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Dr. Eugene Avrett (1933 - ) is an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. This interview reviews his personal and professional life and was conducted as part of a study of the history of the SAO during the tenure of Fred Whipple, 1955-1972. The interview covers his family life in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, public schooling and development of interests, influential teachers, and matriculation at Georgia Tech in electrical engineering in 1952. Facility in conceptual subjects like physics, but no special interests. Knowledge of WWII. Summer employment at Glenn L. Martin Aircraft on Matador program. Decision to switch to physics. Graduation in 1957 and entrance to Harvard for graduate study in physics. Advisors included Gerald Holton, Max Krook, George Carrier. Growth of interest in astrophysics slow, due to Krook and exposure to, first research in, and publications in stellar atmospheres. Teaching assistant for Bill Liller. Thesis with Max Krook. Collaboration with Owen Gingerich. Marriage in 1961 to Judith Reno Brett. Ph.D. in 1962, conferences attended that solidified his interests in stellar atmospheres and spectral line formation and non-LTE processes. Hired by Charles Whitney into the “Stellar Theory Division” at SAO. Organization of SAO under Whipple and his managers, including Harris Rosenthal, Charles Lundquist and Paul Tillinghast. Impressions of joint program between Harvard and Smithsonian. Teaching activities. Backup theoretical group for Celescope; extended discussion of Celescope, calibration issues, and the challenge of analyzing the data and the production of the catalogue of UV stellar colors. Nature of the data, methods of post-hoc calibration of the fields. Continued refinement of stellar atmospheres techniques and changing state of knowledge of theoretical energy distributions mitigate value of Celescope data. Role of Celescope staff, mainly Robert Davis, in the processing. History of OAO program; failed launches. Nancy Roman’s role in OAO and suggestion to close down Celescope. Work with student Steve Strom to prepare for Celescope reductions. NASA conference on OAO results. Relations between HCO and SAO and between Leon Goldberg and Fred Whipple. Teaching and thesis direction by SAO staff. Strom and early development of optical astronomy at SAO -- the MMT. SAO collaboration with Arizona rather than with Harvard. Use of OSO data for solar atmospheres research. Layoffs at SAO, deteriorating relations between Harvard and SAO and the formation of the Center for Astrophysics.
This interview with A. G. W. Cameron focuses on selected aspects of Cameron's research including nucleosynthesis and use of computers in research. Covers Cameron's different topics of research as well as various institutional appointments. Also comments on style of research and William Fowler's receipt of Nobel prize. Other topics discussed include: his family background and childhood, graduate work at the University of Saskatchewan, Leon Katz, photonuclear reactions, astrophysics, Paul Merrill, galactic evolution, Iowa State teaching nuclear physics, Chalk River, advising work for Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and Department of Energy (DOE), hydrogen bomb, origin of the moon, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Stirling Colgate, nuclear astrophysics, teaching at Yale University, big bang theory, Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Fred Whipple, Leo Goldberg, Hans Suess, Harold Urey, William Fowler, Fred Hoyle, Geoffrey Burbidge, California Institute of Technology, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
Marc Davis discusses his childhood in Canton Ohio and family background; early reading; education at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and at Princeton University; thesis work with Jim Peebles and discussion of Peebles; early work on the correlation function of galaxies; creation of the Center for Astrophysics (CFA) redshift survey in 1978; attitude toward the horizon problem; attitude toward the inflationary universe model; biasing, cold dark matter, and models of the formation of large-scale structure; attitude toward the flatness problem; attitude toward the CFA redshift surveys by de Lapparent, Geller, and Huchra; the question of whether the universe is homogeneous; relationship of theory and observation; important outstanding problems in cosmology: the Great Attractor, biasing, dark matter, galaxy formation; the ideal design of the universe; the question of whether the universe has a point.
The interview includes an overview of Robert Davis's childhood and early interest in astronomy; his experiences as an undergraduate, a Naval Officer, and a graduate student in the 1940s and early 1950s; his interest in observational astronomy; his work in ultraviolet stellar magnitudes, and his appointment as head of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory's Project Celescope in the late 1950s. He outlines the Celescope program, the design of the telescope, the decision to use image tubes and problems encountered with funding, and the successes, failures and ultimate relevance of the program. Ruth Davis comments on the changes of the social climate at the observatory as the staff increased. He concludes the interview by commenting on former colleagues, changes in astronomy and the legacy of Project Celescope. Among those prominently mentioned are: Vaughan Harmon, Harlow Shapley, and Fred Whipple.
Interview discusses Gerard de Vaucouleur's childhood in Paris and family background; early reading; membership in the French Astronomical Society; early work on astronomical catalogues; work at the Paris planetarium in 1937; undergraduate work at the University of Paris; education at the Sorbonne; introduction to Julien Peridier; early work in astronomical photography; discussion of French astronomy in the 1930s; early attitude toward the big bang model; work at the Sorbonne; move to the new Institute of Astrophysics in 1945; work on the r1/4 law for the brightness distribution in galaxies; work on the supercluster of galaxies in the 1950s; influence of Vera Rubin's work; community's reception of de Vaucouleurs's work on the supercluster and his challenge of the assumption of large-scale homogeneity; interaction with Fritz Zwicky; attitude toward the Center for Astrophysics (CfA) redshift surveys by de Lapparent, Margaret Geller, and John Huchra; a hierarchical model for the universe; discussion of the meaning of homogeneity; attitudes toward the horizon problem, the inflationary universe model, dark matter, the flatness problem, work on the very early universe, and the big bang model; relationship of theory and observation; the ideal design of the universe; the question of whether the universe has a point.
This interview discusses Robert Dicke's childhood experiments; early reading; education at University of Rochester; attitudes of older scientists about research in relativity; work on the Eotvos experiment; early reading in cosmology; early work in the 1950s setting a limit to the cosmic background radiation; motivation for predicting the cosmic background radiation; preference for an oscillating universe; Dicke's evening seminars at Princeton; the origin of the flatness problem, which Dicke first proposed in 1969; Dicke's lecture at Cornell on the flatness problem, attended by Alan Guth; the anthropic argument in connection with the flatness problem; attitude toward the inflationary universe model; attitude toward Center for Astrophysics (CfA) red shift surveys by de Lapparent, Margaret Geller, and John Huchra; Dicke's amazement at the existence of so much matter in the universe; discussion of the anthropic principle; images and metaphors in scientific work; the relationship between theory and observations in cosmology; attitude toward extrapolating the big bang model back to very early time; why Dicke prefers an oscillating universe; the origin of the universe; the question of whether the universe has a point; the question of why cosmology was not taken seriously as a science for a long time.
In this interview, Andrea Dupree discusses topics such as: her family background and childhood; doing her undergraduate studies at Wellesley College; Janet Guernsey; C. P. Snow; becoming interested in astronomy; what is was like being a woman and fitting into the physics profession and dealing with gender inequality; Sarah Hill; Allan Sandage; Hans Bethe; Phil Morrison; Otto Struve; going to the Royal Greenwich Observatory for a summer; Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin; Dorrit Hoffleit; variable star fields; deciding to go to Berkeley for graduate school; Ivan King; Hyron Spinrad; Lick Observatory; coming back to Harvard University after a year; George Wallerstein; William Liller; Leo Goldberg; her affiliation with the American Astronomical Society (AAS); Don Osterbrock; Simon "Pete" Worden; Owen Chamberlain; Alex Dalgarno; Harvard College Observatory; Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics; Ed Lilley; solar physics; ionization rates; Herb Friedman; Dick Tousey; Henry Smith; stellar atmospheres; Fred Whipple; Donald Menzel; Margaret Burbidge; orbiting solar observatories (OSO); Skylab program; Lyman Spitzer; Robert Noyes; Henry Norris Russell; International Astronomical Union (IAU); National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); George Field; Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO); Eric Chaisson; Jesse Greenstein; Celescope.
Interview covers Sandra Faber's childhood experiences; parental background; early reading; early preference for steady state model; relationship between questions and answers in science; confusion over being a woman and being a scientist; lack of female role models in science; education at Swarthmore and the influence of Sarah Lee Lippincott there; graduate work at Harvard; husband's job; graduate work at the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism; influence of Vera Rubin; early results of dark matter by Morton Roberts in the late 1960s; thesis work on photometric studies of elliptical galaxies; community's attitude toward excess mass in rotation curves in the late 1960s; motivation for work on the Faber-Jackson relationship between luminosity and velocity dispersion; motivation for work with the Seven Samurai (Burstein, Davies, Dressler, Faber, Lynden-Bell, Terlevich, and Wegner) on peculiar velocities; attitude of the community toward the Seven Samurai work on peculiar velocities; attitude toward the big bang assumption of homogeneity; attitudes toward the horizon problem, the inflationary universe model, missing matter, the flatness problem; discussion of what types of problems can be addressed in cosmology; attitude toward Center for Astrophysics (CfA) red shift surveys by de Lapparent, Margaret Geller, and John Huchra; importance of understanding how large-scale structure is formed; issues of gender in science and the experience of being a woman in science; the ideal design of the universe; the question of whether the universe has a point.
In this interview George Field discusses topics such as: his time at the University of California, Berkeley; Charles Townes; Lick Observatory; working with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); radio astronomy work with Ed Purcell; detecting neutral hydrogen gas at big red shifts; Fred Whipple; moving to the Harvard College Observatory; planning for the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics; Charles Lundquist; Riccardo Giacconi; Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory; Northeast Radio Observatory Corporation (NEROC); orbiting solar observatories (OSOs); Dave Challinor; Bart Bok.
The interview is both a biographical and professional profile. He discusses his childhood and family life in Iowa and the emergence of his interest in astronomy and building telescopes and observing the sky; the family's move to Kansas and to Indiana; his college years at Bethel College; exposure to journalism and interest in chemistry; summer work at Harvard College Observatory and Sky & Telescope; interest in science journalism; his graduate years at Harvard; working as a summer assistant for Harlow Shapley and recollections of him and the department under Shapley; Harvard astronomers and the general atmosphere in the Harvard College Observatory; recollections of Harvard staff: Fred Whipple, Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin; faculty divisions over government funding; Menzel's directorship; alternative service at the American University in Beirut to satisfy conscientious objector obligation; encountering Baade's lectures on the Evolution of Stars and Galaxies; teaching at Wellesley; learning to program an IBM 704 for stellar atmospheres work; work in support of Project Celescope; infrared research; reflections on the management of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in the late 1960s; factors leading to the creation of the Center for Astrophysics; the reorganization of CFA and Gingerich's migration to history.