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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.
Second session deals mainly with science policy and science advising in the United States and Europe after World War II. Vice-president of International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP), 1951-1954; chairman of U.S. NATO subcommittee (Henry Jackson); work for establishment of the NATO Science Council; U.S. delegate to the NATO Parliamentarians, Paris 1957. Discussion of his concern about scientific manpower; postwar Europe (Holland, France) leads to awareness of need for a national defense research laboratory in U.S. (discussed here at great length using correspondence, reports and memos); "Project 137" summer study (Los Alamos) (Marvin Goldberger, Kenneth Watson, Keith Brueckner); JASON. Discussions of pre-World War II Europe, war work at Metallurgical Laboratory, University of Chicago with Eugene Wigner (DuPont); scientific work on acceleration of cosmic rays (Enrico Fermi; elementary particle physics) leads to Directorship of Cosmic Ray Laboratory at Princeton University; work on general relativity; the Crunch, Geometrodynamics; the hydrogen bomb project; the J. Robert Oppenheimer affair. Much of the discussion is based on correspondence.
In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews John Mather, senior astrophysicist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and senior project scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope. Mather recounts his childhood in rural New Jersey and the benefits of pursuing a physics education at a small school like Swarthmore. He discusses his research at Berkeley and the value of pursuing dissertation research based on an unsuccessful research experiment. Mather describes his work at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the decisions that led to his participation at NASA in the COBE satellite team that measured the heat radiation of the Big Bang. Mather narrates what it was like to learn he won the Nobel Prize for this work, and describes his current work and excitement about the James Webb Telescope.
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.
Daughter of astronomer Henry Norris Russell, recalls her early life at home in Princeton and her family history. Father's personal and professional life, his character, acquaintances, and relationships.
Childhood in New York City; studying astronomy and literature at Harvard (1925-1929, M.A. 1930); work during the Depression in real estate and at Columbia; graduate-education in the new astrophysics at Harvard (1934-1937), contacts with H. Shapley, C. Payne, H.N. Russell; work at Yerkes from 1937: nebula spectroscopy, stellar composition, stellar atmospheres; contacts with 0. Struve, S. Chandrasekhar, B. Stromgren; optical design work during World War II. Move to Cal Tech, 1947, contacts with W. Baade, I. Bowen, F. Zwicky, N. Schmidt, L. Dubridge, etc.; organization, administration, research conditions, and allocation of observing time at Mt. Wilson and Palomar Observatories; work in building up astronomy department at Cal Tech, character of staff relations, and fund-raising. Postwar work oil, abundances of elements, white dwarf stars, high-dispersion spectroscopy, radio astronomy, and quasars; ideas about cosmology and other topics. Involvement with military advising at Cal Tech from 1950, satellite reconnaissance, and industrial advising; early work on rocket astronomy and as senior adviser to NASA (ca. 1957-1977). Editor of “Stellar Atmospheres” series; work with National Academy of Sciences and author of its 1972 astronomy survey; efforts to popularize astronomy. Ideas about large space -- and ground-based telescopes. Particular attention is given to the organizational strengths and weaknesses of important astronomy organizations.
Detailed review of Naugle's rural life in Wyoming and Montana, college years at the University of Minnesota, entrance into particle physics and eventual entrance into balloon studies of cosmic rays and high energy physics. Bulk of the interview recalls Naugle's experiences at Minnesota, research at Convair and long association with NASA first as scientist and then primarily as administrator working on development of lunar and planetary missions and major astronomical missions including Ranger, Viking, Voyager and HEAO.
Topics discussed include: his family and early childhood, education at Yale and Berkeley, Army and geodetic research, Otto Struve, George Herbig, Lick Observatory, Palomar Observatory, Carnegie Observatories, Mt. Wilson Observatory and stellar topics.
A biographical interview; Tananbaum was director of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory's Chandra X-Ray Observatory at the time of interview. Discusses his childhood and education including time at Yale and MIT; initial forays into X-ray astronomy; anecdotes about Riccardo Giacconi and launch of Uhuru Satellite in 1970; discovery of first black hole in Cygnus S-1 and confirmation of binary accretion model as source for x-rays. Transition of AS&E staff to Center for Astrophysics; building of High Energy Astrophysics division at CFA; Tananbaum's research interests; CHAMP project with Chandra. Discussion of building Chandra as well as comparison of Chandra project with Hubble telescope. The politics and finding for Chandra; its operation. HEAO-B (Einstein) mission covered including its precursors, detector technologies, and science contributions. Tananbaum's time on various NASA committees and the creation of a long-term strategy for space astronomy mentioning Chandra, Hubble, SIRTF, and NGST. Discussion of important topics in astronomy research including the merging of physics and astronomy in some areas. Committee contributions including decadal survey work. Thoughts on religion, family, values and personal meaning. Most significant changes in his career including personal rewards.
Biographical profile of the theoretical astrophysicist and aeronomist Alexander Dalgarno, centering on his professional life at the Center for Astrophysics. Early life and training in London. Schooling and entrance to University College, London. Recollections of wartime life in London and Aberdeen. College years and experiences as a student. Development of interest in mathematics. Friends, colleagues and teachers at college. Graduation in 1948 and contact with Harrie Massey which led him into physics. Research under Richard Buckingham on applications of quantum theory to problems in physics. Exposure to experimental physics and problems in geophysics. Contact with David Bates, Massey and Sydney Chapman. Move to Belfast to work with Bates on problems of aeronomy. Development of research themes at Belfast and conferences on upper atmospheric physics and how it changed from remote sensing to in situ observations. Continued discussion of the development of his research interests. Non-LTE studies. Summer at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), 1954 and contact with Air Force Cambridge Research Laboratory (AFCRL) upper atmosphere researchers. Appointment to Harvard-Smithsonian 1967. Students, postdocs and colleagues: Donald Menzel, Leo Goldberg. Refelections on relationship between Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) and Harvard College Observatory (HCO) in the late 1960s. United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) SAO audit, 1971 and the Greenstein Visiting Committee. Goldberg's resignation and Whipple's retirement from the SAO directorship. Restructuring the observatory. The issue of shared teaching loads between staffs of SAO and HCO. Dalgarno becomes acting director of the reorganized observatory, to be called the Center for Astrophysics, recollections of how and why he was chosen. His views on the controversy and the changing profile of astronomy at Harvard in the early 1970s. Searching for and naming the new director. Finding George Field and the creation of the Center for Astrophysics. Models considered for the new organization. Combining directorships and keeping the Chair of the department distinct. Relations with the National Science Foundation (NSF). Views on the reorganization and its divisions and assumption of the associate directorship of the theoretical astrophysics division. The Field years, 1970-1980. Festschrifts for Dalgarno.