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In this interview, Geoffrey Burbidge discusses his life and career. Topics discussed include: his family and childhood; Bristol University; Nevill Mott; University College, London; Harrie Massey; David Robert Bates; theoretical physics seminars at Cambridge University; Richard Feymnan; Freeman Dyson; Dick Dalitz; Abdus Salam; Nicholas Kemmer; becoming interested in astronomy and astrophysics via Margaret Burbidge; Royal Astronomical Society; Clive Gregory; research into stellar parallax, stellar atmospheres; Herbert Dingle; Auger effect; Otto Struve; Harvard University; Bart Bok; Donald Menzel; Harlow Shapley; Yerkes Observatory; development of radio astronomy; I. I. Rabi and big bang skepticism; Chandrasekhar; Gerard Kuiper; Enrico Fermi; Cavendish Laboratory, Martin Ryle; nucleosynthesis; Kapitza Club; Willie Fowler; Fred Hoyle; stellar evolution; steady state cosmology; red shift; Erwin Finlay-Freundlich; Max Born; Mount Wilson Observatory; Allan Sandage; Milt Humason; Ira Bowen; status at women at Hale observatories and at the California Institute of Technology (CalTech); Edwin Hubble; Walter Baade; synchrotron radiation; Rudolph Minkowski; Californium and supernovae; Halton Arp; Hans Suess; Vera Rubin's work on anisotropy; quasars; galaxy formation.
Family background; childhood reading of the encyclopedia; high school interest in athletics; flying model planes with father; early interest in great questions; religious background of parents; skepticism of organized religions; influence of uncles in decision to go to M.I.T.; education at M.I.T.; interest in math and physics; marriage in college; influence of Philip Morrison at M.I.T.; experimental work in nuclear physics as an undergraduate; influence of Icko Iben; move to Caltech in order to work with William Fowler; early preference for steady state and oscillating universe models; work with Gerry Wasserburg on nuclear chronology; history of merger of cosmology with particle physics; work on big bang nucleosynthesis; work on supernovae; history of Schramm's work with Gunn and Steigman on limiting the number of neutrino types; early communication between particle physicists and cosmologists in the 1970s; more discussion of work on big bang nucleosynthesis; establishment of the big bang model; importance of grand unified theories in explaining the photon-to-baryon ratio; inflationary universe model and its dependence on baryogenesis; work on neutrino masses and dark matter; introduction to and attitude toward the horizon problem; attitude toward the inflationary universe model; change in attitude toward the horizon problem as a result of the inflationary universe model; introduction to the inflationary universe model; reasons why the inflationary universe model has been so widely accepted; crucial that inflationary model left many problems to be worked out; attitude toward the inflationary universe model; introduction to and attitude toward the flatness problem; work with Gunn and Tinsely on showing that the universe is open; reaction to de Lapparent, Geller, and Huchra's work on large-scale inhomogeneities; work of Kirshner et al., Kron and Koo on large-scale structure; importance of the availability of telescope time in determining what problems astronomers are interested in and working on; importance of looking for the background instead of simply the most unusual objects; importance of visual images; importance of interacting with others; interplay of theory and observation in cosmology; difficulty in showing whether inflation is right or not; new areas opened up in cosmology in the last decade; outstanding problems in cosmology: large-scale structure, dark matter, and galaxy formation, nature of the vacuum, phase transitions; ideal design of the universe; question of whether the universe has a point.