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Childhood; early interest in science (astronomy). Member of Astronomical Society of the Pacific, 1928. Special student at University of California at Berkeley, 1931, with Donald H. Menzel’s help. Regular student from 1932; comments on teachers and fellow students at Berkeley Student Observatory. Summer assistantship at Lick Observatory (Nicholas Mayall, Arthur B. Wyse), life at Lick Observatory. To Harvard University in 1937 for graduate studies; comparison between Harvard and Berkeley/Lick; teaching assistant at Radcliffe; 3-year membership in Harvard Society of Fellows, from 1939, of enormous importance for his development; works with Menzel and James G. Baker on the Theory of Physical Processes in Gaseous Nebulae, 1937; Analysis of the Atmospheres of the A-type Dwarfs Gamma Geminorum and Sirius based on data from Louis Berman; Jesse Greenstein. Comments on Harvard Summer Schools, Harlow Shapley’ s Square.” Volunteer teacher of elementary physics courses from 1942 at Harvard. Lawrence Radiation Laboratory, 1943-1945; work involved evaluation of the chemists and the Counting Group’s output from the electromagnetic separation process. Job offer from University of Indiana (Frank Edmunson) accepted due to cutback at Radiation Laboratory. Indiana years, 1945-1948, very productive (drafts for two astrophysics books); problems getting telescope time at Yerkes Observatory and unsatisfactory living conditions leads to acceptance of a promising tenured position at Michigan, a center with very active research due to Leo Goldberg; Robert McMath’s influence in the department; Keith Pierce and Aller’s work on infrared solar spectrum. Work performed at Mt. Wilson Observatory and Dominion Astrophysical Observatory. Goldberg resigns in 1959; comments on Aller’s decision to leave Michigan; discussions of funding; “over-head” (Aller’s talk at an AAS Meeting); comparison of Lick Observatory and Kitt Peak Observatory policies. Work at Mt. Stromio Observatory, Australia on sabbatical visits, 1960, 1968-1969, 1977-1978. Overview of opinions of the present state of astronomy. Comments on personal life, wife and children.
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 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.
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.