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Mildred Allen was born in Massachusetts in 1894, the elder of two daughters of an MIT professor of civil engineering who had met her mother while working in New Mexico. She graduated from Vassar College in 1916 with training in mathematics and physics. Her Ph.D. in physics (1922) was granted by Clark University where she studied with A. G. Webster, but her thesis research was one at MIT. She taught at Mt. Holyoke, Wellesley and Oberlin Colleges during the 1920s and early 30s, as well as studying further at the University of Chicago and Yale.
In this interview, Mayall discusses her childhood and early interest in astronomy; undergraduate years at Swarthmore College; work at Harvard College Observatory in the 1920s; the role of women at Harvard College Observatory, and in astronomy in general; memories of Edward Pickering; and the relationship between the American Association of Variable Star Observers and Harvard College Observatory. Mayall details her work with Annie Jump Cannon, including Cannons's personality and work habits, her skills in socializing, her work with variable start and her relationship with Cecilia Payne.
Centers on National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) career but includes early life, professional training at Swarthmore College and University of Chicago; staff position at Yerkes Observatory, work and relations with William Morgan, and later the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL). Identifies development of astronomical interests at NASA, early advocates of space astronomy, and the evolution of the NASA astronomy programs and relationships with other space interests at Kitt Peak, National Science Foundation (NSF),and elsewhere.