Oral History Interviews

Interviews that offer unique insights into the lives, works, and personalities of modern scientists

Ira Sprague Bowen on how the Great Depression had an effect on his work building large telescopes.

Oral history audio excerpt

Ira Sprague Bowen on how the Great Depression had an effect on his work building large telescopes.

Weiner:

I guess the real expensive thing was the cost of building large telescopes on the one hand, and then the high voltage work ate up a lot of money; but that paid for itself in a way because of the cancer grants that were made for it.

Bowen:

In a way, our telescope really benefitted by the Depression. In fact, we'd have been a little bit hard put too, I think, if the Depression hadn't come along. But just because of the Depression, a lot of these big companies were very anxious to keep their top technical people together and so were willing to accept these jobs for cost or even less, to keep their very best people hired, which I'm sure that in times like this wouldn't have happened. And I know, over and over again, some company would almost give us stuff or do it for what we knew was very much below their cost because here was the world's largest telescope. It was good advertising to participate in it and also there was this factor that it was the Depression and they were having trouble getting enough to keep their top technical people together so that after the Depression was over they’d have something to start with, I know we came out very well on a lot of things.