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In this interview, Geoffrey Burbidge discusses the history of physics over the course of his career. Topics discussed include: Astronomical Society of the Pacific; E. Margaret Burbridge; American Astronomical Society; Hale Observatory; Lick Observatory; radio astronomy; Naval Research Laboratory; x-ray astronomy; Bruno Rossi; optical astronomy; Kitt Peak National Observatory; air and light pollution; Allan Sandage; Harvard University; Princeton University; Lord Kelvin; S. Chandrasekhar; Henry Norris Russell; Paul Merrill; Leo Goldberg; Edwin Hubble; Royal Society; Milton Humason; theory of relativity; Fred Hoyle; big bang cosmology; steady state cosmology; Joe Weber; John Wheeler; Willy Fowler.
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.
Family history. Margaret Harwood’s lectures at Maria Mitchell Observatory in Nantucket; B.A. from Barnard College, 1925; work with Harlow Shapley at Harvard University, 1926; funding of astronomy projects and Shapley’s other interests in phenomena of nature. M.A. from Radcliffe, 1928. Other female astronomers: Helen Hogg, Antonia Maury, Cecilia Payne Gaposchkin; marriage of the Gaposchkins. Her paper at dedication of Tonantzintla Observatory. Work on LORAN navigation tables with Fletcher Watson during World War II; position at Barnard and Columbia; lecturer at Connecticut College for Women. Work as Walter Baade’s assistant at Hale Observatory, Baade’s work style and influence; Ira S. Bowen, Edwin P. Hubble, disputes among Shapley, Hubble and Baade. History of Swope’s work on variable stars, direct observation in Australia with Bart Bok, 1965; work with Margaret Mayall in American Association of Variable Star Observers. History of technique and changes in astronomy. History of attitudes towards women in astronomy; view of her own role and work in astronomy.