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Early life in the Cotswolds, England; Bristol University, 1943, and physics program during WWII; teachers include Nevill Mott and Edward Tyndall; effect of WWII; work with Harrie Massey on meson capture; University College, London; meets wife and growing contacts in astronomy, late 1940s; thesis, 1952; work in stellar atmosphere; visit to U.S. at Howard and Terkes, 1951-1953; Cavendish group under Martin Ryle, house theoretician; contact with William Fowler and growing interest in nucleosynthesis, 1954; fellowship at Pasadena, 1955; opinions on operation of major observatories, philosophy of cosmological research, reaction to steady state; problem of high energy sources, synchrotron radiation; belief structure in cosmology; Halton Arp’s work; Nuclear Processes in Astrophysics - B2FH; Yerkes Observatory, 1957; physics of galaxies, 1959. Also prominently mentioned are: Wilhelm Heinrich Walter Baade, Margaret Burbidge, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, Paul A. M. Dirac, Enrico Fermi, William Alfred Fowler, James Edward Gunn, Fred Hoyle, Martin Ryle, Allan Sandage, Maarten Schmidt, and Arthur Wolfe.
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.
Discusses her childhood and education; her developing interest in astronomy; studying with C. C. L. Gregory at the University of London Observatory and University College; her thesis work on the variations in Gamma Cassiopeia; meeting and marrying Geoffrey Burbidge; discrimination against women in the Carnegie Followships; the conflict between her work and having a family; the decision to go to the U.S. and Yerkes; use of the 82-inch telescope at McDonald; recollections of Shapley; disagreements between Kuiper and Urey; development of interest in abundance of elements; Baade's inspiration; offers for Geoffrey Burbidge from Manchester and Cambridge and move to Cambridge University; Geoffrey's differences with M. Ryle involving source of radio emission; meeting Willie Fowler; decision to return to the U. S. and Caltech; observing time at Mt Wilson; reactions of the old guard to women observers; collaborations with Baade on supernovae synthesis (1956); work on barium II stars; the search for permanent positions; advantage of position at Chicago/Yerkes/McDonald; move to Chicago and work on galaxies (1957-1962); observations of Centaurus A at 82-inch McDonald telescope; leaving Yerkes to go to La Jolla with Revelle; continued research on quasars and general research; cosmological implications of quasars; summer in Pasadena with Hoyle; development of Hoyle's Institute; challenges of Burbidge, Fowler, Hoyle concept of nucleosynthesis; Unsold's arguments; Arp's work; lack of satisfactory gravitational red shift models; university's relationship with Lick; infra-red work future of Greenwich and changes in the power structure in the British Astronomical establishment; offer of position as head of the Science Research Council; decision to take a leave of absence from La Jolla and accept; difficulties of the position and the decision as to where to locate the Northern Hemisphere Observatory; decision to return to the U. S.; American Astronomical Society presidency (1976-1978); AAS and the Equal Rights Amendment; her most satisfying work in nucleosynthesis, B2FH. Among those prominently mentioned: Arp, Baade, Bowen, Chandrasekhar, Greenstein, Hoyle, Kuiper, P. Merrill, H. Minkowski, R. Revelle, M. Ryle, Sandage, Shapley, Stromgren, Unsold, Urey.