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Interview of Charles Officer with Trixie Officer by Ronald Doel on 1995 November 29, Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics, College Park, MD USA, www.aip.org/history-programs/niels-bohr-library/oral-histories/6992
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Family background and early education; experience with the Naval Air Corps (1944-1946); Brown University (1946-1947); Wesleyan University (1947-1948); Yale University (1948-1949); Columbia University, Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory (1949-1951); Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (1951-1955) and many summers; Rice University (1955-1959); Marine Geophysical Services / Alpine Geophysical Associates (1958-1968); running for Congress, 1964, 1972; Dartmouth College (1975- as a research professor; Fulbright scholarship in New Zealand, University of Wellington (1953-1954); religious beliefs. Colleagues included W. Maurice Ewing, Charles Drake, Marie Tharp, Bruce Heezen, Harold Jefferies, David B. Ericson, Frank Press, Brackett Hersey.
This is Ron Doel and this is an interview with Charles Officer and also Trixie Officer. Today’s date is November 29, 1995. We’re recording this in Hanover, New Hampshire. We’re going to be turning to Chuck Officer and his early experiences and then professional training but you need to go in a few minutes and I wanted to ask you a few questions since you had begun to work at Lamont in the very early years. What was your first introduction to Lamont? I’m curious what your impressions were of Lamont as an institution?
Well I knew David [B.] Ericson before I went to Lamont. I knew him at Woods Hole. And he was a good friend of Fred Phleger for whom I worked in Woods Hole. Fred Phleger moved out to La Jolla and David asked me if I’d be interested in coming to work for him at Lamont. My first day I arrived at 9 a.m. ready to go to work and I sat in what used to be the Lamonts’ dining room looking out on this beautiful scene. It’s a beautiful house. And I thought to myself, this is a job? David never showed up until 11 o’clock and the first thing he asked me was, “Would you like a beer?” And I said, “Well sure.” That was my first impression of Lamont. And David was wonderful to work for. I couldn’t call it working. It was really more fun than anything else.
What sort of man was Dave Ericson?
Very shy. Very bright. Incredibly kind. Very devoted to his work and he worked long hours but strange hours. He preferred to sleep in the morning and work all night as I soon discovered. I didn’t have to keep those hours. But he did.
You were able to keep a nine-to-five or close to —?
Yes, you could call it a nine-to-five. And there were just lots of wonderful people. It was a very free and easy kind of place at that time because most of us had no cars and transportation was not easy in and out of the city. It was by bus and —
Were both of you living on Lamont at that time?
So most of us lived in the house. And it was kind of a big, happy family. I took over a room that was right next to Alma and Harold Smith’s quarters which were on the second floor over the kitchen. And the room that I took over had been used by Bruce C. Heezen at one point. He was off on a trip so it became mine. And Alma and Harold were there and they were sort of the parents of the group. And Alma was constantly cooking wonderful things and we had endless meals together, groups of us. Most of us left for the weekends and went into the city or home or whatever. So it was kind of through the week that we lived there. We used the flower room on the first floor as our sort of kitchen. We had a — I’m not even sure we had a hot plate. There was a fridge at one point. And we kind of fixed ourselves meals — it was all fun.
Sounds like it was a very sustaining environment.
It was a very sustaining environment. We all got along and had fun together and worked hard. I look back on that as just a very pleasant time in my life.
What other scientists were living in the big house at that time that you recall?
Well, let’s see —
And this is 1949 or ‘50?
This is 1950.
That you began there?
I think I started there early in the year 1950. I’m a little vague about that but I was still working for [Fred] Phleger the summer of ‘49 and I had a job in Boston for awhile. So I think it was early 1950. Let’s see Jack [J.C.] Heacock [Jr.] was there, Bruce Heezen when he was around, Jack [John] Northrop, Chuck lived — he didn’t live at Lamont, he lived down the street.
Fay and Emily.
Emily Herman and Fay Jones. Joe [J. Lamar] Worzel and Dottie [Dorothy] Worzel lived on the place. Of course Doc [W. Maurice Ewing] and Midge [Ewing].
Frank and Billie.
Oh yes, Frank and Billie Press, right.
They were in one of the homes?
They were in one of the houses. Herb [Herbert L.] Volchok.
Lived in the big house.
Lived in the big house, yes. Dick [Richard] Holland. I remember one hysterically funny time when there were some men that were there during the week — they were putting in a new mass spectrometer and they were camping in one of the rooms on the second floor during the week. Again, because it was hard to get in and out of wherever — back and forth from wherever they lived. Was it the trustees of Lamont who came for a meeting one Friday afternoon? And we were all cautioned that the bedrooms were to be closed and off-limits for the trustees to see. So we were all getting ready to leave for the weekend and this guy who was working on the mass spectrometer pushed a suitcase out the door, locked it, climbed out a window and came in through Frank Press’s office I think it was. Picked up the suitcase and walked downstairs just as Thomas Lamont was coming up the stairs. And I too had just left my room, locked the door, and was carrying my suitcase down the stairs. [laughs] And I remember we’re both trying to be very blasé about everything walking down and Thomas Lamont stood at the top of the stairs and watched — I mean you could feel his eyes watching us depart. I’m sure he was “Humm, what’s going on?” [laughs] So it was that kind of stuff.
That’s interesting. That’s a wonderful story. When you had the dinners that you mentioned a moment ago, were the scientific events and work at Lamont discussed quite often? Was that something that came up frequently or did it tend to be more social?
Hardly ever. I think it was fun. It was just light and fun. Alma would often tell stories about the early days of Lamont. She worked for them and so did Harold I think. And I think it was just a group of friends sitting around having a meal together. Usually not heavy scientific talk.
What was a typical day like for you if there was such a thing as a typical day?
Well, David [Ericson] never had enough work for me to do so I quickly realized that I’d either go nuts or I’d have to find other things to do. So I sort of became the person in charge of the telephone bills. I’d have to go around and find out who made which calls and to whom and — all the long distance calls and then I’d parcel out the bills to each of them. I just did busy work to keep busy. And then there was the day that Maurice Ewing asked me to come into his office and sat me down. And I thought, “Oh dear, what have I done now?” And he asked me if I’d like to be his secretary. And I thought, “There’s no way.” At that point I was already thinking of studying nursing so I thanked him and told him no because I was thinking of a nursing career. So that was the end of that. He was not someone I would have wanted to work for I think.
I’m just curious what makes you say that. I’m curious of your impressions of Ewing at that time. Trixie Office: Well I think Doc was an engaging, obviously very bright man. But he was not an easy personality. I think he worked everybody to the bone, himself as well. But a very demanding person to work for. After David that would have been very hard to take. [laughs]
It would have been a strong contrast going from —
It would have indeed.
I’m curious what your first recollection was of Ewing? How you first came to meet him?
Of Ewing himself. How you first met him.
Oh I’d met him before in Woods Hole when I was still working for [Fred] Phleger. I can’t quite remember the very first time I met him. Well I remember a dinner party we were at. That was probably later.
Once you were already down at Lamont?
After we’d been at Lamont and I think this may have been after Chuck and I were married. So this time is later and Midge [Ewing] had invited us to dinner with the [Charles L.] Drakes. And Doc [Ewing] was not there when we arrived. He came home while we were eating dinner. I think he’d been away on a trip and he came in and he sat at the table and said not a word to anyone, not even hello. He was not in a very great mood. It was such a damper on the evening that we all got up and left.
You remember that dinner party well?
Oh yes. I’m not sure it was the Drakes, I think it was John and Betty Ewing.
No, the Drakes were there. They were staying with us.
They were? Okay. He was a bear and he didn’t want anybody around and he made it quite obvious. And so everybody dutifully left.
How typical was that of Ewing’s operation and personality?
You want me to answer?
Well I’m curious; either of you.
Can you hear me on your machine over there all right?
Well, he had two personalities. I don’t want to call him schizophrenic but I think he had two personalities either of which he could turn on as the occasion demanded. If he were with somebody who could help him with something — if he were with the funding people down in Washington, or the trustees at Lamont, he could be utterly charming. He could charm people off their feet. But if he was dealing with underlings, graduate students and staff, and perhaps a member of the staff had made a little boo-boo or wasn’t doing as much work as — he would be an utter SOB. Absolute SOB and chew that person up and down and make them feel very small indeed. And he could turn either one on or off.
Yes, that’s pretty accurate I think.
You were at, of course, Woods Hole before you came down to Lamont? When you think back on it, how did the two institutions compare? Of course Woods Hole had been in existence much longer than early Lamont.
Yes. Woods Hole was — what do I want to say? Much more of a business atmosphere, nine to five, and you went to work and you went home. More — I mean lots of fun too in a lot of things. But I think in the early days of Lamont it was much more family oriented. It was like a family. It was just — people cared about each other and really — and because we were there we spent a lot of time together working and going to the movies and you know socializing. And it was a very different atmosphere.
At that early stage, ‘49, ‘50, when Lamont was just beginning, Woods Hole was an established, in fact was the established oceanographic place on the east coast. Scripps being the counterpart on the west coast. And Lamont was just starting out. So there were just a lot of loose ends at Lamont. They didn’t have ships then. They used the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution ships. Later on of course after a few years, Lamont got to be of a size and stature of Woods Hole. But not at the very beginning.
Surely not. As you say the Vema was only acquired in the early 1950s for Lamont as a ship. I know you’ve got to leave in just a few minutes. Let me just ask one last question. I’m curious who you felt closest to in the circle of people at Lamont in the early days? Is there any one or small group of people who stand out when you think back?
Well I think — certainly Chuck. He was one I cared a lot about. [laughs] And the Drakes.
When did you first meet?
Emily [Herman] and Fay [Jones]. Alma Smith, I was very close to Alma. Bruce [Heezen] and Marie, Marie Tharp I liked very much. Jack Heacock, Herb [Herbert L.] Volchok. I mean it really was kind of family.
That’s interesting to know. Finally, let me ask. When did you first meet Chuck?
I met Chuck in June of 1949 at Woods Hole.
At Woods Hole. Well perhaps we’ll have a chance at some later point to continue but I thank you very much for your part in it.
Oh you’re very welcome.
We’re resuming after a brief pause and at the moment only Charles Officer is in the room with me. I know that you were born on December 15, 1926 in Evanston, Illinois. And I don’t know much about your parents or what they did. Who were they?
[laughs] Oh dear. Okay, you’re starting back at the beginning. My father, same name as mine, Charles Officer, was born in Claremont, New Hampshire which is about twenty miles south of Hanover. And he was a — his father, Thomas Officer, immigrated in the latter part of the last century to Claremont and became foreman and eventually general manager of what was called Sullivan Machinery Company in Claremont. And it manufactured coal cutting machinery and drills and hoists and that kind of thing. So my father graduated from Yale and went into the same company also becoming general manager. By the time I was born, he was sales manager for a company out in Chicago. I was born in Evanston.
Was your family living in Evanston?
They were living in Wilmette so I was born in the hospital in Evanston. And I think it was when I was in fourth grade they all moved back to Claremont so eventually I grew up in Claremont. Moving back to Hanover is sort of coming home. Contrary to the saying that you can’t come home again, I did. Okay. Now growing up in Claremont was very enjoyable. I don’t know whether you’re interested in that.
I am. I’m curious also — I want to make sure that I have your mother’s name recorded.
What was her maiden name?
How did she and your father meet?
They met on a ship to Europe in the early 1920s. She was traveling with her parents. I don’t know why he was traveling on the ship. He’d been in the army in World War I and he maintained close contacts with his relatives in Montrose, Scotland, so I presume he was going to back to visit them. And that’s where they met. And she and her family came from Scottdale Pennsylvania which is a little south of Pittsburgh.
I’m curious what kind of — your father was working then in the machinery firm?
Yes, Sullivan Machinery Company. Which became later — was acquired by Joy Manufacturing Company which is still in existence. And as I said they made mining machinery and drills and air compressors and that kind of stuff.
When you were growing up, did you often go into your father’s shop? Were you pretty familiar with what he did, what kind of work?
Never. Did he talk much at home about what he’d done?
Not really. No. I don’t know how I became interested in science. I guess I just had an aptitude for mathematics and science. And my last three years of high school I was in Phillips Exeter Academy which was a big help educationally for me. And then after that I went in the navy. I was in the navy for two years.
I wonder if before we talk about your navy career, which I do want to get to in a moment. Even before the time that you went to Phillips Exeter, did you recall reading much about science? Did you have science books at home?
Not really. [laughs] I guess if anything at that age I thought my father was an engineer so I’ll be an engineer.
Right, right. So were you thinking more in terms of — you mention that you felt you had mathematical ability or you recognized that mathematics came easy.
It was easy. And the sciences were easy.
Did you have any interest in geology or astronomy as a youngster?
Nope, nope. I can add to that. I had never even heard the word geophysics until I went to Woods Hole in the summer of ‘49. But we’ll get into that later.
Right. And I suspect that was a very common experience for many people in that era to now know that. What was it like for you when you were in high school?
Well, I think of two things. One, in Claremont it was very enjoyable. It was a vertically integrated society and it was great. Exeter, I was a little country boy and with a whole bunch of city slickers from Boston and New York, and that was not too enjoyable but the education was worth the effort.
Were there any teachers who were particularly memorable for you?
Yes, an English teacher. Named Darcy Curwin. He was a well-known teacher at Exeter. As you know, besides being a scientist I now do a fair amount of writing about science and I would say that he of all the teachers I had at Exeter taught me how to write in a concise, clear, understandable way. So yes, I owe it to him.
And how long did you have him at Exeter?
Just one year.
Do you recall any of the science classes that you took?
Well again yes, the science at Exeter — you had four years of math that was standard.
How far did you go in the math sequence, did you have calculus?
They did not do that at that time. That was you know the late ‘30s, early ‘40s. And I guess the last course in the sequence in high school then was trigonometry, preceded by solid geometry, preceded by plain geometry, preceded by algebra, two years of algebra. No, they didn’t teach calculus at that time at the high school level. And at the college level the first course was analytic geometry which we don’t teach at the college level any more. It’s too bad. A very useful course. Then you got into calculus. But the science courses at the time were a year of chemistry and a year of physics.
It’s interesting you said that about analytical geometry. Chuck [Charles] Drake mentioned the same thing yesterday in the interview. That he felt it’s a shame that it’s not longer taught as widely.
Well I do. Yes I certainly do. It’s a very useful course.
And you had chemistry and physics courses?
Yes, one year of chemistry and one year of physics in high school.
Did you have any other sciences? Were you exposed at all to geology?
Nope. [laughs] Sorry.
That’s not uncommon. Geology was not very widely taught in high schools.
No, when I went on to college I majored in physics.
Not geology there either.
Let me ask before I turn to it. You had brothers and sisters when you were growing up?
Nope. I had a brother and sister who both died at birth.
But no, I was an only child.
Did you have any friends who shared an interest in engineering or the sciences broadly defined either in Claremont or by the time you went to Exeter?
No, not particularly. [laughs] I feel deprived or something.
You shouldn’t. This is all very interesting. I’m simply curious about what kind of experience you had in growing up prior to the time of going into college. When you started to make decisions about college, how was it that you settled on Brown as your choice?
Well, that was decided for me. Let me explain. When I graduated from Exeter in June of ‘44 and immediately went in the navy. How old was I? I was seventeen at the time. And I got out of the Navy in little over two years later. I was nineteen.
What was your experience in the navy?
Well my experience in the navy was the Naval Air Corps and this was a training program. So in their wisdom the Navy sent us all to college. I’m afraid my navy experience was going to college. And the first place they sent me was to Williams College which is an excellent undergraduate college, and then we were transferred to Brown University. And after I got out of the navy the easiest thing was to go back to Brown because at that time going somewhere else you would lose credits and all that kind of stuff so I didn’t see the necessity of taking another year. And Brown was just fine. So I went back and finished up at Brown.
And did you know from the start that you were interested in majoring in physics? Or how did you find —
Well of course in the navy you just took whatever courses they told you to take.
It was a set curriculum?
Set curriculum. But then when I got out, I selected first as my major electrical engineering. Engineering was still in the back of my mind. But then as I got into that, I became more interested in the underlying principles behind it which led me to major in physics and that’s what I graduated in.
Were there any teachers there who were particularly memorable?
When you look back at the experience at Brown after having gone to a number of other schools and gotten the Ph.D., were there areas of training that you felt you missed that were surprising omissions? Or did you feel that what you were offered was up to date?
Well at the time I certainly didn’t think I was missing anything because I didn’t have anything to compare it to. And looking back on it I guess I’d say I still feel the same way. It was a good curriculum. I think it went through calculus and differential equations and partial differential equations. No I think it was just fine. I have no complaints about the curriculum at Brown. Then after Brown?
I wanted to stay on Brown for just a moment. Did you have any exposure to geology classes? [laughs] Again I’m curious and I realize that for many people movement into geophysics comes through physics and comes at a later period. And I’m asking not that I’m trying to find something that I expect to be there. I’m just curious did you have any exposure?
I had no experience in geology as an undergraduate at Brown. I took no courses in geology period.
What did you see yourself doing at that point? What did you see?
Well I’ll tell you. I think like many people, at least some people, when I graduated from Brown with a degree in physics I didn’t have a very clear idea of what I wanted to do at all. So what I did do, I got an offer to go down to Wesleyan University as a graduate assistant and graduate student. And I thought, “Well gee, so what else are you going to do? They’re going to pay you and you’ll get a master’s degree in physics.” So I did that.
How did the offer from Wesleyan come about?
From the head of the department down there to one of the professors at Brown. It was all pretty informal then. Very informal which I will explain to you when we get on to the period from Columbia University. It was just word of mouth from one professor to another. Do you have anybody? And they said, “Oh yes, there’s this fellow named Officer.” There weren’t that many of us graduating in physics, you know. It wasn’t exactly the easiest major.
Did the number of veterans that were returning to college at that point change the way courses were taught at Brown?
Not to my knowledge. Okay? Not to my knowledge.
What the experience like at Wesleyan compared to your time at Brown?
Well I just had one year at Wesleyan and got a master’s degree.
What were the courses that you had to take to fulfill the requirements at Wesleyan?
Dear me, I forget.
I forget. I’m sorry.
Was it a mixture of classical and quantum mechanics?
Yes, yes. It was mainly classical physics at Wesleyan. Mainly classical physics but I don’t remember the specific courses. And then after that I went down to Yale University still not knowing what I wanted to do because they offered me a graduate assistant —
And that was arranged through Wesleyan?
Again through a professor at Wesleyan. At that time it was a buyer’s market. There weren’t that many graduate students so you know you could choose where you wanted to go. It was quite different than today. So I went down to Yale and there I do remember the courses more structured than Wesleyan. And you took a course in theoretical physics, a course in experimental physics and if you wanted to, which I did, a course in quantum mechanics. And if you got As in all those courses you automatically got a master’s degree. So I got another master’s degree without doing a bloody thing except taking courses.
There was not thesis required?
There was not at Yale. And you also had to do a little language: French and German. But unlike some universities they were pretty easy about it. So I passed my French and German having had one course in German and high school French. I was able to get through those.
The Exeter training was good. It carried over.
Yes. And then after that — that was in ‘49. I graduated from Yale. And I decided at that point, in the spring of ‘49, that I didn’t want to go on in what was then atomic physics. Atomic molecular physics; and that is now nuclear physics and beyond particle physics. But just wasn’t that much interest working with machines and with extraordinarily small particles.
It’s interesting you say that. Was it the way in which physics was done experimentally at the time that you found unattractive?
That’s right. Yes. Laboratory, large machines, physics — it didn’t grab me. Too much. So I thought, “Well gee, what are you going to do?” I thought, “Well maybe if we go into the management or business end of physics.” So I applied to the economics department at Yale to see if I could go there as a graduate student. And to show you how loose things were, I’d had one undergraduate course in economics and they said, “Sure, we’ll accept you as a graduate student in economics.” And then a friend of mine named Arthur Voorhis — he’s still a friend — said, “Hey, there’s an advertisement for a summer job [summer of ‘49] at a place called the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.” I had a car so I said, “Well gee, that’s not bad. I don’t have anything to do, might as well spend a vacation on Cape Cod with pay.” So we went up there both of us to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in the spring of ‘49 and we met and talked with again another person who became a close friend, [John] Brackett Hersey who is since deceased. And he was running a program that Maurice Ewing ran when he was at Woods Hole. That was before he went down to Columbia.
The acoustics program.
The undersea acoustics.
Yeah. And so Brackett hired both Art and me on the spot to come up during the summer. And again to divert it a little bit — a far different cry from the way things are now — they’d have a hundred applicants and maybe take two or three out of that. In this case we were the only applicants and we were hired right then and there.
Geophysics did have a manpower shortage clearly in the late ‘40s.
So that is when I got, that summer, got introduced to this strange thing called geophysics. I thought, “Oh now this is what I like, this is what I like.”
What appealed about it particularly?
Well, that you’re dealing with things that you can see and touch and feel. And also in marine geophysics that — quite aware even in just in the summer at Woods Hole — there are all kinds of things to discover. You couldn’t help but discover new things. With all these tools that had been developed during World War II: seismic, magnetic, acoustics. And the availability of ships. Anyway it was an exciting field with all kinds of things to do. And I did meet Maurice Ewing who came up there to use the Woods Hole ships that summer.
Those are the Atlantis and the Caryn?
Yes. And so at the end of the summer I said to Brackett, “Hey Brackett I think I’d like to go on into geophysics. Do you think I can get into Columbia as a graduate student?” He said, “Well we’ll see. Let’s see.” Ewing was out at sea so we sent a cable out to him and he sent a cable back saying, “Yeah that’s fine, Officer accepted as a graduate student at Columbia.” So I waltzed down to Columbia and said, “I’m a graduate student.” And they said, “Yes you are.”
You got the telegram to prove it. [laugh]
That was it.
That’s truly remarkable. Charles: Yes. That was it.
Let me just ask you, what was it that you were doing when you were at Woods Hole?
Oh, well a couple of things. One of the things — actually it’s kind of nice, two scientific papers came out of that summer’s work which wasn’t too bloody hard. One had to do with sound transmission near the ocean’s surface. The other one was more interesting. Brackett had run what turned out to be the second seismic refraction profile ever run in the ocean. And he turned over to me to interpret the data. And I did know elastic wave propagation from a theoretical physics course at Yale. So there I was, I had all this data to interpret and I was the first one to come up with the depth of the Mohorovicic discontinuity which was twelve kilometers in the Atlantic Ocean, in oceanic areas in general. And it is just that I happened to be there at the right time. Anybody else who understood elastic wave propagation I’m sure would have done the same thing but there was a discovery. I thought, “Wow, pretty easy.”
And you were writing that paper on the Moho that summer?
We wrote it that summer.
How did you begin to learn about geophysics?
Well that was then at Columbia.
That was after that summer when you began the graduate course?
Is there anything else that particularly comes back to mind during that summer at Woods Hole, that first summer?
Oh sure, several things. I met my wife. [laughs]
That’s important. How did you meet her?
Well she was working there that summer and there weren’t that many summer people. And at that time they had housing for all of us within Woods Hole and they had a dining hall. So you met everybody else who was working in the summer. You knew everybody else. And then I guess I’d also — as I said before finding this new field called geophysics. And when I went down to Columbia I had every intention to come back and work full time at Woods Hole which is what I did after I finished at Columbia.
Right. When you were living that first summer at Woods Hole were there visiting geophysicists who came through? I’m just curious. I realize you were there as a fairly junior person at that time.
But I’m wondering. Did you meet any of the visitors that came through during that summer?
Well I can’t recall except Maurice Ewing. And again geophysics wasn’t exactly a prominent descriptor for scientific endeavors at that time. I think just Maurice Ewing.
How much time did you actually talk to him?
An hour or so. I showed him the work I was doing and the results that I was getting which he thought were interesting.
What were your impressions of him at the time?
Well everybody thought he was a hot shot you know at Woods Hole.
This was the impression at Woods Hole?
So I thought, “Wow, let’s see who this person is.” So I met him and talked with him. And I said, “Yeah he is a hot shot.” He was very hard-working and much the same as I thought later. Extraordinarily hard-working individual and very intelligent individual as well.
When you were working up there that summer, what kind of hours did you put in? Did it to tend to be during the day or did it vary quite a bit?
I think during the summer as opposed to Lamont it was just during the day. At Lamont you worked day and night. You took courses during the day and you did your research at night. That kind of thing.
This would be a good time to talk more about the graduate training at Columbia and your impressions of that. What kind of courses did you take after you arrived at Columbia?
Okay, well again you have a clear notion from the questions you’ve asked that my background coming to Lamont was strictly — was certainly in physics and mathematics and I had not had any courses in geology. Well again this is pretty loosey-goosey, you know late ‘40s. I was there from ‘49 to ‘51. Things weren’t in this nice categorized thing they have now.
Well there really wasn’t a field of geophysics that one could go into.
There wasn’t a field of geophysics, although geophysics was within the department of geology. And they had all these people like me who came in with no background or very little background in geology. And yet we were graduate students in geology. So there was a fair number of courses to make up in geology.
And what they did at that time was they suggested that you audit, which I did, a certain number of undergraduate courses while at the same time taking the graduate courses for credit. So not knowing anything about geology it was a bit of a burden but it worked out all right.
It sounds like it was quite a course load that you had there.
You did, you did. And then the geophysics course was taught by Maurice Ewing himself.
Which professors did you take courses with if you recall?
Well I had at that time — Columbia had a very good geology department and they had wisdom to invite Maurice Ewing down there which of course worked out very well. But the particular professor that comes to mind is Walter [H.] Bucher. I think he taught most of the students in the geophysics department. He was a structural geologist there. He was very engaging and a very nice person.
What were your impressions of him? Did you have extended conversations —
Oh yes. He was really great. He was the typical kind of professor — interested in everything, and interested in you. He had ten ideas to your one. Nine of which probably didn’t turn out but the tenth one would be a gem. But you had to keep listening. No, he was very good.
Do you have any particular recollections of [Walter H.] Bucher that you can think of?
Oh no. I know others do. I don’t in particular except that we did take courses from him and talked with him about things. He was interested in the structural geology and tectonics which are closely aligned to geophysics. But just his effervescence, just his effervescence.
Did you tend to talk to him in office hours or in his office rather or after class or was it a more informal? Did you see him socially?
No. No I didn’t see him socially. But as I recall in one of the courses I took from his was in the evening so you saw him in the evenings.
If you’re thinking about the structural geology class that he took, how many students who were in principally with Ewing’s group were there compared to students who were coming in on more traditional geology roots?
Oh dear. I’d say roughly half and half. There were a fair number of us from Ewing’s group.
Certainly Frank Press was there at the time.
Well he was ahead of me.
He was a little bit ahead.
Yes, he had his degree I think. Yes, I’m sure he did before I got there. But you would know better than I.
Now that I think about it, I think you’re right.
As did Joe Worzel.
And Nelson [N.C.] Steenland and Milton Dobrin — all four of those before Lamont was Lamont. Yes, but I’d say about half and half. It’s a little hard to remember who the graduate students were in ‘49.
I have a list. We can refer to that in a moment. I’m curious just how relations were between those who were coming out of the more traditional backgrounds for geology and those of you who were with Ewing at that time?
Oh I think they thought we were kind of crazy. An oddball bunch. What the hell are they letting these people into the geology department for? They’re not geologists. I think they may have — a bit resentment, a little bit of laughing at us. Maybe a little bit envious, I hope. ‘Cause we had things to do. There was a whole oceanic area to investigate. We had all kinds of things to do.
When you took Ewing’s course, what topics did he treat particularly — the general geophysics course?
Well at that time there were not — plate tectonics was not — So that was not part of the curriculum.
I was just wondering if you recall him mentioning Wegener or DuToit or some of the others?
No, no. It was all nuts and bolts geophysics. Seismology, gravity, magnetics. That was essentially it as I recall. Just the nuts and bolts kind of things.
You mentioned a moment ago about the students. I don’t have that list in front of me immediately, but this is from just a few years after 1962 — a list of those who were already research associates at Lamont.
And preceding that on the previous page are some of the more senior people who were up there.
Yes, this is quite different, quite different.
Things changed very quickly at Lamont in those days, certainly in that first decade.
Oh yes, this is several years later.
That’s over ten years later.
But the graduate students that I recall at that time were Jack [E.] Oliver, Paul [C.] Wuenschel, Bernie [Bernard] Luskin. Now he eventually dropped out of the graduate program but he was a graduate student. He was an electrical engineer. Bruce Heezen, Jack [John] Northrop, Chuck [Charles L.] Drake, although he wasn’t around very much in ‘49, he was off in submarines measuring gravity and that kind of stuff. Myself, and then there were graduate students in geochemistry. But they were — that was a separate —
Under [J. Laurance] Kulp.
Under Kulp that was a separate entity. And those were as I recall Herb Volchok, and Heinrich Holland, and a couple of others.
Karl Turekian I think was there.
That’s right, Karl was there then.
Did you have much contact with those who were there under Kulp in geochemistry or were the geophysics and geochem separate?
No, again as Trix was saying, it was all kind of a family then. Yes, they were part of the family. Sure.
And this is in the Columbia period as well as after the formal creation of Lamont?
Well I was there after the formal creation of Lamont. Because I came in ‘49 and that’s when Lamont started I think. I don’t know what it was like before then. In fact I don’t know when Larry Kulp came there. He hadn’t been there much before ‘49, had he?
No, ‘49 is the start of when people began to move out to Lamont.
And you know he brought a number of students up from where he’d been teaching at Wheaton College. So we referred to them as the theochemists. [laughs]
And they were at that time quite religious. Some still are.
That tended to define many of the people who went through the geochem program with Kulp?
And I gather there was nothing parallel as far as an identifying characteristic among those who went into geophysics.
Oh no, no. My recollection then and now that unlike the geochemistry program there was a fountainhead source for a number of them. Practically everybody came into the geophysics program through some kind of funny side door, back door. Like me. I’d never heard the word geophysics till the summer of ‘49 and then go down to Columbia with a cable from Maurice Ewing and I was set. And I’m sure you talk with Jack Oliver — the way he got into it, he was — he played football at Columbia. Did you talk to Jack Oliver yet?
Well he played football at Columbia and he was an undergraduate there. He’ll recite it in more detail. He recalled one class he was in smelling this liniment. Somebody stepped on his hand so he had this liniment which was particularly used by the trainers there at Columbia. He smelled the same liniment on somebody else. Went over to see him and it happened to be Dick [R.S.] Edwards. And Dick Edwards was working for Maurice Ewing and that’s how Jack got introduced to geophysics. I think in Bruce Heezen’s case it was Maurice Ewing went out to give a talk at Kansas or Iowa or wherever it was that Bruce came from. And Bruce said, “Oh, can I come to your place as a graduate student?” And whoops like that. And Chuck Drake I think was through George Woolard who was his professor down at Princeton, introduced him to Ewing.
It’s very common given the nature of geophysics as an interdisciplinary field unlike chemistry or physics that people come to it very late in their undergraduate years or only in their graduate years. And your experience is certainly not uncommon.
And I think also at that time geophysics wasn’t exactly a term that was known to us so that there weren’t too many places that taught geophysics for that matter. St. Louis University and Fordham, the Jesuit school there. And so it was almost personal contacts in one way or another.
I was thinking about that. How quickly did you get a sense of the ecology of the word geophysics was taught at Columbia. Did you know for instance the sort of work that was being done as MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology] and at Harvard and at Cal Tech very early on?
Yes. There wasn’t that much and you’ve just about covered it. Cal Tech, MIT and the Jesuit Schools: Fordham and St. Louis. And the Jesuit schools were mainly into seismology and at that time they had a Jesuit seismic network through the world.
Was there much interchange of students between either Cal Tech and Columbia? Did people pass through? Did you know what for instance graduate students elsewhere were working on?
You knew. But again I’d say at that time what they did up at MIT was different from what they did at Cal Tech was different from what they did at Fordham was different than what they did at Lamont. So there wasn’t much cross feed among them I wouldn’t say. — You know them but that’s it. And again the meetings that time of the American Geophysical Union which was the society that you had. They were small meetings. And they were held down at the National Academy of Sciences building down in Washington. The small building —
The small building as it’s now called. AGU [American Geophysical Union] was clearly the main professional home for the broad fields of geophysics. Did you also get to any of the meetings back then of the SEG [Society of Exploration Geophysics] or the APG?
Well the other two were the Geological Society of America so a lot of publications and presentations were also there. And then down from that would be the Society of Exploration Geophysics. The SEG was, indeed, pretty much what it sounded like. It was petroleum exploration geophysicists.
Did you have much exposure to that when you were at Columbia?
That and did you have courses for instance in applied geophysics?
No, not at all.
Were you familiar with it at Columbia? How much did that even come up as far as knowledge of the seismic reflection and refraction and its application in the petroleum industry?
Well, it was — how to put it? It was the same science whether it was applied or basic. So you learned the same thing.
But you didn’t learn it with application to looking for oil. I never had a course in petroleum geology as such. In petroleum geophysics. No.
Because clearly at schools like Colorado School of Mines one would have a curriculum that was very much geared for this. I was just curious if that had been taught in that way at all at?
And no then up at MIT a lot of their geophysics at that time was aimed at development related to the seismic reflection practice.
How quickly did you finish your course work per se at Columbia? Was most it done in the first year?
Well yes, I went there with most of the two years of graduate work behind me. So yes I think one year of courses was it. And then one year of doing research. I should also say because you’ll probably hear something from some of the other people. I was unaware that one was supposed to serve an indentured servitude to Maurice Ewing for several years before getting your Ph.D. I thought it was just like getting a graduate degree anywhere else. Four years and you got your Ph.D. presumably. Which is what I did. But generally speaking with Maurice Ewing most of them took longer than that.
You violated the rule by getting done by 1951?
I violated the rule.
How as that communicated to you?
Well I think I just slipped through and then they realized what I’d done and they said, “Oh, we won’t let that happen again.” [laughs]
That’s interesting. You mentioned Walter Bucher and of course Ewing’s courses. Were any of the other ones particularly memorable when you think back on it?
Yes. I’m having a hard time thinking of the professor who taught stratigraphy. Marshall Kay.
What sort of person was Marshall Kay?
Well I guess unlike Bucher, he was kind of strait-laced and threw a lot of stuff at you in the course. I think probably he looked down a little bit on us geophysicists. You know we weren’t really geologists.
You weren’t really in the club?
We weren’t really, no. That wasn’t Bucher’s attitude. No, I think Bucher was one of the more influential people in getting Ewing down to Columbia and that was very foresighted of him. And this was the field. This was where the action was going to be and he wanted Columbia to be part of it.
Do you think it was also the nature of the kinds of work that people did in particular fields that they represented? Bucher in structural geology certainly had a broader regional to global view of phenomenon compared to say to a stratigrapher who might certainly focus on more particular areas. Were there any others in the department who you thought were particularly supportive of Ewing’s efforts?
Well, I suppose there were but I can’t name them for you.
Just curious if as a general impression you had. When were you first out in Lamont itself working out there? When did Lamont become your main residence?
You know, I’m not sure. I know for the first time when I went down there I was living in the city and taking courses there.
Where in the city were you then?
Oh I don’t know, a couple of blocks from Columbia.
Right in the campus there?
Yes. And I think it may have been maybe the spring. Because I went to sea with Ewing in the summer of 1950. Maybe it was the spring of 1950 I moved out there finally, but I’m not sure.
And that was on a Woods Hole ship when you were out to sea with?
With Ewing in the summer of ‘50. Yes, again that was before the Vema came along and he had a very nice relation with Woods Hole where he could use their ships. The Atlantis and the Caryn. Those were their two ships at that time. So we went and shot a bunch of refraction profiles in the western Atlantic.
That was along the coastal margins.
Well they’re both the coastal margins and the deep sea. And took cores and did other things, too, along the way.
What was it like for you when you were out on the ship? Did your responsibilities stretch across all the different programs that were ongoing? Or did you focus more on seismic?
I think all of us did at that time. Essentially we were all graduate students on the ship except for Maurice Ewing. Yes, I think we were involved in all the things, some more than others. Myself, more on the seismic refraction measurements and some others like Bruce Heezen more — he was out there on that cruise — on the coring. That’s where his interests were. So yes, we were all engaged in everything.
One thing I’ve been very curious about. Ewing’s schedule on board on the ships is widely known to be exhausting. That he maintained a strong program. How much time was there on the cruises of that sort for you and the other graduate students simply to talk with one another, to discuss the kinds of work that you were doing and the ideas? I’m just curious how that tended to work.
Well I don’t know if I’m probably recalling — You worked such bloody long hours that when you were through you went to sleep. So I don’t think there was too much time for this communicating about the wonders of geophysics and nature and the oceans and so on and so forth. You worked.
And slept what little time you could?
When you look back on it, did you find that you learned more from the professors, from Bucher and Ewing, or did you learn as much from the graduate students, those who were your slightly more senior colleagues?
I’d say Bucher and Ewing. And then we talked about what they had to say.
Who did you feel closest to among the younger colleagues at that time?
The graduate students.
The graduate students or the younger — I’m just curious who you came to know best in those years.
Well Charles Drake who has been a friend for lo these many years — 80 years or 70 years — or however many long. [laughs] Ed [E.T.] Miller who came along shortly thereafter in ‘51, I believe, and unfortunately since died. Certainly Jack Oliver. You know Frank Press and Joe Worzel were the next step older so that they weren’t really good friends or anything like that. One respected them. And Bruce Heezen.
Did you have much contact with Marie Tharp at that time?
Oh sure, yes Marie was there. She certainly was a delightful person.
What were your impressions of her when you met her?
Well she was a bit of an airhead but a delightful airhead. Very delightful individual and a great graphic artist. Bruce would not have been able to do what he did without Marie, period. Period.
Was there much discussion among you that you remember of the beginnings of the physiographic maps? And the program?
Of the mapping?
Of the mapping?
No, Bruce and Marie did that as I recall and that was that. And everybody admired their work: “Isn’t that nice. That’s great stuff.”
I’m really curious about with regard to that work is that in contrast to certain more mathematical areas of geophysics, there was a certain amount of interpretation of pattern making that needed to be done in order to develop a coherent picture of what the sea floor or the mid-ocean ridges looked like, how to interpret the rift, what Marie Tharp seemed to find in there. I was wondering if you recall discussions among yourselves or debates on how one actually worked with that type of data.
I’m sure there were but I can’t remember specifically. I’m sorry to say.
It didn’t seem though controversial at the time. The methodology of what Marie and Bruce Heezen —
No, we all appreciated there was a great deal of interpretation that went into it and that somebody else probably did draw somewhat different maps. There’s a big thing then about what the deep sea canyons should look like; whether they were a certain pattern or something else. He drew them to conform with how he thought they were formed with gravity — turbidity currents.
Turbidity currents, yes.
Yes, there was some interpretation that went into it. But you just had a few boundary lines. A lot of things were missed.
What I’m curious about too is was there much discussion about the interface between data experiments and theory at Lamont? Was there that kind of talk that engaged any of you?
I’m not sure what your question is but for instance, I was involved in theoretical geophysics.
You were and that’s why I was particularly curious.
And wrote some papers related to theoretical geophysics. Actually related to exploration seismology as it turned out. Frank Press certainly did a heck of a lot more.
In the model seismology?
Not only model seismology but in theoretical. And he and Jardetsky and [Maurice] Ewing wrote this very good book on wave propagation and layered media.
And that was in the same McGraw-Hill series that your book later appeared on undersea explorations?
Yes. So there was a fair amount of that. And I would say Frank [Press] was certainly probably the leader of that whole business. To teach theoretical geophysics and the match between seismic data, earthquake data and the model data all. That was Frank’s forte and he did very well with that. I guess he’s our most illustrious graduate from Lamont, isn’t he? The President’s science advisor, the President of the Academy.
He certainly had a very public career in terms of some of his later assignments and positions. How did you come to what became your thesis topic? How did that work come about?
Oh that was pretty easy. You see I’d done the seismic refraction work up there at Woods Hole in the summer of ‘49. And I just continued it and my thesis was from the seismic refraction work that we did during the summer of 1950. Ewing’s attitude was, and I think it was a good one — some other people may say something different in this regard. He didn’t have a thesis project, he had several thesis projects. And when it came time to get your degree well you took one of the published papers.
And I thought that was a pretty good idea. Pretty good.
It always helps to have a few more publications coming out. Was it the first of your publications that was the thesis or did it come somewhat later? I just wanted to be sure of precisely which one —
It was one of the later ones.
I’m looking at a copy of your c.v. right at the moment.
Yes, not that one. It was this one I think.
Okay. Published in 1954, “Geophysical Investigations in the Emerged and Submerged Atlantic Coastal Plains”.
I notice that Maurice Ewing’s name is also attached to that.
What his role in that work?
[Laughs] He was the boss.
How did you feel about that?
I didn’t mind at all. I didn’t mind at all. But I tell you one other story. Maurice’s name did of course appear on most of the geophysical papers that came out of Lamont. And eventually I’m sure it did lead to some troubles particularly between he and Bruce Heezen which were monumental. Anyway as I was teaching down at Rice, a friend of mine was also teaching down there said, “Oh Chuck tell me did Maurice Ewing really have time to read all these papers that his name was on?” Not a very nice remark. No, he was the boss and he was a great deal of help. As you went through the work and you came up with interpretations, you went over it with him. So he was not on there just in name. And when you wrote the thing up, you went over it with him. So he was very much a part of it, indeed.
And he was accessible to you as a graduate mentor?
How often did you go in to talk to him about particular problems or interpretations?
Oh whenever, whenever you had something coming up. I can’t recall really how often, but he was there.
A few related things that I wanted to ask you about in that period. Had the colloquia series at Lamont already started by the time that you finished your Ph.D. at Lamont? I’m curious if you remember visitors who came through Lamont in those years?
Well, I don’t believe it had. I left in ‘51. I don’t believe it had started by then. There were visitors who came through to see Maurice Ewing but I don’t think the colloquia series existed. You could check on that when it began. A formal, formal colloquia series.
I’m just curious if any meetings of that sort with others who came in from outside were particularly memorable for you in that period.
Yeah, I remember Harold Jeffries coming by. He was the — “the” person in geophysics at that time.
Of course he was the leader of the British style of mathematical geophysics.
Absolutely. He was it. [laughs]
Had you studied The Earth, his book?
Oh yes, indeed. Not in course. We didn’t use it in course work. Actually used the book by one of his former students, Keith Bullen. But yes, I had read at that time The Earth or parts of it.
Did you have a chance to talk directly to [Harold] Jeffries when he was there?
What were your impressions of him?
Oh, I think mainly very thoughtful but quiet spoken individual. Introverted individual. Very nice though.
Had you met [Keith] Bullen — You hadn’t met Bullen I gather at that point. Bullen at that part of his career was in Australia for the most part. Was there much relationship at that time with Hudson Laboratories at Columbia?
Hudson Laboratories had not started.
Not formally started back then.
And I did have an association with Hudson Labs but that was when I was back at Woods Hole. See I went up there in ‘51 after graduating from Columbia. And so from Woods Hole we had affiliations in working with Hudson Labs mainly on classified underwater acoustics. Now Lamont I suspect had a different relationship mainly having to do with marine geophysics, but I don’t know.
How much of your time roughly in proportion was spent with Hudson or with the classified research programs?
Well, all right. There was hardly any was spent with Hudson Labs per se. I mean we were aware they existed and we cooperated with them on some scientific projects. What I’d say when I was at Woods Hole about half the time was on classified research and about half unclassified at that time.
No, at Woods Hole.
At Woods Hole. Was there much —
Lamont was all unclassified. I didn’t do any classified there.
Of course later on many of the people who stayed at Lamont certainly had secret clearance to deal with many of the programs that were developed. I’m sure you had the same experience when you were up at —
In Woods Hole. In physics of course they were many discussions and controversies that involved politics, that involved issues of clearance and access. It didn’t seem to be an issue in geophysics. I’m curious on your perceptions about that.
No, again. My perception is at the time — say in the early ‘50s when I was at Woods Hole — a great deal of support of Woods Hole, a great support of Lamont came from the Navy. And a great deal of that was for classified work in underwater acoustics. And that was all part of the game. I think it wasn’t until later that both places kind of shied away from doing that kind of work. That was a later development.
Right. That certainly wasn’t until the 1960s that this became a public controversy at both institutions.
It wasn’t at the time. In a way I sort of felt and I think others did too. Gee they let me spend half my time doing stuff I want to do. I guess I can spend half my time doing what they want me to do.
Right. Did it seem like that strong a separation between the unclassified and the classified research that you were doing or was there a great deal of overlap between your own research interests and the acoustical sound channel work that you were doing?
Well I would say there wasn’t too much overlap. I mean they were similar kinds of things. One was acoustics and the other was seismology. So they were common there. But no, the theoretical work was — not much was the same.
The theory that you were developing was certainly different.
Different. And some of the equipment that you used was the same. I think the only controversy at that time. The Navy Hydrographic Office had lots of charts and they were all classified confidential. And I think we all sort of figured, “Gee what are they doing that for. Bottom topography.”
You felt that was a frustration?
Yes that was a frustration. You couldn’t use their work.
The classification of soundings was an issue that certainly many people took up in the 1950s. [Roger] Revelle was upset about it. Harry [H.] Hess was upset about it. Were there any other kinds of data that were restricted?
Mainly the soundings.
I’m just curious in looking back or even at the time whether the classifications seemed to be a real hindrance to doing the science or whether it didn’t seem to have that much effect?
I’d say it was an annoyance. Well, I guess a hindrance too because you had all this data you couldn’t use. You had to go out and do it all over again.
Map that sea mount yourself and then it was unclassified if you did it.
[ ] it couldn’t be classified if it had been done under a different funding source, or under a different —
It was just the Navy soundings that were classified. And the Navy maps that were made from them.
Right. But of course the Navy data were already there at — so it required a duplication.
Yes. It was frustrating.
So you say about fifty percent of your time during those years went into the undersea, the acoustical?
That was in Woods Hole. People at Lamont — it would be different, more like zero percent went into classified work. But at Woods Hole, yes. About half.
Right. Who was involved with you primarily on the Woods Hole work? I want to get back to a few questions — a final wrap-up on the early Lamont. But who were the principles in Woods Hole with whom you worked in the classified areas?
Well, I guess you thought the director was Columbus Iselin and he had been — well the director all during all during the WW II years, I believe. He had been a mentor for Maurice Ewing for that matter. And he had been involved a great deal with the classified work. Immediately beneath him was the man I mentioned, Brackett Hersey, who essentially took over the project that Maurice Ewing had there in under water acoustics. And his colleague, Allan Vine, those two: Vine and Hersey. And they both had groups working for them.
Did that work under contract bring you in communication often in Washington with senior Navy officials? I’m curious how you came to understand the Navy’s — the defense’s needs for both the acoustical work and the related defense issues what were —
Well, I’m not sure how I can answer. I think first off, the funding itself was a lot simpler at that time. You didn’t put in a proposal to NSF [National Science Foundation] for something like that. In fact the whole bloody project got funded from year to year, you sent a letter or something like that.
This was ONR [Office of Naval Research] funding?
Yes. ONR — and we got funded. And that was it. There wasn’t that much worry about funding at that time. And well, the Navy would come, for instance — I remember one in particular I spent a lot of time with. They had this network which is declassified — I think it’s called Sosis [?] — and it was for acid detection of submarines. And what it was just a big listening ear, a whole listening array that you directed around in the ocean so to speak. And —
They were pivotal —
Well no, they directed them. Not physically, but time delay.
Just the time of the signals.
Time delay in the signals, so that you could be pointing in one direction or another and picking up sound from surface ships and submarines. And presumably, you could tell a surface ship from a submarine, all that kind of stuff. They had pretty sophisticated stuff at that time and still probably is. So they had problems with understanding the acoustics transmission in the ocean. That’s where we got involved. And they also had some problems with the location for the arrays, so we got into that kind of thing. Putting them behind a sea mountain and then of course you didn’t hear anything, that kind of stuff. So that was one such project. So we would you know we would go out and run the acoustic experiments and do the interpretations on our own.
In that work many factors from salinity, the temperature — and the stricter term that was often used was understanding the environment of the ocean in order to better understand the acoustic properties. One needed to know the content of the sea floor —
Well obviously to understand acoustic transmission you had to know what the sound velocity profile was because that determined what the transmission was — and the sound velocity in turn was determined by temperature and salinity. So you had to know the physical oceanographic characteristics of the ocean.
And it led people who were in the field also to look for the currents and how those . And environment then becomes a very interesting word because it brings in many of the different branches of geophysics to bear because of the particular problems that the Navy had at that time. I’m just curious how that affected your outlook towards the broad geophysical problems. Do you feel that your involvement in the military gave you a better appreciation of the interactions between the atmosphere and the oceans? Did it stimulate discussions about those kinds of issues or did it not seem to have much of an influence?
I don’t recall that it had that much effect. I think at that time fortunately from Columbia and Woods Hole when you said you were in geophysics, you were in all of geophysics. And that included physical oceanography for that matter as well. It included gravity, and magnetics and seismic, acoustic. And it wasn’t until years later that — some of the people have come out from Lamont in more recent years are really just seismologists. But at that time you were expected to know a little bit about everything and to be interested.
Which is another interesting point in that those of you with Ewing who were studying marine and submarine geophysics, the sea floor or the oceans themselves were being trained in a different way than those geophysicists who were most concerned with the land areas. There certainly were people who would call themselves either seismologists or sometimes geophysicists. And those people wouldn’t also necessarily know meteorology for instance. Those areas were until seen as somewhat separate. Just for curiosity, how much training in meteorology did you have?
Well now meteorology — you mention physical oceanography, fine, I had to know because of relations to underwater acoustics. I didn’t have to know meteorology and I’m still reasonably ignorant in meteorology. Sorry. [laughs]
Nothing to be sorry about. Was William [L.] Donn already involved at Lamont at the time you were there?
Yes he was. And I don’t know on what basis. Sorry, I don’t know.
Many of these questions I’m simply curious to see if you happen to know.
I guess, where was he, at CCNY [City College of New York]?
That’s right. I believe that’s right.
And I think he had some kind of an affiliation with Lamont, but I don’t know on what basis.
Of course certainly later he worked with Ewing on some of the climate change studies. When Trixie was in here a moment ago, you mentioned some of the differences obviously between Lamont and Woods Hole as an established institution. At the time when you finished at Columbia and went back to Woods Hole, were there major — what seemed to be the greatest changes or the greatest differences that you perceived? How in some ways was Lamont unique or did it increasingly seem to be more like Woods Hole?
I’m not sure of the question. I’m not sure how to answer.
I’m sorry, that was a poorly phrased question. When you got to Woods Hole and resumed work there, what seemed to be different from the Woods Hole experience to Lamont?
Well again to go back to what I said before, it was an established place there. You didn’t have to do your own electronics. There was an electronics shop, a machine shop and they would do things for you a lot better than you could do them yourself.
There wasn’t someone like Angelo Ludas at —
Well there was at Woods Hole, yes. But you had to do a lot of things yourself at Lamont. And of course the work — when I was at Woods Hole I worked closely with people at Lamont. Particularly with John Ewing, Maurice Ewing’s younger brother. And we did a lot of investigations in the Caribbean seismic refraction when I was at Woods Hole and he was at Lamont. Pretty close cooperation.
Some of that work as I recall you were discussing possible origins for the trenches around the island arcs. Was there much discussion at that point of continental drift and Bruce Heezen’s ideas of the expanding earth? I’m just curious what theoretical issues arose?
I, like most everybody else at Lamont at the time, most earth scientists in the United States at the time had to be educated by the people from Cambridge into this strange thing called continental drift and plate tectonics. I think the credit goes to those at Cambridge. The rest of it follows along dutifully as we got the word.
And of course that doesn’t include Harold Jeffries but rather —
No, but nevertheless the seed was from Cambridge.
During the time —
Except for a few people like Harry Hess and Tuzo Wilson. But then Tuzo had a close affiliation with Cambridge too.
Did you have much contact with [Keith] Bullen or [Harry] Hess, Tuzo Wilson during your time at Woods Hole?
Yes, again, at Lamont and at Woods Hole they would come through and give lectures and so on and they were leading lights of course. On a par with Maurice Ewing. All of those names you mentioned certainly.
Did you have much personal interactions with any of them at that time?
Not really, no. Again they were senior. I would listen to them and that kind of thing.
When you were first doing the sound transmission work you also used some of the fundamental theory that had been developed by Chaim Pekeris. How well did you know him at that time? Had you met him?
I never met Pekeris.
Never met him?
No. He was over in Israel by then but his work was a bible.
I wasn’t sure at all how widely he was traveling at that point.
To my knowledge he was over there. At the Weissman Institute in Israel.
Frank Press was over there for a time I believe in the mid-1950s.
It could be. And Pekeris anyway I believe came from Oxford or Cambridge.
I believe that’s right. I’ll check. I want to move ahead to cover a few other parts of your career. I’m curious what led you to go to Rice [University] in 1955 after you had been back at Woods Hole for the four years.
Oh, I don’t know. I had Maurice Ewing to thank for it. Maurice Ewing as you know did get his degree from Rice and had a fond regard for the place. And Rice, whenever it was when I went down there, had just — had never had a geology department. They were just starting one up under Carey Croneis. And he had three initial hires. One in geology, one in geochemistry and one in geophysics. So I went down for an interview, and I’m not quite sure why I decided but I did. This was an interesting opportunity in academia and so I took it. I did come back to Woods Hole and use the ships during the summer like Maurice Ewing had in previous years. But that was when I was still working with John Ewing. We went out to sea in the summer. It just seemed like a nice opportunity as I took it.
Carey Croneis had just come there not too long before too.
Yes about a year before.
Came down and was provost at Rice. And to start the geology department.
Of course interesting things about Rice and its location in Texas was that it was in the center of the petroleum industry.
What kind of interactions were there at Rice between the university, particularly the department and — was there much contact for instance with Morgan Davis as you recall?
Well at Carey Croneis’s level yes. At my level no. [laughs]
No, sorry about that.
Was that good or bad from your point of view?
Well that was a different league. There really wasn’t too much at my level. We had the department. We were building it up. It was a small department. And to be sure most of the people who went through there eventually ended up working for oil companies or exploration companies. And eventually I started my own exploration company down there.
Right, that’s something I’m interested in and want to hear about in a moment.
But I say the department itself didn’t have that close ties with —
What particularly did you want to see accomplished when you went down to Rice?
I don’t know.
You were ready to take it as it came. And what courses did you teach?
I taught geophysics and structural geology. Those two.
How easy was it for you to integrate the work that you continued to do in the summers from Woods Hole to the teaching responsibilities you had?
Fortunately it was easy and that’s thanks to Woods Hole. I mean they let me have their ships for free. It wouldn’t happen today. To go out and do the work and to use a lot of their equipment. That was very nice. And to be sure I took some of the undergraduate and graduate students I had at Rice with me.
You were already doing some consulting work by the time you went to Rice, weren’t you?
Yes, I did some consulting work for Humble Oil and Refining which was part of the Exxon thing.
How did the department feel about people who had outside consulting? Only in a few departments it seems in different parts of the country and Canada did some seem feel it wasn’t any longer appropriate for geologists to —
No, there was nothing wrong with that. I think the general rule of thumb was you know it didn’t amount to more than one day a week kind of thing. I was fine.
What were your impressions of the department?
Well it was a new department as I said. Brand new. And a brand new building — well it didn’t have immediately a brand new building, but after the first year they had a brand new building there. And you know Rice at that time — it’s changed since — at that time was tuition free.
And presumably restricted to people from Harris County but they extended that to everybody from Texas. And so you had very bright students. That was great. They were very bright students. It was a pleasure to teach.
What kind of breakdown was there between students who saw a career out in the oil patch versus those who wanted to get involved in more academic areas, less applied areas?
I don’t know because I can’t really recall but I would say most of them were looking toward the oil companies.
What was your own perception of what seemed to be leading schools for applied geophysics by that period of time?
Well, at that time, you mentioned one. I guess it would have the top draw, Colorado School of Mines.
Was the University of Oklahoma a major player at the time?
Well the University of Oklahoma and the University of Texas were both major players in petroleum geology but I don’t recall if they were specifically in the subdiscipline of geophysics. They were big players in petroleum geology.
Stanford was also a major player, wasn’t it?
I guess you’re right.
Was there any tension between those who were in more traditional areas of geology at Rice and those of you who came in representing geochemistry, geophysics?
Well again you have to go back and say there wasn’t any department.
There hadn’t been one. Right, everyone was hired in there.
So there were three of us that were hired plus Carey Croneis. And one of them was in standard geology, one geochemistry and in geophysics and we all got along relatively well. Yeah there wasn’t any opportunity for tension. For one there hadn’t been any existing department.
There hadn’t been anything there to, right. How did you begin the work on Introduction to the Theory of Sound Transmission, your big 1958 book, your first book?
I guess I just wanted to do it and there wasn’t any such book. And I just found it an interesting challenge. Much the same as the theoretical geophysics book which I wrote later and the one on physical oceanography and estuaries. I enjoyed doing it. Like these more recent books, I enjoyed doing it.
Given that touched on the Navy’s interests in certain ways, was there any concern expressed by any of the people in the military about what could or couldn’t be developed in the book?
No, none whatsoever. Again the title was mainly theoretical.
I’m aware that that’s what you focused on.
There was nothing classified or even close to being classified in the book.
Do you recall any discussions about how to balance and develop the curricula at Rice as the program developed? Were there discussions about how to integrate more mathematics and more physics on the undergraduate level for instance?
I don’t recall any specific discussions at that time. Again, I wasn’t at Rice for that long.
You were there for and we should put this on tape. You began there in ‘55 and you remained there till ‘59 but your last year you had spent as a lecturer because you had already gotten much more involved in the company. I do want to ask you a number of questions about both the company and your run for Congress which occurred at that time. We have already been talking for about two hours and I thought I should ask whether you feel like taking a break.
Shall we go have lunch?
That sounds good. Resuming after a lunch break. What I had wanted to talk you about mainly before we took the break was your decision to leave Rice University when you first began as president of Marine Geophysical Services. What led to the decision to leave Rice and begin work in private consulting?
Well I knew you were going to ask that question and I’m not sure I can give you a very good answer. It was there to do. It’s like climbing Mt. Everest. It was a challenge that I had not embarked on before and I thought I’d do it. Not a very good reason. That’s about it. I will also say it really wasn’t the cleverest decision to make.
Tell me more about what you mean by that.
Well it was in ‘58 and it was during one of the numerous recessions in the oil exploration business which happened from time to time. But I didn’t know that. And I decided to start out with three kind of endeavors. One doing consulting work, second hopefully continuing Navy projects which I had done at Woods Hole, and third, using something which my friends at Woods Hole, particularly Brackett Hersey, had developed called a sparker which turned out to be a sub-bottom profiling tool, the first to come down the pike. You know it’s just like an echo sounder except it’s a little louder, lower frequency noise and it records reflections from beneath the bottom.
How deep did it reach?
Well it only went down about a thousand feet or so. The devices they have now do much better.
But at the time this was very pioneering.
And the thing that worked out, it was quite inexpensive. It just required a crew of two people to operate the machine and wasn’t that expensive to build. But I can still remember, in ‘58 I went for six months without any income at all and five children. And “Holy Gees, what the hell did you get you and your family into, you stupid ass. You gave up this tenured position at Rice University for this?” So then in the last three months of the year fortunately I made more money than I ever had before and from then on it was uphill.
What happened that caused the transition from — Was it just getting contracts?
Just getting contracts. So that for the last three months I had a crew working off British Columbia, one off California and one off in the Gulf of Mexico.
How did you —
Let me add one thing.
Of course I didn’t know anything about how to price these things, right? I hadn’t been in business. So for some reason or other I figured out the costs and multiplied by two and that worked out and so then I multiplied by three. That worked out better. [laughs] But it did do well and eventually led to amalgamating with colleagues that were formerly from Lamont and Alpine Geophysical. Well we then were doing off shore exploration surveys for petroleum world wide and for the engineering projects like the English Channel Tunnel and then got into owning and operating oceanographic ships and manufacturing oceanographic equipment, and did quite well. And the company went public, a stock offering. And somewhere along the line there I decided, “Well I made enough money, let’s go back to academia now.”
This was after —
So I got out.
Right. And let me put this chronology in the recording. It was 1968 that you had ended your affiliation with Alpine. You’re listed as president of Marine Mining in ‘66 through ‘68. How did that relate to —
Well that was a subsidiary of Alpine Geophysical Associates, and what we were trying to get into then was mining off-shore mineral deposits. And so through a private offering, not public offering, we got funding to go out and look for minerals off the shore of New Zealand and off the coast of the Carolinas. And it was uniformly unsuccessful.
That work. I’m curious what the difficulty was?
We didn’t find anything —
Just in prospecting. I’m very interested in how Marine Geophysical developed. The size of it when you first began. How many people? Was there a sizeable number of people besides yourself who were part of the permanent group or were you largely the company in the beginning?
Well I guess there are two questions: One, what the competition? Fortunately there wasn’t much at the time. There were of course other companies, better known companies — Western Geophysical and Geophysical Service, Inc. — doing off shore geophysical surveys. But that was sort of the Cadillac version and I had a Ford version. I had a cheap version.
And that was because of using the sparker.
Sparker, that’s right. And you know there would just be two people on a crew. So you know the original employees would be like six people plus myself and a secretary and then it kind of grew from that.
When you say Geophysical Services, what in part became Texas Instruments?
Well, actually historically Geophysical Services fostered Texas Instruments which quite clearly outgrew Geophysical Services.
Indeed, indeed it did. What was the overall difference in cost, say and methods and techniques between yourselves and Geophysical Services?
Oh I forget exactly but maybe like a fifth. It was way down.
Yes, there was a big difference.
Did you have a patent on the sparkler?
No. Woods Hole had a patent and I operated under that patent.
How did that actually work then? Was Woods Hole in some sense a partner in the operation?
No. I just had a license from them.
Then a couple of years along other people duplicated the equipment.
Did that give you then severe competition?
Well no, we just had to keep developing improvements on the thing.
How quickly then did the company grow? I should mention that it became Marine Geophysical Services International. There was a name change at least.
Well, after a while there were two companies — One doing the domestic operations and the other one doing the foreign operations. But that was the only distinction.
That was the only distinction there?
And then the next thing that came along was the amalgamation with Alpine Geophysical which was up in New Jersey. And as I say an outgrowth from people who were at Lamont.
Which people particularly were active at that time in Alpine?
Well the president of the company was Walter Beckman. He had worked at Lamont. And then Archie Roberts who had also been at Lamont. Those two. Then George Tirey and Julie Hirschman. And then there were I think three others that had an affiliation but not employment — Chuck Drake was affiliated with Alpine as was George Sutton and John Ewing.
You may have just mentioned when I was looking through this, K.C. Thompson was listed at vice president.
K.C. Thompson. Yes, K. C. Thompson was a former geophysical exploration manager for Pan American Petroleum. He left them and came to work in Houston.
How different or similar were the methods of operation of Alpine?
And Marine Geophysical?
With Marine Geophysical.
Well at the time we merged, Marine Geophysical was the dominant member. But then as things went along, Alpine — the New Jersey operation — gradually became larger than the Houston operation. The oceanographic ships operations out of New Jersey. And I forget what but we were operating four or five oceanographic ships at one time. So it got to be a pretty good size.
When you were operating the ships, who were the contracts with? What groups were using them?
Well, one of them was this what was called the Indian Ocean Biological Expedition. We didn’t do the science, we operated the ship. We provided the staff on the boat. And the contractor was National Science Foundation.
Was this part of the major Indian Ocean expedition program in the very early 1960s?
That’s right. That was an interesting ship cause it formerly had been President Truman’s yacht.
Is that right?
Yes. A nice ship. Then the other four — later on we operated four. We owned two and operated four altogether oceanographic ships for Navy projects. And that was ocean bottom surveying in the Atlantic and in the Pacific.
How did you actually get the ships? How did you find or locate the suitable ships?
Well, you know, just people at Alpine went out once we got the contract looking for the ships and found what they needed and then they had to be converted. And off we went.
At that time were there any particularly difficult problems in converting a ship for oceanographic research or did that become a fairly routine matter.
Not particularly. There were enough people at Alpine who were familiar with ship conversion. No, there weren’t any particular problems there.
You said a moment ago that Marine Geophysical became the dominant —
No, Alpine did. Marine was second.
Initially though. I’m sorry to have misspoken. When you first entered partnership, Marine Geophysical, were you at that point a dominant force in the industry? How did that break down in terms of you and your competition?
Oh I don’t think we were ever a dominant force in the industry. Geophysical Service and Western Geophysical, those two in particular were always larger.
In terms of the number of contracts that they had sound —
In contract dollars, yes.
Who became the principal patrons of —
Patrons. Those who contracted with you during this?
Oh the clients.
The clients, right.
All the major oil companies. And indeed we did do offshore, it was all offshore work, geophysical explorations everywhere in the world that you can think of. Everywhere. Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, California, Central America, Chile and Peru, Japan, the North Sea, Persian Gulf, everywhere — off Nigeria, off Australia and New Zealand. We did quite well for awhile.
What helped to make a decision if any one oil company, wanted to survey in a particular region, what gave you the competitive edge besides the price from geophysical services to the others.
I think principally price.
Was it principally price?
Yes. What we had to offer nobody else had to offer for a few years. We made hay.
During the best years when you were leading Marine Geophysical, how many contracts did you have? How many clients were you serving? How big did it become?
Well again, not too big. I forget really what the number of crews operating would vary from time to time but I’d say on average we had like three or four crews operating any given time. It’s not a big number, but it’s pretty big.
Those who otherwise had academic connections during this period, how much time would they put into working with Marine Geophysical or with Alpine?
Well, none. All the people at Marine Geophysical were full-time employees. With Alpine eventually all of them were full-time employees. In the beginning some of them spent maybe consulting, as I mentioned before, one out of five days. But that kind of petered out.
What do you mean when you say that?
Well, I mean just the business of Alpine became full-time and there wasn’t any need for the part-time people.
I’m curious if there was such a thing, what was a typical day for you like during the time that you were running Marine Geophysical?
Well I was running Marine and then I went up as chairman of Alpine. Oh, I don’t know. A lot of traveling, a lot of traveling. That I do remember. You know setting up crews wherever we might be in Japan, or Nigeria. There was a lot of traveling and a lot of client work.
Solicitation of clients?
Yes, solicitation of clients. A lot of sales work.
How helpful was your network of contacts that you’d already developed through Rice in terms of developing Marine Geophysical?
It was really separate.
Did you begin to come into contact with people like Morgan Davis at that point once you were in there or was it still another level?
No. He’s still ten layers above. [laughs]
Okay. I thought that was probably the case.
I got to know the geophysical exploration departments essentially in all the major oil companies, yes.
How well-trained did those people seem to be first in geophysical theory in general and in the methods that were particularly applicable to petroleum geophysics?
Oh I’d say quite well. Again, I think just like my coming into academic geophysics, commercial geophysics came in at that time from a variety of areas. A lot of them from electrical engineering. A lot of them just from plain geology, getting into geophysics. But no, I was quite impressed with the personnel and the capability.
Which seemed to be the most competitive or broadly developed of the research centers within the petroleum industry? Shell Research for instance which seemed to be fairly large under King Hubbert in the 50s.
Well, number one, I didn’t deal with the research departments, I dealt with the exploration departments.
I was just curious if you came into contact with the researchers.
I would say that Shell probably was about the best research and development. They copied my equipment, the bastards.
Yes they did. I got my revenge though.
I invested in Shell. Royal Dutch Petroleum, and it’s gone up, I don’t know, fifty fold since them. So I got my revenge.
You did, you did indeed. Did you come to meet people like King Hubbert? Did you know him in the 50s or 60s?
Well, again he was of a different generation.
Much older. No, I didn’t know King personally.
It sounds like from what you’re saying that in dealing with the exploration departments, there really wasn’t much reason for contact at all with the research department at the petroleum companies?
When you accepted the chair of Alpine, that was the time that you moved from Houston back into the Lamont area.
Up to New Jersey. And we bought a house in Hohokus, New Jersey.
Yes, I actually know where that is.
You’re one of the few. The company was up in the northeastern most corner of New Jersey.
I would imagine that put you perhaps between twenty and forty minutes away from Lamont depending on the traffic.
Oh sure, something like that.
How often during the time that you were up there did you actually go in to interact with people at Lamont?
Well, I had one very bad interaction with Maurice Ewing.
Is that right?
Yes. As I mentioned way back in the beginning, Maurice did like to keep people there in some sort of indentured servitude for extended periods of time. And when Alpine was started and it began to prosper, here was an outlet for people from Lamont which paid a little better money than Lamont. So you know it got to where a certain number of people in staff positions mainly who left Lamont and came down to work at Alpine. This disturbed Ewing so he called me up. And I said, “We won’t overtly hire anybody from there. But if somebody wants to leave and then comes down to us, we’ll certainly hire them.” Well, the next person came along and I said, “No we can’t hire you directly but should you decide to leave Lamont, well, come down and see us.” Well, he did and oh, Ewing blew his stack. He called me a traitor. I supposed I was a little bit. [laughs] I think that was the last conversation I had with him. I was on his black list.
Is that right? Of course others from Lamont were still involved, or at least other alumni from Lamont, were still involved in Alpine. So did he maintain contacts with those who transferred into Alpine?
Oh I don’t know. I think probably not. He had more than enough doing with Lamont — his interests for Lamont Geological Observatory period.
Which people particularly when you think back come from Lamont into Alpine?
Well I mentioned them before. George Tirey, Julie Hirschman —
Those are the folks, okay. I wanted to be sure. In the midst of that in 1964 you made a decision to run for Congress from New Hampshire as the Democratic candidate. I’m very interested in how that developed?
Well you always ask these questions I can’t give you answers to. Why did I decide to run? I don’t know. It was a dumb decision. It’s easy to say because I lost. Obviously it was a dumb decision.
It’s worth putting on the record you lost by a hundred and twenty-seven votes in that election out of a total of approximately a hundred and forty-five thousand cast. It was a very close election.
It was very close.
Had you been involved in politics at all before?
No. [laughs] No, here we go one more time. No. The other thing I mentioned to you I wasn’t living in New Hampshire at that time.
You were of course living in New Jersey.
In New Jersey. And although I came from New Hampshire, I figured New Hampshire was my home. I wasn’t living there. So I was properly labeled a carpetbagger and it was a good election year for Democrats. It was when Lyndon Johnson was running against Barry Goldwater. But I’m afraid the fact that I was a carpetbagger stood enough people’s minds as a detriment and they said we don’t need somebody from New Jersey representing us up here. And I can understand that viewpoint. And yes, I lost.
What issues did you find particularly important? Clearly certain issues must have commanded your attention.
Well, this is all before the Vietnam thing where there was of course a big issue. But I would say that there were not as I think back to ‘64, not any specific issues that I ran on a platform having experience in business and education and research. And we need some people like that in Washington — we’ve got enough lawyers. Should have somebody who knew about science and about scientific business. It almost sold.
How did you become the candidate?
Well I ran in the primary.
On a local level you had some contacts clearly —
I built up contacts very quickly. You’re absolutely right. Should also mention the last time a Democrat had been elected to — it was the second Congressional district of New Hampshire which is essentially western and northern New Hampshire and I believe had been in 1918. So it wasn’t as though there was a flurry of people seeking the Democratic nomination in ‘64.
How many other people were there that were interested?
You were it.
Yes. There were a couple that expressed interest and then bowed out before.
And how supportive were the local Democratic committees?
Oh they were great. It was a nice experience. It was the hardest work I’ve ever done in my life, including Maurice Ewing. The hardest work I’ve ever done in my life. Morning, noon and night time. Chicken dinners, ugh. I can’t stand chicken dinners. Standard fare on the circuit everywhere. And giving, you know, two or three speeches every bloody day. It’s tiring.
Did you do all your own speech writing?
No, I had — Well, I had a campaign manager. He and his wife helped me. They’ve since divorced and she’s still a very, very close friend of ours. And I had a press agent who did a lot of the writing for me. Yes, it was my ideas and then maybe somebody polished them up in understandable English.
Who were your opponents of that campaign?
A man named James Cleveland. This was his second time. He was an incumbent but only a first term incumbent. And he has since retired. Found it interesting that four years ago a Democratic was indeed elected to the Second Congressional District seat. He has since unfortunately been defeated.
This was the first time since 1918?
Because you also ran a later time.
Yes, but that was the year — that was a good Republican year — George McGovern was the democratic candidate. And you well know his appeal was limited.
‘72 was not a coat-tail year on any stretch on the state level. How far back did you identify yourself as a Democrat?
Well, I grew up in the Roosevelt years and I think a good many of us were Democrats because of the Roosevelt programs and his personality and so on — favorable. And my parents were both strong Republicans — but I think most of us who grew up in the late 30s became Democrats. At least until they made a lot of money and changed parties. But I’m still a Democrat.
Was politics something that was discussed often at Lamont? I’m curious about that dimension —
The only thing I recall, I guess you would call it politics, that — near the latter part of my stay there, there was the Army-McCarthy hearings. And we did — and that was the early days of television too — so we would stop in the local tavern to watch the Army-McCarthy hearings.
What do you recall of those discussions watching the hearings?
Oh, well most of the people there — “Are you listening Chuck Drake?” With the exception of Chuck Drake, we were Democrats. So we all talked much the same language. Chuck was the lone Republican.
He made his perspective clear.
No, I’m kidding. We all pretty much felt the same way.
You mentioned that your campaign issues involved education and research. Were there particular programs that you wanted to develop had your campaign been successful?
Had there been, I did feel and still do feel that it’s useful to have in the Congress of the United States at least some people — and there are a few — with a scientific or engineering background because so many of the problems that they have to deal with, in one way or another, have to do with science and technology. And I still feel strongly about that.
And that was an issue that you raised presumably in the campaign?
It occurs to me Kistiakowsky, George [B.] Kistiakowsky was heading Democrats for Johnson in the ‘64 election. Did you have contact with him?
Yes I did. Yes, he was a great person. Very nice person.
Did Kistiakowsky help steer any resources toward the campaign locally?
A little bit, yes. Limited amounts.
What did that involve? Was it in terms of distributing funding or did it involve people coming in to help organize or —
A little bit money and a little bit just plain information.
Information in terms of strategy or in terms of substantial information?
Printed material. Did you play an active role in Kistiakowsky’s own efforts for Johnson’s election?
The focus is really on your statewide district? Did any others come in to campaign for you? Other scientists or other —
Oh yes. I had one illustrious — There were various people. There was a Democratic governor of the state at the time and there was a Democratic senator, and they did campaign on my behalf. Hubert Humphrey was the vice presidential candidate, and he came up and campaigned on my behalf.
How much time did you have to talk with Humphrey? He was interested obviously in science and technology.
No very much at all. You know these schedules — He’s in, give a speech, out. So we didn’t have time to talk.
You really didn’t at all?
No. But at least he came and campaigned.
Humphrey had been on numerous commissions in the late 1950s given the reorganization of the then unsuccessful attempt to reorganize and develop a department of science. And from what I heard in other interviews wanted to be very important on scientific development and the people at the National Academy on a fairly regular basis. I’m curious just how much of a network seemed to exist; those who were in the federal government and cared about science and technology issues and the campaign —
And you weren’t connected in any other direction? How did your wife feel about the results of the election?
I think she was glad I lost. Because there would have arisen the problem of where the hell we were going to live: Washington, New Jersey, New Hampshire or all three. And we had seven children at that time. So she was very pleased I lost.
How disappointed did you feel at the election?
Oh I was devastated for about a month after. In fact I was just plain worn out too.
It must be particularly hard to lose by that small a margin?
It wasn’t pleasant. Like I said before you don’t get partial credit except in horseshoes.
Were you prepared to leave the — What would you have done with Alpine and your role in it had you been elected?
Again, you’re asking a logical question for which you should expect a logical answer, and I had not thought it through at all.
You mentioned already the ‘72 campaign that you did wage. Were you tempted to or did you get involved in any other elected campaigns?
No. I had been involved. ‘72 I ran as a token. I know I didn’t have a bloody chance to be elected, but I ran as a token against the Vietnam War. I knew I was going to lose but that’s the way it goes. But I had been involved in some of the presidential preference campaigns. I had been George McGovern’s campaign manager up here. But at that time it was unpatriotic to speak about the Vietnam War in disfavor. It was two or three years later that public sentiment changed.
I imagine that was particularly tough in New Hampshire, given the state’s politics.
Well, yes. And I think some of you who don’t live here had a misperception of the state politics. You think of them as extraordinarily conservative state and there’s certainly a good deal of truth to that. When you look at the primary elections up here, it’s the liberal Democratic minority who get out the vote and the conservative Republican minority that get out the vote. So you do get a funny, distorted picture.
That’s very interesting. There’s a really wide distribution across the spectrum.
I suppose. But you don’t see that. You see the kooks from one end to the other.
And was this district, which includes Hanover and Dartmouth, inclined to be more liberal than the rest?
Oh sure. I mean the general court of New Hampshire, the House of Representatives, is the largest state legislature in the U.S. and they have four from Hanover. They’re all Democrats.
Let’s shift back to the end of your active role in the consulting corporation. You began your research professor appointment, the adjunct professor appointment as I understand at Dartmouth in 1975 according to — I wanted to make sure of how that transition occurred?
There seems to be something of a gap between —
There is a gap. I had forgotten all about it. You’re absolutely right. There was a gap from ‘68 to ‘75. Well I decided, to put it quite bluntly, that I had made enough money at Alpine to care for my family’s needs, and I had no desire to accumulate any more than was necessary. And so I decided to resign from Alpine which I did as chairman, eventually sold out my holdings in Alpine, and move back to New Hampshire. Now actually I made a big mistake. Finally, I made a big mistake. Going to Rice worked out, starting a company worked out, going to Columbia worked out. Moving back here was a big mistake because I thought, “Oh well, everybody will be glad to see me.” And nobody gave a damn. Once you’re out of a position of power and influence and so on, you’re gone. You might ask the Academy, even Frank Press. And so I came up here and I spent the first two years writing this book on theoretical geophysics by myself because I wanted to. And I thought it was good mental exercise to do so. And I got involved with a friend of mine from Woods Hole, a marine biologist named John Ryther. And we started doing consulting work on — which got me into environmental science — and on to marine environmental science projects. I, doing the physical oceanography; and John did the marine biology. And we did surveys for power companies that discharged cooling water. But it did get me started in that it led to another book I wrote on physical oceanography and estuaries.
That was particularly concerned with Chesapeake Bay as —
Well no, we wrote some articles. So I gradually got back into the swing of things. And then in 75, I forget for some reason, I think they needed someone to teach a course in geophysics because Bob Decker who had been the geophysicist here left. So I took on the position as research professor. What that means is — it’s sort of a nice title. They don’t pay me anything unless I teach a course. Then they pay me something. I don’t have an office over there, never did. So it doesn’t cost them a bloody thing.
It’s the affiliation.
So I started to have an affiliation with the earth science department, and then later I extended it to the engineering school. Again because of people I was working with down there — particularly Dan Lynch on the project of physical oceanography of estuaries.
Your mentioning that prompts me to ask you were environment issues also part of your campaign in ‘64? Rachael Carson’s book Silent Spring two years before that —
That’s right. Rachael Carson’s book had come out at the time. But no, I would say that environmental issues were not anywhere close to the front burner at the time.
Certainly in the public manner in terms of an election, certainly not as opposed to the group that felt concerned.
That’s interesting. Did the campaign demand much of your own personal resource to finance?
Yes. Almost entirely. [laughs] Thank God I had a question I could answer quickly and easily for you.
[laughs] I try to do that to you.
Of course it didn’t cost as much back then. I mean the price has escalated since then. Wow.
Roughly what fraction of the cost of a contemporary campaign was it for you back in ‘64?
How do you mean? You lost me.
Compared to what it costs today to mount a campaign, say for the same seat each year.
Oh, I don’t know. I’d say probably about a tenth.
That much of a difference?
I’d think so, yes. There just weren’t the ways to spend a lot of money. I mean then wasn’t that much television advertisement.
That’s entirely right.
That’s the big money. A lot of radio but that was, as I recall, pretty inexpensive.
That’s right. Then were a few questions I had wanted to ask you that we skipped by. I just want to make sure we do that before we dose this session in the interview.
Before I run out of gas.
I was curious about how — you had your Fulbright in 1953-54 when you were in New Zealand. Was it that you wanted to get to New Zealand? Was that the target of what you wanted to do when you applied for the Fulbright?
Yes. Of course. I didn’t know why — a fascination with the country. And I thought I wanted to go there.
It was with the country. It wasn’t a particular set of problems that could only be solved in the — in the region?
Did you have any contact with people from the country?
No. No, I went there for a nine month period I believe it was. And I worked with people in Wellington, at the university and at seismological observatory?
How did the attitudes or the training of the people at Wellington compare to what was common in the United States at the time?
Oh I think superb — and I presume still do. Excellent education. One of the things they pride themselves in. Excellent education system.
Right. Were most of their people trained in England? The key professors.
Who were the key people in geology or geophysics then?
Well, a lot of them came over to the States so you see them with the West Coast — in fact Verhoogen I was thinking of in particular came over. Who else? I can’t think —
We can add that to the transcript later.
Oh Bullen came from New Zealand. And there are others in geology and I just can’t think of their names.
Okay. Was there any one person that you worked with particularly closely when you were down there?
No. No, I’d say people at the university and in the seismological observatory. And the governmental geophysics people. Yes, I guess if I pick out one person I still keep in touch with it is Jim Brody. He was head of their oceanographics program.
What kind of access to facilities did you have when you were down there?
Oh, just fine. No problem.
Did you have a ship?
Well we did ask to go out and do some seismic refraction work. Yes. For a week or so using a couple of Navy ships.
But it was mostly time spent on the campus when —
Campus or seismological observatory.
Another question I meant to ask you during the time you were at Rice was that right at the end of your time down there, you had gotten — Rice had received the property that ultimately became the Lunar Science institute. The West property as I believe it was called. Do you remember discussions among the faculty about what that would become?
Oh yes this was before NASA came. Before Johnson brought NASA. [laughs]
And they talked about — I remember going down with Carey Cronais visiting the estate, making it into an oceanographic institution — so yes. It was a nice estate. And then of course NASA came along.
How come it didn’t become an oceanographic center? What factors didn’t allow that to come —
Oh, I don’t really know. I mean I suppose money in one form or another.
Was there any state interest in that time in promoting oceanography in Texas?
Not that I’m aware of. That came later.
Certainly the 1960s because an issue I was curious about — if there had been any push.
I mean the state university had a little laboratory down there in marine biology, but it was a small affair at that time.
One of the last questions to ask people in the interview is whether they in reflection — whether there was any religious or other strong convictions that have had very powerful influence on your life.
Oh sure. I think the answer to that is easy. And I expect like many people, as one comes along in later periods in life one — you know, you get religious as it were. And I think one of the most important things in my mind is that life has been finally sorting out what is important. And for me, I put it in simple terms as my relation to God, to my family, and to my fellow human beings. And if those things are in the correct order, the rest of it’s gravy. That’s the important thing. Science is fun, but it isn’t that important. It’s the human relations, the religious reflections which is the important thing. That’s a Latterday Christian speaking. [laughs]
I understand what you mean. Let me thank you very much for this long session. And we will — and this should go on the tape not release the tape or its transcripts without your express approval in terms of forms you will be receiving from Columbia University for the project. Thank you very much.