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This interview begins with a discussion of Babcock's childhood and youth around Mt. Wilson Observatory, with comments on father (Harold D. Babcock), Walter S. Adams, and Edwin P. Hubble. Also discussed in this interview: education at Caltech, University of California at Berkeley and Lick Observatory (1934-1939), and at Yerkes and MacDonald Observatories; work at MIT and Caltech on World War II hardware; astronomical instrumentation work, especially postwar Mt. Wilson-Palomar diffraction gratings; discovery of magnetic stars and studies of variations; work on solar magnetic fields (with father) and theory of solar cycle; comments on cosmology; discussion of Mt. Wilson and Palomar Observatories since the 1920s, especially under Ira Bowen's and Babcock's directorship (1963); internal administration; staff relations; dealings with Carnegie Institution and Caltech; discussion of Hale Observatories, 1930-1977; role of government funding in astronomy; guest investigators; allocation of telescope time; planning, funding, and construction of the Carnegie Southern Observatory at Las Campanas, 1963-1977. Also prominently mentioned are: Philip Abelson, Ed Ackerman, Carl David Anderson, Wilhelm Heinrich Walter Baade, Patrick Maynard Stuart Blackett, Vannevar Bush, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, Crawford Greenewalt, Jesse Leonard Greenstein, George Ellery Hale, Caryl Haskins, Louis Henyey, Armin O. Leuschner, Nicholas Ulrich Mayall, Charles Edward Kenneth Mees, Paul Merrill, Rudolph Leo Bernhard Minkowski, Edgar Nichols, Elmer Prall, Bruce Rule, Frederick H. Seares, Sinclair Smith, Otto Struve, Charles Hard Townes, George van Biesbroeck, H. A. Wood, Fritz Zwicky; Astronomical Society of the Pacific, Astrophysical Journal, Bausch and Lomb Co., Eastman Kodak Co., Ford Foundation, Hale Observatories, Hale Solar Laboratory, Inyokern Project, Kitt Peak National Observatory, Las Campanas Observatory, Lick Observatory Bulletin, McDonald Observatory, Mount Wilson and Palomar Observatories, National Science Foundation (U.S.), 48-inch Schmidt Telescope, 100-inch Telescope, 120-inch Telescope, 200-inch Telescope, and University of California at Berkeley, CA.
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.
Childhood in New York; high school experience at Horace Mann; Harvard undergraduate at the age of 15. Impressions of ordeal with Harlow Shapley. Depression years in the family business, return to a very changed Harvard in 1934. Thesis work on Interstellar Absorption (Bart Bok), Ph.D. 1937. Postdoc at Yerkes Observatory (Otto Struve) working on Upsilon Sagittarius. Develops the 140-degree camera (the Greenstein-Louis G. Henyey camera); work with Fred Whipple on radio signals from space (Karl Jansky, Grote Reber), Greenstein and Reber’s review article on classified radio detection work during World War II. Founding of the Astrophysics Department at Caltech. Radio astronomy in the mid-1950s. Work on white dwarfs from 1957 on. Own accomplishments as scientist and in personal life. Impressions of Martin Schwarzschild, Shapley, Reber, Fred Hoyle. Also prominently mentioned are: Walter Sydney Adams, Lloyd Viel Berkner, John Bolton, Leverett Davis, William Alfred Fowler, Leo Goldberg, Louis Henyey, Fred Hoyle, Edwin Powell Hubble, Milton Lasell Humason, Robert Hutchins, Karl Jansky, Gerard Peter Kuiper, Tom R. Matthews, Robert Reynolds McMath, Donald Howard Menzel, Paul Merrill, Rudolph Leo Bernhard Minkowski, William Wilson Morgan, Guido Munch, Beverly Oke, Donald Osterbrock, Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, Harry Hemley Plaskett, Robert Richardson, Allan Sandage, Jan Scheldt, Shklovsky, Charlotte Moore Sitterly, Lyman Spitzer, Edward Teller, Richard Chace Tolman, Robert Julius Trumpler, Merle Antony Tuve, Albrecht Otto Johannes Unsold, Immanuel Velikofsky, Frederick Whipple; Carnegie Institution of Washington, Hale Observatories, Harvard College Observatory, Lick Observatory, McDonald Observatory, McDonald Observatory Nebular spectrograph, National Science Foundation (U.S.), 100-inch Telescope, University of Chicago, and Vista Project.
Early life in Mexico; Civil Engineering school, 1938, physics in Mexico; University of Mexico; study group; visitors from the United States, 1941; McDonald and Yerkes Observatories, 1942; work with Otto Struve; modern physics at University of Mexico; contact with Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar; Solomon Lefshetz's influence on mathematics in Mexico; Yerkes courses and general atmosphere after 1944; Struve's administration; work with Chandrasekhar; postdoctoral work in Mexico; return to Yerkes, staff reorganization; research at Yerkes, including radiative transfer, stellar envelopes, and Jupiter (Gerhard Herzberg); Mt. Wilson and work there; Caltech position; general research in 1950s and 1960s; limitations of present day research; teaching at Caltech; National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); decision to accept position in Germany; Caltech and Carnegie Institute of Technology; role of Kitt Peak Observatory in Federal Funding for Astronomy; reflections on past work. Also prominently mentioned are: Camilo Arguello, Wilhelm Heinrich Walter Baade, Jesse Leonard Greenstein, Robert Hutchins, Gerard Peter Kuiper, William Wilson Morgan, Luis Münch, Satero Prieto, Olin Chaddock Wilson; Hale Observatories, and Tonantzintla Observatory.
Interview examines early life in San Francisco and first contacts with Astronomy in 1920; Public Lectures under auspices of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific; college years at Berkeley, 1926-1930; interests in physics and astronomy; contact with D. Menzel; move to Caltech and graduate studies; work with Paul Merrill; Mount Wilson in the 1930s; limitations of spectroscopic equipment; recollections of Rubble; job offers and decision to remain at Mount Wilson; origins of research interests and early work leading to Wilson-Bappu Effect; stellar chromospheres and first use of 100-inch in 1938; work on rocket project during World War II; recollections of Walter Baade and W.S. Adams; post-war years at Mount Wilson; Bowen; ONR funding; research on planetary nebulae; instrumentation for the 200-inch; internal peer review system; H.C. Arp’s work; continued work on Wilson-Bappu Effect and need for theoretical understanding; study of the solar cycle; teaching and graduate students; work with Minkowski; re-calibration of Cepheid period/luminosity relationship and Hodge and Wallerstein’s paper of 1967; Baade and Zwicky; the operation of Hale Observatories; kinematics of the Orion Nebula; origin of southern station at Las Campanas; Hale Observatories and Caltech; Bowen’s retirement.