivocation, that they looked but they got no radiation through the atmosphere in that region. And following that, I wrote to Sagan. I got no reply. I wrote to the editor of PHYSICS TODAY at that time; he's no longer the editor. Got no reply, or rather none but a very unsatisfactory one. To make a long story short, I spent the best part of a year writing to various people, because Sagan refused to do anything about that error in his paper. I invoked and involved the aid of Bart Bok, who was very important in astronomy. He had been director of the observatory in Australia and director at the University of Arizona Observatory and at Harvard. I enlisted his aid. I wrote to the president of Cornell University to tell him that I didn't think he should appreciate having on his faculty someone who was no more interested in telling the truth than Sagan. He, Corson, he's no longer president, I guess, wrote back to me to say that something would be done about it, he'd spoken to Carl Sagan. Nothing was done. I wrote to the presidents of the American Physical Society and the American Astronomical Society and other people, and finally the president of the American Physical Society. Her name was Dr. Wu, I've forgotten her first name, she was at Columbia and she was the president of the American Physical Society. She assembled a group of distinguished physicists and astronomers and had them get after Carl Sagan, and they forced him to write a letter of correction to PHYSICS TODAY. It took all of that. Now, I've got that folder here, and I've numbered all the correspondence, I've numbered the pages from 1 through to the very end. I don't know whether that should be in my file at the American Institute of Physics or not, but Dr. Weart, whom you must know and I've never met, wrote to me one or more times asking for material, which I supplied to him. I think it was in connection with the 50th anniversary of the American Institute of Physics. They didn't use it for that, but he found it interesting, he said, and it was filed away there, and I wonder if this should be in with that file. I'd be happy to give it to you or to anybody.
That might well be a very good accompaniment to the interview, because as well as the tapes and the interview, we do develop material that researchers can use.
Yes, this was an interesting controversy. The most interesting thing about it was not that there was any question about who discovered the 20 micron window, but Carl Sagan's stubbornness and the fact that he was an important enough person so that no one was willing to force him to do anything about it. He didn't think anybody could force him to make the correction, until Madame Wu, Professor Wu assembled this group of physicists and astronomers and they prevailed upon him to publish a letter of correction. It's a strange letter of correction. I'll show it to you. I've got the whole thing assembled and I'll give it to you to take with you when you leave. If they don't want it and you don't want it, you can just dispose of it. It doesn't matter. It's the entire sequence of correspondence. So in any event, I did use that bromide prism to discover the 20 micron window. That's another important thing that was done with that prism spectrometer. To get back with the story, I then wanted to construct a grating spectrometer. Slipher and Lampland didn't put any obstacles in my way, to construct a grating spectrometer, but of course they were in no position to buy gratings for me. These are very special gratings. So there again they thought they had me, but I talked with Professor Barker, I think it was, who was in charge of the ruling engine at Michigan at that time. He was not the one who made the gratings. The gratings were made by Professor Randall's private and personal instrument maker, someone called Paul Weyrich. But jurisdiction over the ruling of gratings was in the hands of Ernest Barker, Professor Barker. When I told him what I needed, what I wanted to do, I found he was familiar with what I'd accomplished with the prism spectrometer, and he said, "Why, of course, we'll rule gratings for you and just give them to you." And I have those gratings still, and I've got to find a place for them. [added later by Adel: I've given them since this interview to Johns Hopkins, Physics, for their new building museum display.] They ruled an especially wonderful 2400 lines to the inch grating for me, and a 1200 lines to the inch grating, and possibly another, but it's the 2400 lines to the inch grating that I used. It's about 5" x 7" or 6" x 8" and a beautiful grating, and with it, I made the first ever grating solar telluric spectrum out to 14 microns. That was the first far infra-red grating spectrum using the sun as a source that had ever been made. It went from about 2 microns to 14, but I placed in open publication only the portion from about 5 1/2 microns to 14. From 2 to 5 1/2, it's in scientific reports only. Just a minute—yes, I now I remember that I actually worked up that data after I left the Lowell Observatory, because I was dismissed rather unceremoniously, as I'll tell you. So I worked it up after I left, and I worked it up under Air Force contract.
Was this during the war?
This was after the war. And after the war when I took a position at Arizona State College, now Northern Arizona University. But when I was dismissed from Lowell, I took all the data with me. The 2 1/2, 2 to 5 micron data appears in scientific reports (if the reports are unavailable, I have a set) but the 5 1/2 to 14, and that's by far the most important part, that appears in open publication. OK, so what happened? We built the grating spectrometer. Again I needed sewer pipes on which to put platforms in which to mount the grating spectrometer, and Lampland was good about getting me the sewer pipes, and again more marble slabs on which to mount the mirrors. I used a spectrometer design again that had been developed by Professor Pfund at Johns Hopkins, in which the concave mirrors were all used on their principal axes. That meant that astigmatism was reduced and definition was good, and with that grating spectrometer then I made the first ever grating solar telluric spectrum out to 14 microns. Those spectra included bands of nitrous oxide, and heavy water, HDO, which I had already identified using the prism spectrometer. These gratings spectra also included bands of carbon monoxide and methane, which I was not the first to identify. They had not yet been identified when I discovered them in my spectra, and I took these data with me when I left after war broke out. Just after the war ended, when I was working at McMath Hulburt Observatory of the University of Michigan at Lake Angelus not far from Pontiac, Michigan, Marcel Migeotte, a good friend of mine came to visit. He was from Belgium but he was in graduate work at Michigan when I was doing my graduate work. We became good friends. And he told me one time, he said, "I want to do exactly what you're doing, build equipment to do exactly the sort of thing you're doing," which he did in Belgium. He did it with Marshall Plan money, I think. But while his equipment was being built in Europe and/or Ohio State, he came to visit us at Pontiac. I don't know whether you remember his visit or not (remark to Cathy). And I showed him, I just opened all my data to him, things I'd published and things I hadn't even gotten around to looking at yet. I'm certain, though I can't prove it, he had to have seen the methane absorption, these very regular patterns of lines in the appropriate places, and the carbon monoxide absorptions. So he was the first to get into print with the identification of methane and carbon monoxide as constituents of the earth's atmosphere. But the bands were in my spectra long before he ever recorded them at the Jungfraujoch in Europe with the equipment that he had built. I think his equipment was built at Ohio State but I'm not positive about that. In any event, the grating spectra were very revealing, because they revealed the fine structure, the individual vibration rotation lines. Where the prism spectrometer in general reveals only the envelopes of the absorption bands, the grating will reveal the individual lines.
Oh yes, tremendous resolution, one wave number. Better than a wave number, as I discovered when I undertook to verify my nitrous oxide work. The nitrous oxide discovery was based on prismatic absorption, and then I thought, well, there ought to be some independent confirmation of that. So I used the grating spectrometer, and I picked probably the most difficult portion of the atmospheric spectrum in which to get a grating spectrum of that nitrous oxide absorption. But despite that I did get a spectrum, I found the individual lines. Now to do that, I used the N2O band that lies on a wall of a great water band at 6.3 microns, 6.27 microns. The nitrous oxide band that I discovered and which originally led to the identification through the prismatic spectrum lies at 7.78 microns, in the long wavelength wall of the great water band. When there is just a reasonable amount of water in the earth's atmosphere, that entire region is wiped out by water absorption, so nitrous oxide can't impress itself. But when there is a small amount of water vapor in the earth's atmosphere, as there is here at Flagstaff at times, then there's energy left for the nitrous oxide to feed on. So I used that band at 7.78 microns and actually resolved, in with all the water vapor lines and other lines, I resolved the nitrous oxide band at 7.78 microns which made it absolutely certain that it was nitrous oxide that was the absorber. The resolution there was .8 of a wave number, which was unheard of, even in university laboratories at that time, .8 of a wave number is awfully good resolution. So just to compare what I'd done with the prism, with the prism I'd merely got envelopes of bands, which is all one could do, but with the grating I was able to get individual lines. Well, then it was while I was still doing the grating work that war broke out, and that was their chance at the observatory to get rid of me. They'd been looking for a way to ease me out, but now they had it. E. C. Slipher was on the draft board, and indeed may have been the chairman of the draft board, I don't know about that. He came to me and said that if I didn't get into war work, he would have me drafted. Well, I was almost 33. I was 33, that's right. Let's see, this was '41, yes, I was 33, that's right. War wasn't declared until December 7. I was 33. He came to me and said I'd be drafted; he would have me drafted if I didn't get into war work. So I was eased out. They finally, finally found a way to do it. And Art Bennett, Arthur Bennett had been a physicist at one of the Eastern universities, I think got into degaussing for the Navy, on the ground floor. Degaussing was a method for making ships safe against magnetic mines, and he came out here proselytizing. He came out looking for staff, people to work with him. I hadn't had time to look around to see where I could be useful in the war effort. Certainly not in the infantry. So I saw this as an opportunity. I later I realized that I really could have done other things that would have been much more helpful. But I agreed then to go to work for him in Washington. I remember, it was in Temporary Building No. 2 on 19th and D Streets. So we packed up. We left all of our furnishings, most of our furnishings. Did we move anything to Washington or did we leave it all in the apartment at Lowell, Cathy? No, we left everything, piano, Catharine's piano, refrigerator, everything. And we had a little Studebaker which we'd just acquired, and we drove across country. We stayed a day or two at Cathy's parents' home in Ann Arbor, to let the icicles melt, remember the car? The icicles got so bad on that little Studebaker, I had to stop somewhere in Oklahoma and chisel them off because I couldn't turn the front wheels. It was a harrowing experience. But we showed up in Washington, and I went to work for, what was it called? Not the Navy directly. Not the Office of Naval Research.
The Office of Scientific Research and Development?
No, that came later. That came later. This was Naval Ordnance. This was under Naval Ordnance. And I did what I could. I was under Art Bennett who in turn was working under a Captain LeClair. But I didn't feel that I was as helpful there. My field was degaussing submarines, which mainly involved checking on reports that had come in of how they'd been degaussed, had they been degaussed adequately by being flashed in magnetic fields and coiled to produce magnetic fields so that they'd be safe where they were going, to the various oceans? And I got so I could do that, and would submit my reports to Captain LeClair, but I felt I wasn't where I should be. I felt like a fish out of water, that I wasn't really doing what I should be doing during the war effort. In any event, there were other people able to cover that field too. I don't know who was working on submarines particularly, but I'm sure there were others. So I wondered, and I sought other employment, the kind of employment that would enable me to use my specific skills toward the war effort. In the end, I was taken on at the University of Michigan. So I began with Naval Ordnance in January and I left in June, I think, and began work for the university probably in September. That would be of '42.
She had been an English teacher, I think.
We were just talking about contacts with Mrs. V. M. Slipher.
Mrs. V. M. Slipher, whose first name was Emma. She was very kind to us while we lived at the observatory, and had us to dinner from time to time, but contacts really did not go beyond that. I recall one experience, however, in which she was involved. It wasn't long after we set up housekeeping in the large room, second floor of the administration building, west end, when the older astronomers realized that when the lights were on in that room at night, people driving up the road could just look in and see those who were living there. Even in daytime, individuals could look through the south windows into that apartment. Individuals on the road, say, could look through the south windows to see activity in our apartment. For some reason, the older astronomers didn't appreciate that, and wanted the room concealed from view, so far as the road was concerned, so it was decided that they would install drapes. So Mrs. Slipher accompanied V. M. Slipher to our apartment, and spent some time deciding how much material would be required for the drapes. Mrs. Slipher would ask V. M. how much he thought was needed for a certain window. He didn't bother to measure, he just guessed, and so on, for all of the windows, all the south windows in that apartment. Then, did she have the drapes made up, Cathy? Oh, she made them. Emma made the drapes, and they brought them up and installed them, and they were too short, weren't they?
They didn't come together.
Was that it? I knew there was something wrong. They didn't come together, yes, and what happened then? When your mother came out to visit?
Well, there was one set at the big window, and then, a set at the short window. My mother decided to take the drapes that were at the big window and put them on the short window and then buy some more material to add to the remaining set.
Well, this was essentially the only contact we had with Mrs. Slipher, besides going to dinner, and you met with her at the Sewing Club meetings, and I think that was about it.
She was a great DAR (Daughter of the American Revolution).
Yes. She and V. M. lived in a fashion which was comfortable, but primitive in many respects. She had a large wood burning stove in her kitchen. I don't know whether she came from a farm or not, but V. M. did, and she had been an English teacher, I think, somewhere in New York, was it Ithaca? It might have been. We really didn't know much more about her, except that she was always very friendly and she seemed very glad to have us there. Perhaps that's the sort of thing I tried to imply when I said we became good friends, because her attitude toward us contrasted with that of the older men. I might tell of an incident, just after we arrived in the summer of '36, August the 28th or 29th, and took up residence in that large room. We hadn't been there very long, when we were visited by one of E. C. Slipher's children, a son, Earl, Jr., who still lives in Flagstaff, works for the Ford agency. Earl was just a little boy. He came up to me, to both of us, and he said, "My dad says you'd better mind your P's and Q's or you'll be out of here." So that was the talk, you see, from the moment we arrived, practically. That was the atmosphere. I didn't realize the gravity of it, the seriousness of it, until Mr. Putnam remarked that time after dinner that he'd put me there over their heads, that they didn't want me there. And of course, as I've pointed out in this conversation, they got me out as soon as war broke out, the first real opportunity they had.
I was going to ask about that. I wonder if you contemplated ever a kind of appeal to Mr. Putnam?
No, I never did. I never did that I can recall. Let me think again. No, as far as I was concerned, see, he was back East. He was at Springfield. He was the paymaster, as it were. I knew he was a Lowell, through marriage. Or descent, rather — let's see, Roger Lowel Putnam, his father was a Putnam, I suppose they go back, I've often wondered if they go back to the Putnams of Salem, Massachusetts, during the witch hunting times. You know, the Putnams were a very prominent family during the witch hunting and witch burning times. It's a matter of recorded history that they used to accuse people falsely of being witches so they could acquire their property. The Putnams did that. I'm not surprised at some of the things that have happened since. But no, I never did appeal to him. And later on, when he saw fit to separate me from the observatory, he sent me $100, as a balm of some sort. I'll come to that presently, if you want to hear about it.
Certainly. There's one thing I want to go back to, and that was, the intellectual life at the observatory in terms of the visitors coming through. I know for example that Henry Norris Russell used to spend a reasonable amount of time at the observatory. I wonder if you had much contact with Russell?
A little. Not much. The older men, the two Sliphers and Lampland were very jealous of the visits by prominent astronomers, other astronomers. They always made it perfectly clear that they were the staff, they were the astronomers, and anyone else at the observatory was sort of a byproduct or incidental or something. But I know that when there were guests, if it were a night not suitable for observing, and time was spent in conversation in the reading room of the administration building, I would be totally ignored by Lampland, for example, just totally.
Were you invited to those kinds of conversations?
Oh no, no. No, no. Uh huh, no. No, this was a domain that was the sole property of the three older men. There was no question about it. The younger men were indentured servants or slaves or nondescript people, something like that. No, we were not on par with the older men at all.
So it wasn't a case that when a visitor came in, maybe all the staff would gather with the visitor?
Oh no, no, no. No, as a matter of fact, I remember the only time the young people had real contact with a visitor. It was when an astronomer by the name of Joy, who was at Mt. Wilson, came out, and he took us young people to dinner. Not the older people, just the young ones. That's the only time, as I can recall, that we engaged in social events and had dinner with a visiting astronomer. It was because he decided to take us. And I remember, I couldn't understand at the time what was happening. "What was going on?” you know, why did he invite us to go to dinner? Because we clearly weren't the important people at the observatory. Oh, we'd go to picnics with V. M. Slipher and Mrs. Slipher. We'd go on picnics to Oak Creek Canyon and Sedona. But then everybody was invited to that sort of thing, babies and everybody else. But as far as being considered suitable for social intercourse, we were not. Definitely not.
I wonder about talks by visiting astronomers?
As far as I can recall, there wasn't a single talk during my tenure. I was asked to give a series of talks on infra-red spectroscopy, when I first came out here and took up residence, and of course I agreed. I think I was asked by; anyway, I agreed to give them. I thought it would probably take half a dozen one hour talks to discuss how one got infra-red spectra, how one analyzed infra-red spectra, and then how one went on from there to determine the structure of the molecule. We set aside times, it was to be one hour a week, and I appeared with slides and notes, prepared to make the talk, and always did make the talk. But as a rule they'd have to go looking either for E. C. Slipher, or someone. There were only the three older people, V. M., Lampland and E. C., and they'd have to go looking for E. C. or for Lampland or for both of them or for V. M., I guess. Those were the only formal talks that were ever given while I was there. Talks were never given by invited astronomers. There were no such things as colloquia or seminars, nothing of the sort. The older people, you see in point of fact, had long since departed from active astronomy. They weren't doing anything. Lampland would putter. He'd putter, he and possibly his wife would go out to the telescope and make some measurements, without ever intending to do anything with them. V. M. Slipher was busy with his properties and E. C. Slipher with politics or doing something else in town, or suffering his terrible tooth aches. He had awful tooth aches. I felt sorry for him. But it probably never occurred to them to have an invited astronomer bring them up to date in any field. So I can't recall, maybe Henry Giclas can recall, but I can't recall a single talk being given, except those that I gave, which were attended by two or three people.
OK. I wonder also, the last point before we go back to 1942, were you able to attend meetings? Did they make travel funds available for you to attend meetings?
Well, I'll give you an example. When I found a new absorption band in the prismatic solar spectrum, solar telluric spectrum, I didn't yet know that it was nitrous oxide. I thought it might be nitrogen pentox, N2O5. There was to be a meeting just about that time of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Indianapolis, I think, and I submitted a title and an abstract. Lampland thought the discovery of a new gas in the atmosphere was a tremendous thing, and it was, so he wanted to go to the meeting too. He was going to give a paper, I don't know on what, but Lampland was notorious for being unable to speak coherently on any topic if he were presenting a paper. He didn't know where to begin and he certainly didn't know where to end. But he was held in great esteem by astronomers, possibly because he was at Lowell, had worked with Percival Lowell, and because he was an older person, and was working in a difficult field, radiometric observations of the planets. It wasn't easy. So he was given a generous amount of time for the presentation of his paper at Indianapolis, 40 minutes maybe, and he got to the end and still hadn't said anything. Someone in the audience suggested he be given additional time, and he was, and he didn't get any farther along then. But the point is, he went to that meeting I think essentially to keep tabs on me, because I was going to talk about what I thought was a new gas in the earth's atmosphere. I had told Dr. Slipher about submitting, in fact the paper for the meeting had to go through Slipher's hands, and I wondered if I could get some financial support. So, after much deliberation, he decided I could have $40 to pay for the transportation, lodging, food, everything. In another instance, I was invited by Otto Struve to present a paper on Mars. I didn't know much about Mars but I knew a little about the radiometric end. The meeting was to be held, where was it? Green Bay, perhaps. I don't remember. Green Bay, Wisconsin, or where the Yerkes Observatory is, somewhere there. I don't know who paid my way then, but this was an invitation from Struve and I think they paid my way. I'm quite sure the Lowell Observatory didn't. In fact, in connection with that paper, which I presented, V. M. Slipher insisted that he decide on the title. I remember that very well. He decided on the title for the paper, and that of course obligated me, so far as the body of the paper was concerned. After he decided on the title, and I no longer remember what it was, he said, "Now, that's as much as I can help you. The rest is up to you." But I don't think, I may be forgetting something, I don't know, but the only meeting I remember that I received support from the observatory to attend was that one in Indianapolis. That was a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and I got $40, and I talked about N2O5 and we were up for a prize because we'd discovered a new gas in the atmosphere, but they decided against it, maybe because I wasn't positive enough. It's a good thing I wasn't, because it turned out to be not N2O5 but N2O, nitrous oxide! Now, we used to take vacations, of course, Catharine and I. Once a year we'd go to Ann Arbor, or she would go to Ann Arbor and I'd stay behind and work. I know I went at least once. After we took up residence in '36, I was here until January of '42. That's just under six years, there would have been six vacation periods. One of them I know I used to go to the Indianapolis meeting. A time or two I must have gone back to Ann Arbor, and the rest of the time I think I just stayed here, or I might have gone to the West Coast for a few days or something like that.
I wonder if you felt a sense of isolation, in the sense that you'd been at Michigan where Fermi and others were —
— oh yes! Oh indeed, indeed we did, we felt lost out here. I remember, I knew it was going to be that way. I went to Professor Uhlenbeck, at Michigan, the co-discoverer of electron spin, who himself had been imported from Utrecht, from Holland to Michigan. I told him, I said, "Now, I've agreed to go out to Flagstaff to live at the Lowell Observatory, and I feel that we're going to be absolutely isolated and completely divorced from civilization." And he said, "Well, don't worry about it. When I decided to go from Holland to Michigan, I felt the same way." But we did. We felt cut off. We used to go to concerts, you know. Nowadays there are concerts here at Flagstaff, I don't know what calibre. But at Michigan there were all these concerts and talks and organ recitals, all sorts of activities. Catharine was born in Ann Arbor and grew up there, and I spent all of my university years there, and I taught there for a time also. So we felt isolated. And yet I was so absorbed in my work. I felt I was on a mission. I had a mission, you know, at the Lowell Observatory. It wasn't anything they asked me to do. These projects were my own devising. And I just knew the steps I had to take, as it were, to come to the end of what I was trying to put together. I knew I had to get the prismatic solar spectrum, nail it down, and get the solar telluric grating spectrum. I knew that. And then the next step would be to go from the sun and the moon to the planets. That would require substituting a telescope for a heliostat, but otherwise it required essentially the same kind of monochrometer or spectrometer that I used in my earlier work. It meant attaching a miniature one, attaching it to the telescope.
Did you have that strategy in mind?
Oh, absolutely. It was the logical extension. It would be the next, the third phase. First the prism, then the grating, and finally the telescope, with a prism monochrometer, to work on the planets. Unfortunately, that never reached fruition. That never transpired, again because of the meanness and smallness of the older men. Let's see, where was I?
We were talking about the sense of isolation.
Yes, but we left off before lunch at the University of Michigan. Now, do you want to go back to that?
Yes, certainly. I wonder if we could finish up this little extension. I wonder about the astronomical community of the time, in a way, in that it seems, from the little I know of this particular period, that people tended to stay at their observatories or institutions. It seems that the notion that people would come through and the sense of mobility that is apparent now wasn't there then.
Oh no, no, nothing like it.
I wonder if you ever got invited to go to Mt. Wilson?
No. No, no, never. No, never. I can remember only a very few visitors coming through there. Let's see, there was Dunham, the time I embarrassed V. M. Slipher; Joy came through; Russell and Dugan. You know, there used to be a famous textbook, Russell, Dugan and Stewart. Russell and Dugan used to come here. Dugan suffered terribly from arthritis. He was badly crippled. I don't know whether Stewart ever did or not. But they were summer visitors, as it were, anyway. So far as the passing visit from a professional astronomer — oh, I remember when Teller came through. He's minus a foot, you know, and he has a prosthesis, but he wasn't wearing it that day. Henry looked up the date for me a few years ago — when Teller came through Flagstaff. You know, I told you I sat at lunch with Teller at the university a few years ago, and I wanted to know when it was that Teller came through and visited the observatory. He had a friend in tow. And Henry looked up the date, sure enough, and I told Teller. Anyway, he and this friend came up to visit the observatory, and I admitted them and I showed them through the rotunda, the slides of Mars and what not. Teller wasn't wearing his prosthesis that day so I could see that he was minus a foot. And that day also there was a very unusual rainbow. It was this time of year (August), I think, so there were rainbows, and there was a supernumerary. I didn't know what it was. I knew it wasn't a secondary bow, it wasn't the primary or the secondary, but Teller knew at once, and he told me exactly how it happened, how it occurred. But there were very few visitors to the observatory, very few, and no colloquia, no symposia, no seminars. It was a strange place. Each person went about his own interests, you know. V. M. had his properties, E. C. with his politics, Lampland always puttered but never got anything done. He should have been a librarian. If you asked him a question, his face would light up and he'd rush into the library and come back with a stack of books like this dealing with the subject, you. He missed his calling. He wasn't a research person. He was afraid to express himself, to take a stand. Percival Lowell once said of Lampland, he said, "If you show Lampland a sheep and you ask him, what is it? Lampland will say, well, it looks like a sheep from this side." [added later by Adel: this story was told to me by Stanley Sykes, the instrument maker.] And really he was that way. He would never — how to put it? He would never — well, express a definite opinion, take a stand. I worked late one night, after my daytime observations. I went down into the laboratory. I put some nitrous oxide in my absorption cell. I didn't know for sure yet the gas I'd discovered was nitrous oxide but I thought it was from the prismatic work; this was the grating confirmation. I wanted the fine structure. I put some nitrous oxide in the absorption cell, and I got the spectrum, and I could see that it just matched; the atmospheric nitrous oxide matched the laboratory nitrous oxide perfectly. I went up and offered the results, in a sense, to both V. M. and Lampland. They were talking in V. M.'s office late that evening. They wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole. They didn't understand it. They absolutely wouldn't touch it. But Lampland would never take a stand, never take a stand, never take a chance, so he definitely was not cut out for research. He was afraid to say, "These observations mean thus and so." Even if he knew something was wrong, you see, he would never do that, never say it. And that was his great failing. As far as Percival Lowell was concerned, it didn't matter, because all he wanted was assistants to do the things he told them to do. He wasn't looking for people who had their own ideas and initiative.
Did you get the feeling that that's what Lampland and the other old men were looking for at the observatory, where they were looking for assistants who would be deferential and do what they were told?
Well, actually they didn't want an assistant. They didn't want anybody out there, you see. They didn't want anybody out there. Lampland, I suppose, after I did the work at Michigan that caught his eye, and after I took up residence here and began to work here, got excited about it. I'm sure what he wanted was for me to turn over everything I did to him. I knew I did that it would be lost forever, so I didn't do it. I refused to do that. And most of the time, practically all of the time, I had to get V. M. Slipher's approval to send a manuscript off for publication. And I'm sure he didn't want me to send things for publication, but I hounded him until he returned the manuscript to me so that I could send it. Yes.
Maybe now might be an appropriate time to move back to where we were before lunch, which was, you had been working on the degaussing —
Yes, that's right, and decided that I really wasn't earning my keep, as it were, by doing that. They were paying me $13 a day, I remember, to do that, but I felt I wasn't being as useful as I might be in the war effort. So I made inquiries at the physics department, University of Michigan, by correspondence. As I said earlier, I think that Dean Kraus, John Kraus's father, was instrumental in seeing that I got a — I suppose it was a temporary appointment. I don't think Professor Barker was overjoyed about it (I think he was chairman at the time), but they needed help in the physics department. They had, for example, what was called the meteorology program, which was devoted to training recruits for both weather forecasting and for navigation. I've forgotten the exact scope of it but I know it was called the meteorology program, and I was given the task of lecturing to them in physics. That's really when I cut my teeth and learned to speak before a group without having to memorize what I was going to say. That nearly killed me, that experience. That auditorium held 350 students, I think, and I taught them engineering physics. In the beginning I went about just as I had back at that Salt Lake City meeting, when Korff took me under his wing. I memorized every word of every lecture. Then, of course, I'm sure it sounded so. In fact, one student told me later. I asked him, I shouldn't have but I asked him what he thought of the lectures. This was well into the semester. He said, "It sounds as though you're memorizing it." So then I made a very serious effort to be spontaneous and extemporaneous, and innovative, and I think I succeeded. So I lectured in the meteorology program for four years, I think it was as long as it endured there in any event. We did so well that the University of Michigan received from the government a citation for its contribution in that field. They received a citation following the war. Well, then in addition, of course, I was expected to do research, partly directed toward the war effort and partly not, and I did. I remember doing some work on the ozone molecule. There's a paper by Dennison and myself dealing with that. The data were good. Unfortunately the theoretical interpretation was not quite correct. But there was that. However the principal research I did then was to help out with the problem of a radar system that failed to work. A radar had been built at MIT to work at about 1 centimeter.
This is the Rad Lab at MIT?
I think so. Bill Sinton remarks about that in his history. Anyway, the energy was being absorbed by something, probably by the atmosphere, and it just wasn't getting out and serving as a radar. Professor van Vleck in physics at the University of Wisconsin was connected somehow with the project, and so was Professor Uhlenbeck at Michigan, and somehow so was Professor Dennison. Professor Dennison asked me to help then, I suppose with Professor Uhlenbeck. They asked me, Professor Dennison did directly, to examine the infra-red spectrum of water vapor with a degree of resolution which had never yet been achieved, to see whether the absorption lines of water vapor were fine, narrow and deep, broad and shallow, or something in between. Well, it turned out, I found that the half width of the water vapor line was less than a tenth of a wave number. People had been assuming that it was half a wave number or a whole wave number, something of that sort. It was actually less than a tenth. I did this by direct experimentation, and corrected for the width of the slits used in the spectrometer. I told you that Professor Dennison came down to actually see me run through the spectrum, and said he'd thought he'd never live to see the day, to see this. That answered their problem, because the absorption lines of water vapor are narrow and deep, and they had happened to place their radar almost on top of one of those lines. So that was my principal research contribution, I would say, during the war years. I being paid for that, I think, by the Office of Scientific Research and Development, Vannevar Bush's organization. In any event, they gave me a certificate after that from the Office of Scientific Research and Development, and it is now in a display in the mathematics building on this campus (N.A.U.).
How would you get funding for various bits of equipment during the war? What did it take?
The equipment was all there at Michigan.
It was all sitting there already?
All sitting there already. I re-worked some of it. I re-worked a lot of it to meet my standards, but it was all there. Also, there were instrument makers and glass blowers and so on. I held the title of assistant professor of physics in the department of physics at the University of Michigan. Just what the financial arrangements were, I don't know. I suppose when I was doing research of this sort, probably the Office of Scientific Research and Development was dunned for it. But in any event, certificates were presented to a certain number of individuals who had done research of value in the war effort, and I was given one of them. So I did have some connection with the Office of Scientific Research and Development. But I was just as proud of my teaching during the war years. I was teaching these young people who were going off to war, teaching them physics. I was just as proud of the teaching as I was of the research that I did, I'd say just about half and half even. So that was the extent of my contributions. Oh, then, we're coming to something very interesting and very disturbing now. The war ended in '45, in the late summer, I think, and I stayed on through that next academic year teaching and doing research. That would be the academic year of '45-'46. And I began to think about returning to Lowell. I know that the men out here had eased me out, using the war as an excuse, but they didn't say that "you won't be allowed back."
Was that the expectation that you had, that you'd go back?
Oh, definitely. Oh, absolutely. We left all of our furniture here. That apartment of ours, second floor of the administration building, was left completely furnished. We left everything here. And so I was thinking about returning, because I wanted to get on to planetary infra-red spectroscopy.
This would be the third phase?
The third phase. So I'd been in correspondence with Roger Lowell Putnam. In fact, I told him I didn't think that I was doing enough when I was with the Navy, and that I was trying to get to the University of Michigan, and he approved of that, and then, I don't know how much correspondence we had while I was at Ann Arbor, but he knew perfectly well that I wanted to return here, and he invited me to come visit him in Washington. He had a government position. He was an administrator of some sort, I don't know in just which department. Henry Giclas would probably know. And so I went to visit him. I was still under contract with the University of Michigan, but the academic year was coming to an end, in the spring of '46, and I wanted to know whether I'd be going back to Lowell. I could have remained at Michigan but I wanted to return to Flagstaff. He and Mrs. Putnam, Carolyn, were extremely gracious; for example, they took me to the Army-Navy Club for dinner one evening, and I still remember, as I may have written somewhere, I still remember what I had for dinner. It was a curry, a very good curry, and I even remember the details. I remember admiring a ruby and diamond ring that Mrs. Putnam was wearing. I've since, quite recently, spoken to one of their daughters, or two of them, Carol and Anna Lowell. I spoke to them about that ring, and they said, "Oh yes, absolutely," and they even went on amongst themselves to name the person to whom their mother had given the ring. So I know that what I observed, I remember correctly. But in any event, they were extremely gracious and kind, and they talked to me about ultimately assuming the directorship. V. M. wasn't about to retire yet, but evidently Roger Putnam had that in mind for Slipher, and he was looking, thinking of someone who might take over then.
I guess Slipher would be about 70 at that point?
I think so; because he was in his nineties I think when he died —
Born in 1875.
— sure, '75, so 25 and this was '46, that's right, 71, yes. And I wasn't seeking the directorship. I'd never even thought about the directorship. I had my little niche, infra-red spectroscopy, out there, and I was working on that and I was perfectly content to do that. I didn't care who was director. But Putnam said, he and Mrs. Putnam both, because I don't think he ever acted without her acquiescence, and they both said they'd like to have me as director. They didn't know just when it would be, I suppose, but they wanted me to think about that. So as far as he was concerned, I was scheduled to return to the observatory. Well, the situation then changed during that visit, it may have been the day after the dinner. Amongst other things, Putnam had just learned to fly, and he flew me around Washington and Virginia and showed me the sights. I remember an especially bumpy landing, and he was very embarrassed by that, so he took off again and came down again. It was the day after that dinner, I think, and before I was to return to Ann Arbor that he wanted to show me the sights in Washington. He had a touring car, a roadster, on which the top could be put down, and he was going to take me around Washington and show me the sights, and of course I was agreeable. He brought along a friend of his, a fellow by the name of Trask, about Putnam's age, and Trask and Putnam sat in the front seat and Putnam drove. I'd never seen Trask before. I sat in the back and I was very tired and I wasn't saying much, but I heard pretty much the conversation going on between them. Trask whispered something to Putnam, and it was as though Putnam had had an ejection seat, the kind that pilots have in aircraft. I thought he'd leave the roadster, leave the coupe or whatever it was. He didn't, but he was in a state of shock. And I just had the feeling somehow it had something to do with me, but I didn't know what. I didn't hear what Trask whispered to him, but I did hear this — probably people around the car heard — Putnam's shout of shock and surprise, "Oh, no!" Something like that. He didn't say anything to me. I returned to Ann Arbor. It was within the week that I returned to Ann Arbor that I received a letter from Putnam.
Do you still have the letter?
I can't find it. I asked Michael, the present trustee, to get me a copy of the one they have in their file, you see. Oh yes, I will. But because of the contents, he never has. But anyway, the letter said that he, Robert Lowell Putnam, trustee of the Lowell Observatory, had decided that the place for infra-red spectroscopy was the physics laboratory at a university and not at an observatory. So he was separating me from the observatory, and as balm he was enclosing a check for $100 in appreciation of my services to the observatory. And that was the end. Now, I have my suspicions. I know the Putnam family is anti-Semitic, and Percival Lowell was very anti-Semitic. I have great regard for him as a genius and one thing and another, but I'm also aware of that aspect. But I am convinced that what Trask whispered to Putnam in that open car was a question, "Is he Jewish?" And it came as a total surprise to Putnam. Now, when I applied for the job, I didn't tell him what my ethnic derivation was. I didn't think there was any reason to do so. I didn't wear a yellow Star of David or anything of the sort, and the question never came up while I was at the observatory. No one ever asked, nor should they have, but no one ever did, and I just regarded myself as an individual just like all the other individuals. But I think, you see, for Putnam to have committed himself to offering me the directorship, which is something that would have made Percival Lowell roll over in his grave if he knew that I was Jewish, a Jewish-American, was more than Putnam could take. And so he decided to separate me from the observatory, and of course in that he undoubtedly had all of the help he might have wanted from the people out here, the older men out here. He might have communicated with others about it. I don't know how he then pursued the idea, but from something Bill Sinton said to me one time, about Menzel, who was at Harvard, I rather think Putnam may have asked someone like Menzel about me. Menzel, who is Jewish himself of course, would know, and probably confirmed Trask's suspicion. But in any event, I imagine after that, I don't know this for a fact, but after that I suppose Putnam got in touch with the people out here and said, "Guess what I've learned." Maybe they told him, "We've known this all along." I don't know. I don't know that they did. The subject never came up. But anyway, that was the end of my association with the Lowell Observatory.
You mentioned that you talked with the present trustee about correspondence.
Yes, Michael, Roger's son. I told him that I can't find, and I've been unable to find, the letter of dismissal that I got from his father, and it's surely not a letter that would be thrown away.
Oh, I think it is.
Well, maybe, but they surely must have had a copy in their file at Springfield, that's right, and Michael said, "I'll look for it." Now, I talked to Art Hoag, who was director there (Lowell). He said, "It's certainly a letter I would never have thrown away," and no one would. Here's a letter pertaining to the separation from service of someone who had made really important contributions to the observatory; modern infra-red astronomy began at Michigan and the Lowell Observatory. You wouldn't throw away a letter connected with that. And so I told Michael I couldn't locate the original that I'd received at the University of Michigan, would he please have a copy made of the one in their file. Oh, of course he would, he said, provided of course that it's still there. So he suspected then that there might be something. And of course, after reading that letter, he'd never send me a copy, because it's probably the greatest — I don't say this in a conceitful way at all, but it's probably one of the greatest mistakes ever made in astronomy. Money was available then for research. My work was attracting a great deal of attention. I'd made numerous discoveries. I'd put infra-red astronomy on the map. I could have obtained funds for a new large infra-red observatory, to begin the third stage of the program that I had.
You'd established contacts with the Air Force.
Oh yes, that's right. In fact — now, it follows what I've already discussed, but I had established contacts with the Air Force. They offered to send a contract wherever I went, so that I might continue my work. So they ultimately sent it to this tiny little college of 400 students where not a lick of research had ever been done, and those funds made it possible for me to build an observatory and continue my research. But in any event, to go on from there, I was in a state of shock. Kuiper of Yerkes Observatory learned that I had been — that I'd left the Lowell Observatory, and he saw the infra-red spectroscopy of the planets as very important, a very important next step. This was after the war. I was ready to do that kind of work before I left for the war effort. In fact, had I remained at the Lowell Observatory during the war, I could have, you know, I could have pursued that work even while I worked under government contract on things that were important for the war effort. I could have studied atmospheric transmission, which I know as a matter of fact others worked on under government contracts using my researches at Lowell. But Kuiper learned that I was no longer with the Lowell Observatory, and he and Struve offered to hire me. They made me an offer to go to the MacDonald Observatory to do for Kuiper what I would have done for myself had I been at the Lowell Observatory, namely, get infra-red spectra of the planets. Here it was, 1946 already, and in '41 I was ready to do this sort of thing on my own at the Lowell Observatory. I'll come back to that. But then it was '46 and I was no longer with the Lowell Observatory. Kuiper and Struve offered me the MacDonald job; it was Kuiper largely but Struve had the purse strings. Struve came to our apartment in Ann Arbor to make final arrangements, and I agreed then to go to the MacDonald Observatory to become a sort of superintendent at the observatory. And I would not only look after the observatory but to do the researches for Kuiper that I would have done for myself in '41and thereafter at the Lowell Observatory, had I stayed there during the war. In the end, it was an abortive attempt. Catharine and I went to Texas. I went to the MacDonald Observatory, but I was in such a state of disarray, I still hadn't got over the shock of being dismissed from Lowell. MacDonald was not attractive to Catharine. We saw the quarters where we would be living and so on. We just turned around and left. Kuiper went on then, of course, he got somebody I suppose to help him do these things. He went on and did the things that I had intended to do ten years before he did them. But in any event, we returned to Michigan. McMath of the McMath-Hulbert Observatory of the University of Michigan — I mentioned it earlier, it's at Lake Angelus, near Pontiac, Michigan — he immediately offered me a job at the Observatory, and I took it. I returned to the employment with the University of Michigan. We went out and found a place to live in Pontiac, and I commuted daily to the observatory. McMath wanted me to work on—and of course, I can't blame him for this—silly ideas of examining solar features in hydrogen alpha light. The entire staff out there was working on that. Golberg was there. McMath was the director, Leo Goldberg worked for McMath, and Ohren Mohler worked for McMath, and of course I worked for McMath. Leo Goldberg I think later returned to Ann Arbor from the McMath-Hulbert Observatory, and I think he became director of astronomy there at Michigan. Ohren Mohler succeeded him, whether immediately or after someone else, I don't know, probably immediately. But at that time they were all working on the sun in H alpha light, you know, flares and prominences and things of that sort, and it never did amount to very much there. Lyot in France with his coronagraph was able to get better images. McMath had the money and authority. It wasn't original money with him; he inherited and ran a bridge company, a bridge building company. In any event, he built or had built by his instrument makers a very elaborate, old fashioned, old style traditional spectro-heliograph with a lot of moving parts, to enable one to scan the sun in monochromatic light. Well, the pictures were all right, but I don't think they ever really amounted to anything. They produced some popular films for school use, that kind of thing. I found I just couldn't fit in. I'm not the slave type, and I just couldn't make myself subservient enough to work on something that I regarded as, if not trivial, at least not particularly exciting or useful. My head was still filled with what I wanted to do in infra-red. And not only that: I had an enormous amount of data that I hadn't yet reduced, much of which I didn't reduce until I came out here and became a member of the faculty at this small college here (A.S.C.). So part of the time, at least, a good deal of the time, I spent reducing my observations that I'd made at Lowell. The 20 micron window, for example, I don't think I put in final form and sent it in for publication until I was working at McMath-Hulbert. Things like that.
I think the black body pictures of the moon weren't published till '46.
Yes, that too. That's right. I did things like that. Then at some point Ohren Mohler said to me — Ohren was the apple of McMath's eye — he said to me, "What you're doing is far more important than what McMath wants you to do, but he doesn't see it that way." So they were unhappy with me. McMath was unhappy, and therefore Goldberg was, because Goldberg was McMath's stooge. It was then that an opportunity — it was more than an opportunity — came to ship me off. Someone in electrical engineering at Michigan, a man by the name of Dow, Professor Dow, got in touch with McMath and said, "Look, we've got some money from the Air Force for some work on ozone. Is there anybody at your observatory who is qualified to work on ozone? We've got this money available and a contract and we can make it all available to you if you have someone who's qualified to do the work." They didn't say what the work was about ozone or anything substantial about ozone. They didn't know anything about ozone. But someone in Air Force Cambridge Research Center, as it was called at that time, or in a similar agency wanted some work. There's a man, O'Day, I think who wanted the work done. He came originally from Oregon, I'm not positive about that, you'll have to check, but I think it was O'Day. I'm surprised I remember that much. In any case he was the one who wanted the work. He was with the Air Force. As a civilian but involved with contracts. He got in touch with Dow in electrical engineering at Michigan. He in turn got in touch with McMath, and McMath saw it as a way to get me off the premises. I wasn't doing much for him anyway. So it was agreed that I would go out to Holloman Air Force Base at Alamogordo, New Mexico. What happened was that by that time, I had developed a method of measuring ozone region radiation temperature. Did I do this while I was still at Lowell, or at Michigan? I believe I began it while at Lowell, and then completed the idea and the work and published the paper, probably while I was at the McMath-Hulbert Observatory after the war. Anyway, I'd developed a very simple method for measuring the effective radiation temperature of the ozone region from the ground. So I said, sure, I'd go out and build a laboratory, I can do something on ozone. I'd never had the opportunity to accumulate a large mass of observations using this technique which I had devised. So I went out to Holloman Air Force Base near Alamogordo, and Leo Goldberg went out with me the first time, to visit the place. I still remember a remark that he made. He said, "Gee, I'll have to come out here," and as he put it, I would use different words, but he said, "I'll have to come out here some time and spend some time and get healthy." This was all in the New Mexican desert, you know. Well, after a day, he left, and I made contact with the contractor, or maybe Goldberg did that, I don't know, but it was left to me to design the building. The Air Force people at Holloman Air Force Base said I might have what they called a hard stand. It's a very large circular patch of concrete way out in the desert. It was far from the headquarters of the base. That base was built, I was told, I've never confirmed it, as a desert base for the British, but the British turned their noses up at it. It was built as a place where they would be able to service their aircraft after they'd been involved in military enterprises, and I think it was finally used by our Air Force to service our B-17s. Each B-17 was brought to an enormously large circular concrete area called a hard stand. And I was told that I could have one of those hard stands on which to build the laboratory. So we did that. It was completed—when was it completed? We worked through the winter. I was there from , when was I there? Now, I joined McMath in '46, and I know that I spent part of '47 and part of '48 at Holloman Air Force Base; maybe part of '46 as well, I don't remember the exact years. But the building was completed, we set up the laboratory, and Catharine was my assistant. Oh, some optical equipment was provided by the National Geographic Society, it seems to me. They had stored some large mirrors, possibly even a celostat, at Mt. Wilson, and where did the other mirrors come from? In any event, I told the instrument makers at the McMath-Hulbert Observatory what I would need in the way of track on which to mount these mirrors. I can't remember those details. But some equipment was flown from Mt. Wilson to Lake Angelus for modification, and when everything was ready, when the celostat was ready, and the tracks were ready, it was all flown out to Holloman. By the way, when I went to McMath Hulbert, McMath said, "I want you to apply," — he was a very dictatorial sort of person — "I want you to apply to the Research Corporation," I think it was the Research Corporation of New York, I'm not sure," for a grant." Oh, I remember now. One of the things I was going to do, you see, was something I'd been prevented from doing here at Lowell: attaching the monochrometer to a telescope. I was going to attach a monochrometer to a telescope at the McMath-Hulbert Observatory. They had a 14 or 15 inch telescope, I remember, and McMath said I could do that, but I'd have to get the money for the monochrometer. By that time, it was possible to purchase infra-red equipment. Mr. Perkin, whom I knew well, had established the Perkin-Elmer organization and they were building infra-red equipment. In fact, he wanted me to go to work for him. He came out to Lowell at the beginning of the war. He was looking for help, and he wanted me to work for him, to design and build infra-red spectrometers and monochrometer. I turned him down because I hadn't finished my work here; I thought I was going to be coming back, and so on.
In fact, we have in Bill Sinton's paper a picture of you and some of your equipment.
Yes, I bought this equipment with the grant I received from Research Corporation of New York, I think it's called, and when I left McMath-Hulbert, they kept this equipment. It was mounted on the 15 inch telescope, as I was going to mount it. A fellow by the name of Keith Pearce, who's at Kitt Peak, he took it over and did some work with it. But in any event, when the celostat and the track for the celostat were made ready at McMath-Hulbert Observatory, according to my specifications, they and this spectrometer were put on a plane. It was a plane that was based at Holloman Air Force Base, which flew to some airport near Lake Angelus. This stuff was loaded aboard and flown back to Holloman Air Force Base, and with help I set it up. No one else from McMath-Hulbert ever came out after that initial visit of Goldberg's, unless possibly someone came to recover the equipment when I abandoned it at the end of my experiment and my separation from McMath-Hulbert. But I set it up and made numerous observations day and night, which I published eventually. I don't think it ever appeared in open publication, but the Air Force Cambridge Research Center or some research division of the Air Force decided to publish a series of monographs. So this research was designated to be Monograph No.2, whatever the article name is, I have copies and I can see that you get one. This one was designated to be Monograph No. 2, and I published the result that way. Now, how did I happen to publish it? Oh, because this work was being done under an Air Force contract and so they published it.
Did you have a contract monitor on that Air Force contract?
On this one, I suppose O'Day must have been monitor on this. No one ever came out to see me. Later when I worked under Air Force contracts, the contract to build the observatory here and do research at the observatory, the monitor was Bob Chapman, Robert Chapman. At what point I became involved with Bob Chapman, I honestly don't remember. So far as this earlier contract was concerned, I merely went out at McMath's bidding to do some ozone research, and I didn't report to them particularly. Oh, before I finished the work, however, I received, while I was still working at Holloman Air Force Base, a letter signed by Goldberg. It said after I finished this project, my services would no longer be required at the McMath-Hulbert Observatory. Well, I could understand that. My interest was exclusively for infra-red, and I was totally occupied by it. I wasn't doing the silly things McMath wanted me to do. I remember McMath telling the people who worked for him that he didn't just want something that could be published; he wanted discoveries that could be published under his name. He wanted discoveries, and he wanted them published under his name. He was that kind of person; so obviously, he couldn't see a future for me. Well, while I was still at Holloman doing this work, and Catharine was assisting me, I received a letter signed by Goldberg, and he was doing McMath's bidding, saying that my services would no longer be required. Well, that was all right. It wasn't the first disappointment in my life. In fact, I didn't know what I would do back at their place after I finished this work at Holloman anyway. So I immediately began to cast about for employment of some sort, knowing that I wouldn't be returning to the University of Michigan. I knew there was a college here in Flagstaff. I was anxious to make my way back here in any case, and so I corresponded with E. C. Slipher, who was on very good terms with the new president of this Arizona State College, a Dr. Lacy Eastburn. Dr. Eastburn was really an educator — as a matter of fact, he had a doctor's degree in education from Stanford. He was brought here as the president of Arizona State College from the position which he then occupied, a position in a savings and loan organization in Phoenix, because they thought that he would be a good administrator. In any event, he was a good friend of E. C. Slipher's, and E. C. knew I was looking for work, and he got in touch with Lacy Eastburn. The person who had taught physics here, physics and chemistry, Hablutzel was his name, had left. He left, so there was an opening in physics here. Physics had been taught here by a nondescript group at various times, first by someone who knew a little about chemistry, then by someone who knew a little about astronomy. They never had really had a physicist here teaching physics. And students told me afterwards, and faculty told me afterwards, that the students had never had that kind of teaching that I presented after I came here. But back then the president, President Eastburn, said he'd like an interview, so the boys at Holloman flew Cathy and I up. They didn't follow a regularly scheduled air route, they just put us in to a C-47, DC 3 would be the commercial equivalent, and they just made a straight line, a beeline for this area. They could see the San Francisco Peaks. They made a beeline for this area, and I didn't think they'd be able to land at the field that Flagstaff had then, Koch Field. President Eastburn and E. C. Slipher were there at the airport waiting for us to come in, and they didn't think we'd make it either, you know. And the boys who flew the plane in didn't think they'd ever make it out. But we got in, and I spent part of a day with Dr. Eastburn. We went to his office, and he told me he was very much interested in research, very much. He said, "To prove it, I'll show you my thesis," and he brought out his thesis from a bottom drawer in his desk. He'd written it on some educational subject, you know, how to teach, or how to teach teachers how to teach, and that was proof that he was interested in research — because of course I wouldn't come here if there were no opportunities for research. Research had never been done here. No one had ever done anything, so far as I know. I told him about my plans. By that time, I'd had contact with the Air Force, and planned to continue my research with their support. Oh, to go back a bit, he'd evidently heard the story of my departure from Lowell. This is another reason why I believe that what Trask whispered to Putnam was the question, "Is he Jewish?" When I got in his office, the first thing I told him was that I was Jewish. I suspected that that's why I had been ousted from Lowell, so the first thing I said to Eastburn was, "Of course you know that I'm Jewish." He said, "If you hadn't told me that, I wouldn't have hired you. I wouldn't think of hiring you." So E. C. Slipher, see, must have been waiting for me. Otherwise, how would Eastburn have known? Why would he have made a remark of that sort? E. C. Slipher must have told him, and the only reason E. C. Slipher would know to tell him was because Putnam told him that's why I was being let go. So that confirmed my suspicion that that's what Trask had talked to Putnam about. But anyway, we talked. I hadn't been hired yet, but he wouldn't have considered even hiring me if I hadn't told him that, this is what he told me. So then we talked about research. He said, "Of course you may do research, provided you don't do it at the expense of your teaching schedule." He didn't know anything about research. He thought this was something you did for five minutes before or after supper. "You'll have to carry a full teaching schedule," which was at that time 19 contact hours. With the students, 19. I said, "I'll do that." "And provided," he said, "you don't solicit funds within the state." He didn't want to be embarrassed. He thought I might ask for money within the state and then prove to be a flop and he'd be left holding the bag. So I said, "Well, I don't have to, because the Air Force has told me," — and they did — "We will send you a contract wherever you go." And indeed, they sent the first contract directly to me, after I accepted employment here. That wasn't legal in this state because the contract has to be between the Air Force and the board of regents, so the contract was sent back and it was rewritten to be between the Air Force and the board of regents. But nonetheless, it was a contract for my work. But let me go back to the notification by Goldberg from McMath Hulburt that I was being separated. I went ahead and finished my work at the desert observator, and I had compiled enough data to know that the results would be significant. I finished my work, and I didn't send the material back to Michigan. I kept all the data with me. In fact, after the abrupt and brusque treatment which I had received from McMath and Goldberg, I decided not to have anything further to do with them, and so I simply packed up the data. I secured all of the equipment, locked the building, and I probably did notify people at Lake Angelus that I had finished and was leaving everything. I don't know how they got it back. I know they were terribly unhappy about it. They had to send someone out. To this day I don't know whom they sent out. They had to send someone out to see that it was all crated and returned to the people who had loaned it to McMath-Hulburt in the first place for my use and, of course, the monochrometer I purchased with Research Corporation funds went back to Lake Angelus. But I didn't care about that. And they were probably incensed that I didn't send the final report to them, for them to sign and to author. Probably, but I took it upon myself to reduce the data and publish it, which I did, as the Monograph Number 2 in that series.
I'm interested in E. C. Slipher's role in this. It seems as if he must be recommending you as someone who's a very competent person?
Oh yes, he did. Yes, he did.
Do you think that he didn't want you at the observatory?
He couldn't, because Putnam didn't want me there. See, it was Putnam who didn't, and Putnam didn't want me there because of my ethnic origin. It wasn't because of my inability to perform at the observatory. Not at all. I hope I've made that clear on the tape.
— no, E. C., as a matter of fact, eventually invited me back to do work. It was Lampland who didn't want me up there at the observatory. Putnam didn't and Lampland didn't. Now, Lampland didn't because I was showing him up, as it were. I didn't do it intentionally. I mean, there were problems I wanted to work on, experiments I wanted to work on, but these are things he could have been doing, you see, for years, and didn't, so he was embarrassed. That's the reason I know, one reason I know that he was one who wanted me out. Well, there are several reasons I know he wanted me out. Very shortly after Lampland died, E. C. came down to see me and he said, "You can come back up to work at the observatory now, not as a staff member," because I was employed at the college. But he said "if there's some research you want to do with that equipment you built, you're free to come back now." And I declined. But he came down, I'll give him credit for that, he came down and he said, "Lampland's gone and you're free to come back and use any of the equipment that you built up there that you want and continue your researches." But it was too late. It was just too late for that. So I know from that that Lampland was one of the stumbling blocks. Probably when Putnam heard from Trask and Putnam then probably checked with someone like Menzel at Harvard and the communicated with the people out here, he probably got the strongest endorsement for his actions from Lampland. And V. M. was the kind of person who just went along. He wouldn't fight Lampland over a matter of that sort. As a matter of fact, when we came out to retrieve our belongings, when was this? I don't remember the exact timing, but we came out to get our things. We engaged a moving van and we came out to move our things that we had left out here because we thought we were coming back to Lowell. While we were here, V. M. Slipher didn't have the decency to say good-bye. He knew what was happening. He knew I'd been forced out. There's a row of garages at the observatory. He hid in one of those. I saw him as Catharine and I were driving down the hill, after the moving van had left or we'd made arrangements and we were leaving for the last time. He was hiding in one of those garages. He wasn't man enough to come out and say good-bye, and to say, "Well, I didn't want you to go, but Lampland did, or Putnam and Lampland did," or anything of that sort. Well, I did that work at Holloman Air Force Base. I should add this, that I was approached by the man who was superintendent of research. The Air Base was regarded as a research center for the Air Force, and its contractors. The man who had served as the superintendent of research — somehow I seem to think his name was Goldberg also — he was leaving. This was the end of the war and he was going. It was two years after the end of the war, I guess, four years or three years after, and he was going, and they needed a new superintendent of research. Now I cannot remember his name, but I got a letter from one of the base officers. I still have the letter, I think, in the safe deposit box, a letter from an Air Force officer who was in charge. He wasn't the top or chief officer in charge of the air base. I remember the name of that man, it was Helmick, Lieutenant Colonel Helmick I think was in charge of Holloman Air Force Base. It wasn't Helmick but it was someone under him. He offered me the job of the superintendency of Holloman Air Force Base, superintendency of research, in Alamogordo, New Mexico, at $10,305 and a house. I had by that time accepted the teaching position here, but I could have changed. In fact, when I showed President Eastburn that letter offering me the job at Holloman Air Force Base, he said, "Well, God bless you, why don't you go?" So they could have found someone else here at A.S.C. I wasn't asking him for an increase in my $4000 salary, I just wanted him to know that I had received the offer, and possibly to know that this wasn't the only place I might have found work. And when I told E. C. Slipher about it, what did he say? He said, "Well, I didn't persuade you to take this job," the one at $4000. I said I wasn't blaming him or criticizing him or anything of the sort, I just wanted him to know. I still have that letter. I'm sure it's in the safe deposit box at the bank downtown. But in any case, I had that offer before I came up here. When I came up here, then, this was in the late summer of '48 by that time; the physics laboratory was in a deplorable state. They'd never had a physicist teaching, and it was a shambles. The first thing I had to do was about two weeks’ worth of janitorial work to make any sense out of it at all. But it was a very different kind of school then from what it is now. We had fewer than a thousand students, perhaps 400, 500, 600 students. Most of them came from ranches in Arizona. I enjoyed them very much. As I indicated earlier, I was told later by both students and faculty that they had never experienced the kind of teaching that I offered, coming from the University of Michigan and teaching them as I had been taught at Michigan. So I found that gratifying, and I knew I was helpful, and many of the youngsters were very successful. After what I could teach them here in physics and mathematics, and also astronomy, they got into engineering schools. After two years I felt I'd done as much for the pre-engineering students as I could, and I'd send them to the university at Tucson. I was told good things by some of the people at Arizona State College who went down there to see how our students were getting on, and also to get graduating high school students to come up to go to the college here. I was told that my students led their classes down there, because they'd received such good background training here in engineering physics, engineering calculus, differential equations, things like that. So I was very pleased with that. It didn't matter to me that I was teaching at a little school. A number of them went into medicine, dentistry, law, the usual things. But anyway, I got them excited about going to school. And at the same time, I refused the offer at Holloman Air Force Base. While I was working at Holloman Air Force Base, I was flown by a Lieutenant Colonel Crawford at the base to a meeting in Boston at which I presented some of the results that I had obtained at Holloman Air Force Base. And it may be that at that time, I also made contact with members of the Air Force Cambridge Research Center, which was headquartered in the area. I honestly can't remember. In any event, that group sent a contract to support my research to me at Arizona State College at Flagstaff. The contract had to be returned because it was written between the Air Force and me, which was not acceptable. It had to be written between the Air Force and the board of regents of the universities and state colleges of Arizona, and it was so rewritten. It enabled me to establish the Atmospheric Research Observatory on the campus of Arizona State College. The principal instrument was and still is a 24 inch reflecting telescope, and there were numerous auxiliary telescopes. To my knowledge, it was the first infra-red telescope ever built. That is to say, it was the first telescope ever designed specifically for far infra-red work. I know of no other that preceded it. I have a blueprint here I'll show you, a blueprint which shows the infra-red telescope for Arizona State College.
Who built that?
J. W. Fecker Company, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, according to my specifications. There were numerous auxiliary telescopes which served other purposes, but this primary telescope, 24 inch reflector, was intended to provide infra-red radiation for analysis by a monochrometer to be attached to the telescope. That's the way I used it, and I can show you photographs of that. So it was the first telescope ever deliberately designed as an infra-red telescope, and I used it for that purpose for many years. The first contract came I think in 1950, something of that sort, 1950. Construction wasn't completed for some time — I made my first observation, I think it was July the 1st of 1953. I finally had to give up the contract for reasons of health sometime in the mid or late sixties, maybe '67, something like that. The man who was then the liaison between the Air Force Cambridge Research Center and my research, my contract, I can't think of his name, came out bringing a contract with him. I remember, it was for $40,000 for that particular year, and I had to decline for reasons of health. And I suggested he take the contract up to the Lowell Observatory, which he did, and they accepted it. So that was the end of the contract research.
One thing I'm not quite clear on is, exactly what was the Air Force's interest? Was it the atmosphere for long range weather forecasting?
They never did say. They knew about my work, of course. The people at Air Force Cambridge Research Center, at least, knew about the work I had done at Michigan. They knew about the work I'd done at the Lowell Observatory. And some of them were people from Ohio State University, and Ohio State at that time was very busy copying what I had done. They came into the field after the war. I'd finished my work practically before the war began. Just as Migeotte came in after the war, so they also came in after the war. These people, some of the people such as Chapman I think, were from Ohio State, and they knew about my work because they were busy reproducing it. But nothing was ever said to me about how anything I did would be applied, or whether I should direct my research in any way. I was a free agent, absolutely a free agent, except that I would work on the earth's atmosphere. Except for that, I was a free agent, that's right. So I did two things with the observatory when it was completed. I accumulated a staff to help me with the observations, and to do computing, and I began to gather ozone data. What I had in mind was building an observatory that would devote itself to an accumulation of ozone data, all kinds, infra-red, ultraviolet. It was too late to do what I would have down at the Lowell Observatory in '41 and '42, because Kuiper had now done that or was doing it, and so I would do something else. I would gather ozone data in a variety of ways, and then examine these data to see what could be deduced, what could be learned. There were two major results. It was clear, I should say, from the beginning that if I gathered a great volume of observations, which I intended to do, then I would need statistical help. I don't regard myself as competent in statistics myself, and I would need someone who could be sophisticated about statistical analyses. The point was, that there are so many things going on in the earth's atmosphere. If you're observing just one or two or three of them, they have almost certainly been influenced and affected by all the other meteorological things going on in the atmosphere, and you've got to have a statistician who can somehow separate the various effects. So I requested the services of a statistician from the Air Force, and they said, "Sorry, it's just not possible." Then I talked with Frank Gifford, who so far as I know is still at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and who had spent some time at Lowell Observatory. He worked up Lampland's Mars data, using my atmospheric transmission results. I told Frank about my need for a statistician, and he used his influence with the Air Force, and they said, "Fine, we can provide you with one for a year." The man they provided was a lieutenant, I guess, in the Air Force. His name is Edward Epstein. He had an undergraduate degree from Harvard in I don't know what, mathematics or something, astronomy, I really don't know, and a Master's degree in statistics from Columbia University. So I said, "Well, it's worth a try," so they sent Ed out. He'd just got married and he and Alice came out, and I got lodgings for them on campus. There used to be some cottages on campus. It was really a wonderful experience for them. They're both Jewish and their families, like most Jewish families, would have interfered very, very much in the first year of marriage. It would have been hell for them. And they've told me since, I saw them in '84, I visited with them and we had dinner together in Washington, and they told me it was just wonderful that they could be this far away from their families the first year of their married life. They actually stayed with me for two years, I think. The Air Force was going to lend him to me for a year, but he stayed for two years, and he did the statistics. I was taking observations in both ultra violet and infra-red. I could tell just from the raw infra-red data that there were things of great interest about ozone in those data. Ed went to work on the data, and the first thing we accomplished was, we developed a method for determining the vertical distribution of ozone from a ground station. Ozone as you know is present throughout the atmosphere, but if you plot the amount horizontally versus the height vertically, first you have very little and then it gradually increases, and then between 15 and 20 miles you find most of it, and then it begins to decrease again. This vertical distribution of the ozone is of enormous importance to meteorologists. The full import of ozone in meteorological processes is still not known. And you know, lately there's been a tremendous amount of talk about the hole in the ozone and all that. But ozone is a very important parameter in meteorology and in other things. Now, to determine how much is say a hundred feet above the ground, how much is a mile above the ground, how much two miles, 20 miles, 50 miles, there was only one way in which they were doing that sort of thing. It was called the Umkehr effect, and it was not altogether satisfactory. It was based entirely on ultraviolet observations. But we developed a method using infra-red and ultraviolet far better than the Umkehr method. We published it, and it was the first such method ever published. A fellow by the name of Goody, a professor —
Richard Goody. Richard Goody of Harvard. Yes, he later came out with a method after we had. But that was the first of two major things we did at Atmospheric Research Laboratory. The other, again, was made possible by the vast volume of ozone data that we took. It was apparent to me that in that data there were indications of periodicities in certain parameter. For example, the effective radiation temperature of the ozone region, the infra-red absorption at 9.6 microns by atmospheric ozone, the absorption by ozone of ultraviolet solar radiation, all of these parameters were varying periodically. So Ed Epstein went to work on that. We actually found several periodicities of, but the ones we concentrated on were 17 days and 10 days, and they behaved differently in the winter than they did in the summer. We published this also. This again is in the JOURNAL OF METEOROLOGY. I'm sure those references are in things that you have, references to both of those papers. Those were the two main researches accomplished at the Atmospheric Research Observatory. There were other periodicities of six weeks and ten weeks, but we didn't do much to investigate the six weeks period or the ten weeks period exhaustively. You've got to have years and years of observations, and we didn't, so we concentrated on the 17 days and the 10 days. Also Ed had to return to the Air Force at about that time. He was getting out of the service, as a matter of fact, and he went then to Pennsylvania State and got his doctor's degree under one of the Panofsky twins, Hans, the one who was called the Dumb Panofsky, though neither one was ever very dumb. But anyway. Anyway Ed got his PhD with him and then went to work. Oh, in fact, Ed got a job first at the University of Michigan. I think it was his first after he got his PhD. He ultimately became the chairman of the department of meteorology and oceanography at Michigan. I've never for the life of me been able to understand, even after seeing and visiting with him in '84, why he left that to take a government position in Washington. When I asked him, when I saw him in the spring of '84, he said, well, he wanted to get away from the administrative work. He could have done that by just dropping down to teaching again, being a professor. There may have been something else. I don't know. But anyway he went to Washington. Poor fellow, he's become a victim of Parkinson's disease, and I haven't heard from him or Alice since I saw them in the spring of '84, so I don't know how he's getting on. But he had changed, his personality had changed so, between when he was a young man working out here, and the time when I saw him in '84. Of course, that was, what? That was a 27 year gap. He left in '57 I think, that's 27 years. In that time, they'd brought their family into being and raised them. One daughter is a pharmacologist. She has a PhD. She's a pharmacologist at Michigan. You don't care to hear about these things. One son got a degree in meteorology at the University of Michigan, but decided he wanted to go into business instead, so as far as I know he's in the clothing business in upper New York State. Another daughter was in architecture, I think, at Harvard, and a son was in computing. Let's see, was it Carol who was at Michigan? No, Debra. Debra became the pharmacologist, Harry went into the clothing business, all this I learned in '84. Nancy is the architectural student at Harvard, probably graduated now, and Bill is in computing. But anyway, that's the story about that. And so that's what we did with the Atmospheric Research Laboratory after we built it. We did a number of smaller experiments, and all that work was described in scientific reports. Nonetheless, the two major researches, the vertical distribution of ozone and the periodicities in all of the ozone parameters, both infra-red and ultraviolet, were published in open journals. When I saw Ed in '84, I talked to him about something I'd done with the data, and it seemed to me he no longer believed in the periodicity. He still regarded the vertical distribution problem that we had solved, originated and solved, as one of his two major contributions in his entire research career, and he thought I'd be pleased to know that, and I was. But about the periodicities, which I regard as probably one of the most important things I've done, he seemed to be unconvinced, even though he had spent two years with me doing sophisticated power spectrum analysis statistics, demonstrating the existence of these periodicities. It's something I don't understand to this day. But anyway that's where it stands.
I wonder if you ever were in contact with researchers after the war who were doing balloon experiments with the upper atmosphere? I think John Strong had some experiments.
I know that Migeotte, the fellow I mentioned who was going back to Belgium to walk in my footsteps, as it were, and do the work that I'd been doing was involved in that. He had a group which used to come over from Belgium, go from Belgium to Odessa, Texas, to fly balloons. That apparently was the balloon center for the Air Force. But I never did know what they were doing. I can't remember that he ever told me the details, just told me he was there from time to time. I never received invitations from any group working in ozone. It's funny, too, because of my work with nitrous oxide, you know, which I discovered. I also published my ideas concerning the origin of the nitrous oxide. That's the generally accepted theory now, that it comes from the soils and the oceans of the earth as a result of organic decomposition, and that nitrous oxide is nature's principal device for controlling the amount of ozone. It rises, escapes from the soils and the oceans, rises to great heights, and achieves a gravitational distribution. Then it reacts with sunlight to form nitric oxide, NO, from N2O to NO, and the NO attacks the ozone. I've got the reactions written down somewhere. It attacks ozone, and reduces two molecules of ozone to three molecules of oxygen. But you'd think that the people who are dealing with the ozone hole, and who are wondering whether oxides of nitrogen are responsible or whether chlorofluorocarbons are responsible would have been in touch. You'd think one of them at least would have written to me, and not one has. It's very strange. Perhaps they needn't and perhaps they shouldn't have. But all of these things are intimately involved. But I'm still working on the periodicities because I still believe in them. You know — it's a strange thing about the hole in the Antarctic ozone. The people who did the most recent research about a year of two ago, were a group of Americans. I think the British discovered the hole, but a year or two ago the Americans did a lot of research down there at Antarctica. They discovered that not only was there very little or no ozone, but there was almost no nitrous oxide. In fact, they said anywhere on earth you can make infra-red measurements and detect the nitrous oxide, and there's about as much nitrous oxide as there is ozone. You reduce it all to sea level pressure and you get a layer about 3 millimeters thick of either ozone or nitrous oxide. In Antarctica they couldn't find any. That's a tremendous puzzle, and it leads me to believe that possibly the nitrous oxide is involved in a major way in producing the hole in the ozone. It destroys ozone, and maybe it just hasn't been replaced, I don't know. But anyway I thought I might hear from one of these people, if only in the interests of politeness or something, but I haven't heard from any of them. I follow the literature as closely as I can. But Ed Epstein, whether he was pulling my leg or trying to turn me aside or what I don't know, but he claims that he no longer believes in the periodicities, and I just can't believe that. When I mentioned this to Bill Sinton, he agreed with me. He thinks there's something there also, something significant about the periodicities. Well, I guess that's the story of my life, Robert, unless you have some questions.
There is just one or two that I was interested in putting. I know that in '48, they started the Lowell Planetary Atmospheric Project. I wonder if ever you got involved —
— the thing that Bill Baum is the director of?
This would have been I think when Harry Wexler, actually, was involved in getting funding for Lowell to do a project on planetary atmospheres.
Oh, I didn't know anything about that. '48?
That's right, and then there were reports from that project which I think that were published in '50 or '52. Let me give you some of the names of the people. Frank Gifford was involved.
Frank Gifford, and then there was Lorenz at MIT? Yes.
Lorenz, Seymour Hess.
Seymour Hess, that's right.
Now, I never did know what kind of a contract those people were working under or what the arrangement was, and I didn't know of Harry Wexler's involvement, although he and I were good friends. I still have a letter from Harry describing the so-called monsoon in this area of the country. I asked him one time for his explanation of the rainy season here, and he wrote me a letter. I should turn that over to somebody. I think it has historical significance. He's long since dead, of course. No, I didn't know about that, Robert. I didn't know that Harry Wexler had instigated such a thing, that he was behind it. I knew of it in general, of course. I was terribly busy at the college, but I knew Ralph Shapiro and I knew Gifford, Frank Gifford, and you mentioned someone else who passed away a few years ago, Seymour Hess, and they were all good people. Yes, I knew all of them, but I didn't know that it was all tied together that way. I thought these people were coming out here for a year at a time or something, and one quite independently of the other. I didn't know that there was any connection.
I think they were funded out of the Geophysical Research Division of Air Force-Cambridge.
Yes, I see. I do remember one time when Lorenz was out here. I don't think Lorenz spent a great deal of time out here. Perhaps he came out from time to time. I honestly don't know. But he worked with E. C. Slipher, and I remember E. C. Slipher invited me out to talk to Lorenz about some planetary problems. Perhaps, if I remember correctly, he even offered to pay me for the time that I spent. I think E. C. was more remorseful about the fate that I suffered at the Lowell Observatory, at the hands of both Putnam and Lampland, than anybody else. He tried to make amends, as I look back, by, one, telling me to come up after Lampland's death and continue my experiments, and two, inviting me out to see Lorenz and paying me for it. But that's the only contact I had with that project. I really had no other. And I don't think I was able to say anything that helped Lorenz at all.
All right. There was one point I had in mind, and that was the change of detectors that occurred after the war, I think, to the lead sulphide.
Oh yes. Well, of course the lead sulphide is restricted to the short wavelength region. There were other new things also, which I have never used, because they were developed after I finished my research. There was, let's see, the —
— obvium (?) systems come into the field —
Yes, that's right, all of those cooled detectors. Yes, that's right. No, I've never used those.
I was interested in the diffusion of the technology of lead sulphide, because I think, looking at the publications, you actually used —
— I used lead sulphide at McMath-Hulbert when I was there for that short time. I was with them for two years. But most of that two years, '46 to '48, I spent at Holloman Air Force Base. I was actually at Lake Angelus for just a short time, a fraction of that two year period. During that time, Ohren Mohler was actually in charge of that project, using lead sulphide as a detector for getting spectra of the sun, and I remember I had something to do with the optics. I recall an incident in which McMath and Ohren Mohler and I were all at the spectroscope or spectrometer or spectrograph, whatever it was, and there was some question about the optics, and I'd come fresh, as it were, from teaching optics for four years in that meteorology program at the University of Michigan in the physics department. So I was able to tell them at once how to interpose lenses to get virtual images and so on and so forth. That was about the only connection I had with the lead sulphide cell, and I can't really take much credit for that. Ohren Mohler was in charge of that.
So he introduced you to that kind of detector?
Yes, and I never used it after that. I never used it. I never had occasion to, because I went from there to Holloman Air Force Base, and then from Holloman Air Force Base to here. I could have used it, but there were people with much larger telescopes using that sort of thing then. Moreover, I had the desire to work on these ozone parameter problems, these statistical surveys of ozone parameters, so I stuck with that. I didn't need anything but a thermocouple to do that.
There was another point that I wanted to raise, and that was a conference in 1947 at the Yerkes Observatory. That was a symposium on planetary atmospheres. I don't know if you recall that, if you attended that.
That is the one to which I referred earlier. Remember, I made reference to a meeting in the 1930s to which Struve, Otto Struve, invited me.
(crosstalk) Some people I definitely know were there. Theodore Dunham was there. Herzberg was there.
'47, was Migeotte there?
That I'm not sure of. I've got some possible attendees. For example, Wexler was possibly there although I'm not sure about that.
’47… let me think back. Maybe you want to stop the machine while I'm thinking. The possibility of studies of the atmospheres of the earth and planets occurred to Kuiper or was germinating in his mind, and first there was some other kind of meeting there. I don't know whether it was a meeting of the American Astronomical Society; I don't think so. There was some kind of meeting, and then Kuiper asked me if I would stay over for a couple of days. Gosh, I'm just not at all sure about that. He asked whether I would stay over a couple of days so that we could all talk about planetary atmospheres. And I remember, I went out and bought a new shirt for the occasion. I don't know whether that's the meeting you're referring to. '47, '48.
I guess that would have been about right for the publication of the book.
It came out after that.
I don't recall the date. I should have made a proper note.
There must be a reference in one of the things that you have bearing on my work. I refer to my chapter in that book, and there would be a date there, I think. Yes. '47. Do you find a reference to the book? I'm sure it's in Monica Joseph's paper.
I don't think that was referenced.
Gee, it had to be. May I just look at that, if that's her paper? Let's see — I know there was one meeting, a meeting we went to at Northwestern University. I don't remember that it was — here, University of Chicago — no, yes, no, no, this is something else. I saw Kuiper's name but that's something else. This is Hutchinson's article in that series of books. This one was called THE EARTH AS A PLANET, edited by Kuiper. That's another book. Isn't that strange? There's a reference to that Geophysical Research Paper No. 2 that I mentioned. But I don't see a reference to my chapter. Anyway, there was a meeting at Northwestern. I remember that. Now, if it was '47, that meant I had to go up from McMath-Hulbert Observatory, or if I was already at Holloman Air Force Base, I had to come back. I think I probably went up from McMath-Hulbert. I don't remember, let's see, Kuiper was there, definitely, Migeotte was there, I don't remember about Herzberg. He may very well have been.
This is something that I'm just starting to look into.
Now, what is it again?
It was a symposium on planetary atmospheres. It seems as if you would be an obvious sort of person to invite.
I'm pretty sure I was there, and I remember, for example, presenting my work on the moon there, and Kuiper was very much impressed. I recall that. He said, "It's the first time the moon has been shown to radiate as a black body." I remember he said that to me. And I know I was at Northwestern for a meeting. It's not far from Yerkes Observatory. Is this alleged to have taken place at the Yerkes Observatory?
Yes, it was termed the Yerkes Observatory Symposium on Planetary Atmospheres. Adel: [Added later by Adel: it may well be that we went up to Yerkes for this after the Northwestern meeting.] I know that Struve invited me to talk about Mars, and I did, and I don't remember whether it's the same meeting at all, or whether there were two different meetings. I honestly don't remember. [Added later by Adel: there were two different occasions.]
I'll have to do some more digging. Maybe I can find some documents that would help.
Yes. Sure. I'd be glad to know myself, because I've completely forgotten those dates. I know at one of those meetings Kuiper asked me to stay over for a couple of days so we could discuss things about planetary atmospheres. [Added later by Adel: I stayed, and this was the one that was probably held at Yerkes.]
Did you have close contact with Kuiper as he was developing his own atmospheres peogram?
Oh yes, definitely. Very definitely.
That was through conversation and correspondence both?
No, just conversation. A little correspondence when it came to the job that I had accepted, the offer he made at MacDonald. Of course, as I say, he was going to have me do what I would have done on my own at Lowell, and then he went on to do it at MacDonald himself. So that's the only contact I had with him really. That agreement about my working at MacDonald was finalized by a visit that Otto Struve, the director of Yerkes Observatory, paid to our home in Ann Arbor in, when would that have been? Oh, let's see, '46, yes, in '46. I remember the ice cream we served Otto Struve. He said, "Where do you get such wonderful ice cream?" He was a nice man.
I wonder if, during the course of our conversation, if you think there are any major omissions that we've made, things we've missed out?
I don't think so. I've been extremely frank and honest, as frank and honest as I can be. There are some embarrassing things described in that, but I haven't held back because of that. I've talked about the poor beginnings as a grade school student and the technical high school that I went to, the jobs I held along the way, the gap between high school and university when I was out earning money to enter the university, changing my major from engineering to mathematics, from mathematics to physics, ultimately finding work in astronomy. I spoke of the beginnings with the Lowell Observatory, and the interruption due to the war. There is one thing that we've mentioned, but we didn't dwell on. The third stage of my work at Lowell was going to be attaching the monochrometer to a telescope, the 40 inch telescope in particular, and getting spectra of the planets. I would be doing absolutely nothing different really than I had been doing working with a spectrometer, but instead of using the small heliostat, I now would be using the 40 inch mirror on the telescope. Lampland was agreeable that this should be done. He was in charge of the shop. He wasn't an instrument maker, but he had jurisdiction over the shop. I don't know whether you want to record this or not, or are you recording?
Yes, if that's OK.
Oh, fine. Sure. So we designed it. It was just a miniature of what I had been using. We designed it in such a way that it could be attached to the 40 inch telescope, and then I would use the same detector I had been using, the same kind of amplifier. I brought the ideas for that amplifier with me from Michigan; that was the Firestone type periodic radiometer amplifier, which I had built out here, and the same galvanometers that I'd been using, so there was nothing new really. So the equipment was built, and as soon as it had been completed — this was in '41, I think — as soon as it had been completed, Lampland put it under his arm, carried it off, and I didn't see it again until Henry Giclas showed it to me very recently. So wasn't that a dog in the manger sort of thing to do? He didn't know what to do with it himself. Any observations he got wouldn't have meant anything to him. He didn't know where to begin. But at the same time, he wasn't going to let me use it. Now, I could have remained at Lowell during the war, not only because of age, but because I could have had a contract to do work useful in the war effort. It's a matter of record that Harold Nielsen, who was chairman of the department of physics at Ohio State University, got an Air Force contract or some military contract to use observations I had already published, to determine something about atmospheric transmission. I could have done that work here at Lowell, you see. I could have remained at Lowell, been in the war effort, and at the same time pursued these planetary researches with the monochrometer that was built for the 40 inch. And I told that to the people here. "Oh, no, no, you've got to get out." So I did want to make that clear, that we built the instrument, it was ready to go, all it needed was insertion into the telescope at the Newtonian end, and results would have been available immediately. But Lampland carried it off and that was the last I saw of it until Henry Giclas showed it to me recently. And I suggested to Henry that he have Stuart Jones photograph it.
That would be marvelous. I'd love to get a picture of that.
Yes, he has photographed it. I have some pictures here that I'll show you or give to you, for that matter.
That also reminds me: when you talked about building the spectrometer at lunch time, you referred to Stanley Sykes. I don't think we talked about him on tape.
Oh yes. Henry Giclas has written a little about him. Henry is interested, perhaps you know this.
Yes, I read his article that he wrote for —
— the Historical Society or something. He mentions Stanley Sykes in that, and I insisted that he do that. So Henry goes on to mention that Stanley Sykes built the prism spectrometer with which I, Arthur Adel, discovered heavy water in the earth's atmosphere, and I don't know whether Henry mentions nitrous oxide or not. But anyway, he does mention him. Oh, Sykes was a remarkable man. Just an absolutely remarkable individual. He had a little shop in the woods that reminded you of the Hansel and Gretel story, you know. All he had was a lathe or two, and he had a rickety old shaper. He didn't have a milling machine. He had a number of drill presses and he had a carpenter shop. But he could build anything you wanted. A lot of it was hand work. He was good at spinning things in the lathe, not only turning them out with tools, cutters, but spinning pieces of sheet metal and such. The fact that he was able to build the prism spectrometer and the grating spectrometer for me are indications of the abilities that he had. I told him of course what I needed, but whatever it was I needed, he was able to put it together.
So how did that go, did you go to him with drawings of what you had in mind?
Yes, with dimensions and things of that sort, yes. It had to go through Lampland. Lampland was in charge of the shop, and so Lampland hovered like a mother hen over Sykes and he would say, "No, do it this way, do it this way," but in the end Sykes generally did it his own way. But there was a continuous process between Sykes and me as to what I needed, so it didn't matter what Lampland said. I ultimately got what I told Sykes I needed, after I gave him the dimensions and so on.
You'd go to the shop and talk directly with Sykes?
Yes, and talk directly with Sykes. I don't think Lampland appreciated it, but I did that. I did that. I was going to say something else. Oh, Sykes had a fund of stories. He was a marvelous raconteur. Henry probably remembers many of the stories; I'm afraid I don't. I remember only what he said about his hearing tube. He was hard of hearing. He was pretty elderly even when I was at the observatory, and he was in his nineties I think when he passed away, and that was when I returned to Flagstaff after the war. He didn't have a modern hearing aid, but he had a tube, you know, and you were supposed to shout into that tube. When he couldn't understand, he said, "This thing was invented by some damned foreigner who couldn't speak the English language." He was an Englishman himself, and he was a good water colorist, a good painter. He came with his brother Red Sykes, Geoffrey Sykes, to this country when they were both very young men. I think they had despaired of Stanley Sykes' life, of the instrument maker's life in England. He had, what's the word? Respiratory difficulties. Possibly even tuberculosis, I don't know. So eventually, they told him to go to the American Southwest. This is as I understand it. Henry would know more. And so they came, and they punched cows for a long time. They were cowboys. And then, I don't know what the progression of events was, but I know they helped put in the road to the Mt. Wilson Observatory. After that Stanley, and possibly his brother Red too, I don't know, but Stanley ran a lumber mill in Flagstaff or near Flagstaff. Eventually, Percival Lowell got hold of him, and he became Percival Lowell's instrument maker. Sykes practically built the Lowell Observatory. He also took care of Lowell's automobile. Lowell at that time owned a great deal of stock in the Santa Fe Railroad, so he could have them stop in Flagstaff, load his car and take it wherever there were good road systems or reasonable ones or possible ones, and then unload the car. Stanley took care of the car for him, and in my mind, Stanley built the observatory. He was an exceedingly helpful person. I got the impression from Stanley Sykes in conversations with him, and I had many of them, that he was very well-read, he and his wife Belle were extremely well-read. We were often at their home for dinner in town. He built the house they lived in, and it cost him, I remember he told us, $100 a room. It was a large house. Suppose there were ten rooms, that's a thousand dollars for the house. It has since been torn down. It was torn down a few years ago, and something put up in its stead. I got the distinct impression from Stanley, it was more than an impression, it was actual knowledge -– factual — that he was held in much higher esteem by Percival Lowell than were the others, the older men. I can see why, because the others were just assistants. They were taking orders and carrying them out, whereas Stanley, with his innovative ability, his ability at innovation, was able to do. He was able to keep Lowell's car running, to build the observatory, to do things like that. Stanley told me there were times when Lowell would return after an absence, and find that the two Sliphers and Lampland had sort of loafed on the job while he was away, and he'd give them holy hell. But Lowell never treated Stanley that way. And I was prepared to believe him, from what I saw. That's about all I know about Stanley. His wife Belle, she was a Switzer or Sweitzer; there's a big apartment store in Phoenix, Switzers or Sweitzers, and she was a member of that family. They're both gone now, but they had two sons, Stanley and Guy, also both dead now. They would load up a Ford that he had, drive it all the way to the East Coast, board ship and return to England for a visit. En route, he told me, many's the time he had to completely take apart the engine between here and New York and put it together again so that they could make the journey. He was that kind of person. He was very fond of, what was it we used to order and give him? Kippered fish of some sort from a place in the East called Gorton's. Or was it Franky Davis? [Added later by Adel: yes, it was Davis.] Someplace no longer in business, anyway. He had dentures, and when Catharine and I were abroad one time, I made it a special point in England to get him a pipe that was designed for people with dentures, and he was enormously appreciative of that.
So he was very much a kind of positive force at the observatory?
Yes, absolutely, although he was treated as though he were very much a subordinate, you know. They didn't regard him as highly as they should. Of course, they knew very well that without him, they'd be nothing. They knew that. But they treated him as a hired hand. See, they were the aristocracy, but Stanley was a hired hand, just as we younger people were. Just a hired hand. And I remember once V. M. Slipher complained bitterly to me about Stanley, who took the day off to go hunting with one of his sons. He said, "When he comes back now, he won't be fit for work." And of course he was fit for work. He did more than all three of those men up there put together. But he was treated as a hired hand. There were really social levels up there. There were levels of, what would you say, not levels of attainment but levels of existence, whatever. Those three men regarded themselves as the aristocrats, and everyone else might just as well have been a wood cutter. Everyone else might as well have been a wood cutter out in the woods, because we were valued that little and treated as though we were.
I guess all of them would have been there 30 years at least.
Oh yes, you see, by the time I took up residence there, '36, their tenure was more than 30 years, that's right, for both V. M. and Lampland, I think, and almost that for E. C. Slipher. And they behaved as though they owned the place, especially, of course, after Lowell's death. Up to his death, they were the indentured servants, the hired hands, and that's just what they were. They were hired hands. But Lowell was very good to them, extremely good. When he thought Lampland was ailing, he sent him off for a holiday. He built homes for them. I think he was extremely good to them.
Did Lampland ever talk about Percival Lowell to you?
He never did, except possibly in connection with the 40 inch telescope. Lowell wanted the 40 inch, but when he looked through it or into it, and saw that it was inferior to his 24 inch refractor, he just turned it over to Lampland and said, "You can have it," something like that. But did Lampland ever talk to me about Lowell? Never, not once, and neither did V. M. Slipher and neither did E. C. Slipher. You see, the point was, they stood as it were between the menial help and Lowell. He was the god whom they had served. He was the aristocrat in their life, and we weren't to share any part of that, so they didn't. I learned what little I knew about Lowell from Stanley Sykes, who talked freely about his association with Lowell. Smith: I wonder if there are any other omissions that have come to mind? It's oftener easier with the transcript in front of you to notice omissions.
Let's see, we've gone through the grade school, high school, university, the gap between high school and university, getting the job at Lowell. Being eased out at the beginning of World War II. That was probably a good thing for me in a way. It prevented me from doing what planetary research I wanted to do, but at the same time it got me back into the university atmosphere, and I learned how to teach and also did the war research work at Michigan. We covered then the dismissal from Lowell by Roger Lowell Putnam, and the abortive attempt at locating at MacDonald, ending up at McMath-Hulbert, and separating from McMath-Hulbert because I didn't do their silly stuff, but rather worked on mine. We talked about the work at the Holloman Air Force Base, and at the termination of that, declining the offer of a job at Holloman to come to Arizona State College. We discussed the a contract then between Arizona State College and the Air Force, which enabled me to continue my work here, and I think that's it. I retired in '76, a bicentennial retirement.
Here's a note I found yesterday going through the archives, this is from V. M. Slipher. I assume this is something he would hand to a typist to type up into proper form. This was clearly out of place, because it was in correspondence with Putnam, and it mentions that you got an offer from Princeton.
Oh yes, I did have an offer from Princeton.
I then looked in the Slipher correspondence file with you, and that's extremely thin, and I couldn't find any reference to a typed version.
I'm surprised he mentioned that to Putnam. My equipment was still being built by Stanley Sykes, and I didn't feel that ethically or morally I could leave the observatory.
There's no date on this letter. Do you recall when that was?
It had to be '36, '37. Possibly it was '37 that I received an offer from Princeton University. I don't know, I no longer remember. It was probably not a permanent staff thing, but maybe one of those three year things possibly leading to tenure. I honestly don't remember even that. It was to work in the infra-red, either to initiate infra-red work there, or join a group working in infra-red. I don't know what the circumstances at Princeton were. All I remember is, I had that offer, and I didn't even know that I told V. M. Slipher about it, but you say you found it.
This was a small sheet, and some scribbled notes. It's down there in the archives. It looks like the sort of thing you might give to a secretary. There's enough information on it that the secretary could then type out a proper letter.
And this was to Putnam?
Slipher was writing to Putnam, that's right, and what I thought might be the connection was that clearly, H. N. Russell had been very impressed with the research you'd done on the planets.
That's right. That's right. By George, I never thought of that. I didn't think of that at the time nor any time since, not until you just mentioned it. I wondered why I should have received an offer from Princeton, but that very well could have been the connection. It very well could have been the connection.
One of the things I had definitely in mind was, I must go and look at the H. N. Russell correspondence to see what he's saying about the observatory. Perhaps there were some interesting meetings perhaps with the trustees.
Yes, it wouldn't surprise me if that was the case. I don't know that that was the case, but it wouldn't surprise me. There was one other thing, what was it, which I was going to say. I can't think of it now. But I think this is pretty much the kind of information that i can give you. I don't know whether it's useful to you. Is it the kind of thing you're looking for, our conversation?
Yes, it's been excellent. Helpful.
I'm glad. Good. Much of it won't appear in your book, of course, but some of it might.
Right, and as I say I am also interested in the development of infra-red astronomy, in the subject itself, and I have a student who's going to be working on the subject.
Yes. I'm delighted that you are, because I think it's extremely important, and I hope that you and he will both see the work I did at Lowell and Michigan as the beginnings of modern infra-red astronomy. Nobody was doing infra-red, either the sun, the moon, the earth or anything at that time. As I say in the interview, I made the first definitive rock salt prismatic solar telluric spectrum, and the first ever grating spectrum, and the first definitive emission spectrum of the moon. After all, anyone who's going to look at stars and planets in the infra-red must know what he's looking through, should know what he's looking through, and I paved the way in that way for them in that fashion.
I also wondered about the location of correspondence, drafts of scientific papers that you prepared, if there were any collections that might be available for a historical researcher to go to. I was thinking for example if you ever identified any papers to Northern Arizona University.
No, I haven't been good about keeping a set of my papers. I'm sure I must have a number of them scattered about somehow, but I don't have a set. I know that I gave my PhD thesis and the notebooks I used as a graduate student to a faculty member in the department of mathematics here, William Schultz. He has all of that.
That will be extremely valuable.
He has the notebooks, you know, the notes one takes as he is listening to lectures, that.
Oh, that will be terrific.
these are not notes of research of mine. I don't mean that. However, when I took a course in vector analysis, or classical mechanics or analytical mechanics, I would make notes, and he has those. I had them bound. So Bill Schultz, unless he's destroyed them or disposed of them, has them. I don't think he'd have disposed of them. He's a collector; he collects everything, so I don't think he would have disposed of them. He has my PhD thesis also. Then there's someone at Northern Arizona University and I don't even know the name of the department he's connected with, but he contributes to a little newspaper that the university publishes for its faculty. He interviewed me one time and told me in that connection that he was collecting papers I had written, by having the library send for copies.
These would be scientific papers?
The scientific papers, yes. You were wondering about correspondence?
Correspondence, things — observing logs — those kinds of things.
No, I've never done that sort of thing, never worked that way. I should have. I don't have notebooks describing the time I spent and what I did in laboratories. I should have, but I don't. And I never kept correspondence, which was a mistake. I haven't done that either. You can see that I haven't been careful about safeguarding and safekeeping things, because I can't find the letter that Putnam wrote to me when he separated me from the observatory.
Well, I'm certainly hoping maybe I can go look at the correspondence from Roger Lowell Putnam to various people.
You won't find it at the observatory.
That's in Springfield?
I'll bet it's in Springfield, unless Michael has destroyed it. I hope he hasn't, until I find my copy of the letter, but I've just about given up on mine...
I'm also interested — often the trustees seem to have taken indirect routes into getting changes at the observatory. For example, they would get Henry Norris Russell to suggest things to the staff. I was wondering if there were letters between Russell and the trustees.
Yes. I hope they'll let you look at that. You've met Michael Putnam?
Art Hoag showed me some correspondence between Roger Lowell Putnam and V. M. Slipher after my separation from the observatory. You see, it wasn't that Putnam really believed that the observatory wasn't the place for infra-red, because there was a most determined search for someone to replace me. He just used that as an excuse to get me out.
Looking through that material yesterday, they just couldn't decide on anybody.
That's right. Well, not only that, I can't imagine anybody who wanted to come and work under the circumstances I worked under. Certainly no one with the accomplishment record that I had would have been willing. But Art Hoag showed me those letters, when there was a desperate attempt by Putnam to find someone to take my place, and probably go on in infra-red work, and they couldn't find anyone. And you saw some of that correspondence. Yes. Again, it shows that the reasons he gave for getting rid of me were just a ruse. The fact that ethnicity could do that to a man, it's just almost unbelievable. It did an indignity not only to the man but to the institution that he was responsible for, to the observatory, because really, he did the observatory an enormous injustice. They could have been the leading infra-red observatory. The big infra-red observatory that is in Hawaii could have been part of a chain emanating from the infra-red observatory at the Lowell Observatory. He destroyed the possibility for all of that. There's an incident I'll never forget. I built the Atmospheric Research Observatory, and I remember I got Putnam to visit, I should be able to date this because Ed Epstein was with me then, so it was sometime between '55 and '57, perhaps, or '54 and '56, because Ed was with me for two years. Roger Lowell Putnam was out at Lowell for a visit, and I happened to be up at the observatory for some reason, I don't remember what now. I invited him down to see the Atmospheric Research Observatory, and he didn't want to come. I didn't drag him or anything of the sort, but I did insist mildly. I said I thought he'd find it interesting. And he came down with me. I took him down and then I think returned him to Lowell. But the man was obviously distressed, when he saw the observatory. Now when I was director of the observatory — which I was from the time I built it until I turned it over to Richard Hall, John Hall's son, who really did not take care of it — in any case, while I directed it, it was a marvelous laboratory. It was just meticulously clean and well organized and so on. Roger Lowell Putnam's state of distress when he saw that was just manifest, you know. He was speechless, because he realized then, of course, that with the backing only of this little college, or no backing at all really because the college played no role in it, I had built this beautiful lab. If I could have done that for this little institution, what could I have done with a famous institution like the Lowell Observatory behind, me and with the work that I had done at Lowell as a springboard? He realized it at that time, I think, but of course then it was too late. That's the second time I saw him almost in tears. He wasn't as close to tears then as he was on the earlier occasion, though he was obviously greatly distressed. But anyway, before we went for that fateful ride with Mr. Trask, I had lunch with Mr. Putnam in Washington. He took me to lunch. Now one of his daughters is a nun, Carol. I remember one time long before, I visited the Putnams at their home in Springfield. Carol was just a little girl then. All the children were very small. Carol I think was the eldest. He and Mrs. Putnam had her read for me, and though a small child, she read beautifully, and I always remembered Carol. So when Roger and I had lunch in Washington, it was a Friday, and I ordered fish just because I like fish, not because it was Friday. But he ordered fish because he's a Catholic, and he's a Catholic by conversion. Carolyn, his wife, is a Catholic. And he said to me, "It would be awfully easy for me to be a Catholic because I love fish." When he said something about being a Catholic I thought of Carol. I'd been thinking about her anyway, and being a nun, and I said something to Roger about Carol, and I no longer remember what it was. It wasn't an offensive remark. I was inquiring about her happiness or confinement in a convent or something of that sort. And he very nearly burst into tears, because I'm sure that putting her in a convent was not his idea. It was probably the mother's idea. She has since, long since, emerged from the convent. I understand that she's doing work of importance and significance with the needy somewhere in Florida, but under the auspices of that church. I told her about that episode when she was here for some recent occasion. There was some sort of a doings at the Lowell Observatory last year, I think. There was a meeting on site selection and seeing, that's right, and there was a reception at the observatory itself. The meetings were held at Little America, but there was a reception at the observatory, and I attended the meetings and went to the reception. At the reception, I related that episode to Carol. She said to me that her father — I didn't tell her about the way he got rid of me — she said he was the kindest of men. He wouldn't hurt a flea. And I thought to myself: the hell he wouldn't! I remember too a scene when Art Hoag was installed as the director of the Lowell Observatory, and there was a dinner. I can't remember where the dinner was held. But there was a dinner and we were invited to it, Catharine and I. Roger Lowell Putnam was no longer around, he was dead, but Mrs. Putnam, Caroline, took over in his stead. She presided over the dinner, and said something about Art being named the director, and she looked toward me. I was clear across the room at the other end of the table, and she looked toward me, and she made the remark to the assembled group that she wished, she said something about, "If things had been different." I wish I could remember her exact words. But to me it meant, if I'd been anything but what I was born into, that I might have had the directorship. I know that to be a fact, of course, because both she and he had told me to think about it, you see. So she was still thinking about it, and she knew why I'd been separated. Well, that's really about all I can remember, and probably it was too much. Now, as I understand it, this will be transcribed by someone —
At the American Institute of Physics, that's right. I will then sit down with the tapes and the transcript. I will do a check for correctness, make sure there's nothing that's been omitted, that the technical terms are correct, do what I can in terms of the proper names and spellings and so on. Then the material will be sent to you, for your review and you're free at that point to make any additions —
— or deletions —
Or deletions, corrections, all that.
I probably won't. As you've heard it, do you think I should delete anything?
I don't think I should, because it would detract from the truth if I did. It would be inexplicable, in a way. It would be very difficult to understand why I've gone from pillar to post, as it were, if I deleted anything essential. So I won't delete anything, I can assure you of that, and as far as I'm concerned, anyone who wishes to see it is free to do so. Do you think I should be more restrictive than that?
Well, that's good. Oh, there's one anecdote I'd like to relate. When I was a graduate student at the University of Michigan, there was a Commonwealth Fund Fellow also interested in infra-red there. He was a Scotsman. He came from Cambridge. His name was Gordon Brims Black McIver Sutherland, and Gordon later became a good friend of mine. He became the head of the National Laboratory at Teddington during the war, and following that he was knighted by the Queen, G.B.B.M. Sutherland. Before Gordon left Ann Arbor, or perhaps just after he left Ann Arbor, he finished his infra-red work just as I did. At that time he wrote a little book for the Methwen Series called INFRARED SPECTROSCOPY, one of those little red books. Perhaps he wrote that after he returned to Cambridge, I don't know. He had a degree from Cambridge, but got another degree from the University of Michigan in physics. He married a Swedish girl, Gunborg. They got married abroad, I suppose, or here, it doesn't matter. Anyway, shortly after their marriage, they were back in England, and they decided to return to this country for their honeymoon. So Gordon wrote to me, and by that time I was at the Lowell Observatory, and I said, "By all means come, we'd love to see you, love to have you for as long as you can stay." So he and Gunborg, she was a tall statuesque Swede, beautiful woman, he and Gunborg came. Of course they didn't know anything about our situation. They thought we were probably established in comfortable quarters, and that they would be conventional house guests. Well, it was nothing of the sort. I told them, to begin with, that if they both wanted to bathe on the same day, they'd have to share the bath water just as Catharine and I did, and that they'd have to give me half a day's notice to heat the water for bathing. And then when they recovered from that, Gordon wanted to know one morning where the hot water was for shaving, and I said, "There isn't any hot water for shaving." I shaved with cold water up there for six years. So I can imagine that when they got back to England, he had a few stories to relate. He became a, what do you call them, tutors, at Cambridge? A tutor at Cambridge, and I can imagine that when they returned to England, he told his friends about the strange things that go on in the Colonies. I've lost track of Gordon. I know they had some daughters but I don't know much more — I did visit them one evening in London.
Well, we've just about reached the end of the tape.
I think we have.
Thank you very much for all the time. This has been really terrific, a big help.
You're welcome. Fine. Thank you for the interview. And you probably know more sequentially about my career now than anyone alive. I'm sure that's the case. People have bits and pieces of what's happened, but no one knows quite as much as you, I think. Smith: I hope to learn a lot more as I go along.
 see V.M. Slipher, "Spectrographic Studies of the Planets", Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 93(1933), pp.657-668.
 see A. Adel and V.M. Slipher, "The Constitution of the Atmospheres of the Giant Planets", Physical Review, 46(1934), pp.902-906
 see Monica Joseph, "the Contribution of Arthur Adel to Astronomical Infrared Spectroscopy", Boston University ---(?), 1973
 see A. Adel and V.M. Slipher, "Fraumhofer's Spectrum in the Interval from 77,000 to 110,000Å", Astrophysical Journal, 84 (1936), pp. 354-358
 see E. Epstein, C. Osterberg & A. Adel. Journal of Meteorology, 13(1956), pp. 319-334. Adel & Epstein. Journal of Meteorolgy, 16(1959), pp. 548-555.
 see Conference at Yerkes Observatory, Sept. 8-10, 1947. led to The Atmospheres of the Earth and Planets (University of Chicago Press, 1949) - chapter by A. Adel on "Selected Topics in the Infrared Spectroscopy of the Solar System", pp.267-283.