Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Alan Dressler, Astronomer Emeritus at The Carnegie Institute for Science Observatories. He describes his current focus on the James Webb Telescope and he conveys concern for a "post-reality" political environment that has taken a grip on American politics. He recounts his upbringing in Cincinnati, and how his curiosity about how things worked naturally pulled him toward astronomical interests. Dressler discusses his undergraduate education at UC Berkeley and his decision to pursue a PhD in the newly created Department of Astronomy at UC Santa Cruz. He describes the importance of the Lick Observatory for his research under the direction of Joe Wampler, and how Jim Peebles gave this thesis project a "seal" of approval. Dressler describes the origins of the Dressler Relation in his study of the morphology of galaxies and the density of their environment, and he describes the opportunities leading to his postdoctoral appointment at Carnegie. He explains the history of the Caltech-Carnegie partnership in astronomy, and he describes working with Allan Sandage and Jim Gunn. Dressler emphasizes the revolutionary effect the Hubble Telescope imparted to the field, and he discusses his time as a Las Campanas fellow. He describes how his work on galaxy formation fed into larger questions about the origins of the universe and the broader philosophical implication of our understanding of Earth's place in the universe. Dressler explains the Great Attractor Model and the state of play in black hole research in the 1980s, and he describes why he did not need to "see" an image of black holes to be convinced of their existence. He narrates the origins of the Association of Universities for Research and Astronomy, and the drama surrounding the repair of the Hubble. Dressler describes presenting the HST & Beyond report to NASA administrator Dan Goldin, and he discusses the natural progression for his work on the NASA Origins program. He discusses his subsequent focus on the Magellan Telescope and the EOS Decadal Survey. At the end of the interview, Dressler reflects on the strides made in galaxy formation research over the course of his career, and he conveys pride in playing a role in science, for which he appreciated since youth as a field that offered limitless opportunities to improve the world. 

Interviewed by
David DeVorkin
Interview date
Location
Edmondson’s Office, Swain Hall, Indiana University
Abstract

Early home life in Indiana, and early schooling. Origins of his interest in astronomy and the influence of both family and teachers. College years at Indiana University and contacts with members of the astronomy department there (E.C. and Vesto M. Slipher). Discussion of history of Indiana University Astronomy Department, and its contact with the Lowell Observatory. Graduate school at Harvard University, Peter van de Kamp's influence, work in stellar kinematics, impressions of atmosphere at Harvard. Faculty position at Indiana University, 1937 to present. Origins of Goethe Link Observatory, and the growth of the department. Organizational work in the American Astronomical Society (AAS). Work at National Science Foundation (NSF) as scientific officer for astronomy, 1956, and development of National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO); NSF and AUI; NRAO directors; Sputnik; Kitt Peak Observatory site survey, NSF and Associated Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA); Aden Meinel; John B. Irwin's proposal for a photoelectric observatory; Flagstaff Conference; Robert McMath Panel; structure of Kitt Peak staff; Chilean observatory and development of Cerro Tololo; Gerard Kuiper's role in southern observatory; European Southern Observatory (ESO), Carnegie Southern Observatory (CARSO) and AURA joint Paris meeting; Russian interests in southern observatory; CARSO application to Ford Foundation; agreements between AURA and CARSO; building telescopes at Kitt Peak and Cerro Tololoth︣e WISCO dispute; policy problems; AURA Board meetings; demise of Space Division at Kitt Peak; Whitford Panel; White Sands rocket project; astronomy and teaching at Indiana. Also prominently mentioned are: Jorge Alessandri Rodríguez, Lawrence Hugh Aller, Bart Jan Bok, William A. Cogshall, James Cuffey, H. T. Davis, Arthur Foley, Paul Herget, Helen Sawyer Hogg, Virgil Hunt, Geoffrey Keller, C. O. Lampland, Robert Reynolds McMath, Edward Arthur Milne, Samuel A. Mitchell, William Wilson Morgan, Jason John Nassau, Henry Norris Russell, Frederico Rutllant, Charles Donald Shane, Harlow Shapley, Jurgen Stock, Otto Struve, Merle Antony Tuve, Herman B. Wells, K. P. Williams, Marshall Wrubel; Associated Universities, Inc., Ford Foundation, Indiana Higher Education Telecommunication System, Lick Observatory, McDonald Observatory, and Yerkes Observatory.

Interviewed by
David DeVorkin
Interview date
Location
Edmondson’s Office, Swain Hall, Indiana University
Abstract

Early home life in Indiana, and early schooling. Origins of his interest in astronomy and the influence of both family and teachers. College years at Indiana University and contacts with members of the astronomy department there (E.C. and Vesto M. Slipher). Discussion of history of Indiana University Astronomy Department, and its contact with the Lowell Observatory. Graduate school at Harvard University, Peter van de Kamp's influence, work in stellar kinematics, impressions of atmosphere at Harvard. Faculty position at Indiana University, 1937 to present. Origins of Goethe Link Observatory, and the growth of the department. Organizational work in the American Astronomical Society (AAS). Work at National Science Foundation (NSF) as scientific officer for astronomy, 1956, and development of National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO); NSF and AUI; NRAO directors; Sputnik; Kitt Peak Observatory site survey, NSF and Associated Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA); Aden Meinel; John B. Irwin's proposal for a photoelectric observatory; Flagstaff Conference; Robert McMath Panel; structure of Kitt Peak staff; Chilean observatory and development of Cerro Tololo; Gerard Kuiper's role in southern observatory; European Southern Observatory (ESO), Carnegie Southern Observatory (CARSO) and AURA joint Paris meeting; Russian interests in southern observatory; CARSO application to Ford Foundation; agreements between AURA and CARSO; building telescopes at Kitt Peak and Cerro Tololoth︣e WISCO dispute; policy problems; AURA Board meetings; demise of Space Division at Kitt Peak; Whitford Panel; White Sands rocket project; astronomy and teaching at Indiana. Also prominently mentioned are: Jorge Alessandri Rodríguez, Lawrence Hugh Aller, Bart Jan Bok, William A. Cogshall, James Cuffey, H. T. Davis, Arthur Foley, Paul Herget, Helen Sawyer Hogg, Virgil Hunt, Geoffrey Keller, C. O. Lampland, Robert Reynolds McMath, Edward Arthur Milne, Samuel A. Mitchell, William Wilson Morgan, Jason John Nassau, Henry Norris Russell, Frederico Rutllant, Charles Donald Shane, Harlow Shapley, Jurgen Stock, Otto Struve, Merle Antony Tuve, Herman B. Wells, K. P. Williams, Marshall Wrubel; Associated Universities, Inc., Ford Foundation, Indiana Higher Education Telecommunication System, Lick Observatory, McDonald Observatory, and Yerkes Observatory.

Interviewed by
David DeVorkin
Interview date
Location
University of Maryland, Center for Adult Education, College Park, Maryland
Abstract

Interview discusses, not in chronological order: early home life and schooling; undergraduate at Leiden, influence of Paul Ehrenfest, Jan H. Oort, Jacobus C. Kapteyn, Gerard Kuiper, Antonie Pannekoek, Ejnar Hertzsprung. Recollections of work of Georg Uhlenbeck and Samuel Goudsmit. Assistant to Peter van Rhijn at Groningen ca. 1928, work on various stellar and galactic topics. Move to Harvard, 1929, and atmosphere there under Harlow Shapley. Marriage to Priscilla Fairfield Bok; her contacts with William W. Campbell. Search for and interpretation of spiral auras of our galaxy; studies of stellar density distribution. Activities during World War II. Harvard astronomy group's difficult postwar transition; McCarthyism. Work on nebulae and globules. Comments on astronomy at Mt. Wilson, Tonantziutla, and South Africa. Origins of Harvard radio astronomy and National Radio Astronomy Observatory, and their funding. Move to Australia, 1956, and conditions there. Move to Steward Observatory of University of Arizona, 1964, and conditions there. Location of national observatory at Kitt Peak; management of Kitt Peak. Discussions of astronomy, education, popularization, employment, and organization. Also prominently mentioned are: Wilhelm Heinrich Walter Baade, McGeorge Bundy, Edwin F. Carpenter, Tom Cherry, James Bryant Conant, Arthur Stanley Eddington, Sergei Gaposchkin, Jesse Leonard Greenstein, Haro, David Heeschen, Ejnar Hertzsprung, James Jeans, Ivan Robert King, Bertil Lindblad, Antonia Maury, Nicholas Ulrich Mayall, Joseph McCarthy, Sidney McCuskey, Aden Meinel, Donald Howard Menzel, Robert Menzies, James E. Miller, Edward Arthur Milne, William Wilson Morgan, Edward Charles Pickering, Harry Hemley Plaskett, Nathan Pusey, Martin Schwarzschild, Willem de Sitter, Otto Struve; American Astronomical Society, Associated Universities for Research in Astronomy, Associated Universities, Inc., Boyden Observatory, Case Institute of Technology, Harvard College Observatory, Harvard Series on Astronomy, Indiana University, Mount Stromlo Observatory, National Science Foundation (U.S.), Ohio State University, Princeton University, Rijksuniversiteit te Groningen, Rijksuniversiteit te Leiden, University of Arizona, University of Illinois, University of Michigan, and University of Texas.

Interviewed by
David DeVorkin
Interview date
Location
Howard Johnson Motel, Tempe, Arizona
Abstract

Interview discusses, not in chronological order: early home life and schooling; undergraduate at Leiden, influence of Paul Ehrenfest, Jan H. Oort, Jacobus C. Kapteyn, Gerard Kuiper, Antonie Pannekoek, Ejnar Hertzsprung. Recollections of work of Georg Uhlenbeck and Samuel Goudsmit. Assistant to Peter van Rhijn at Groningen ca. 1928, work on various stellar and galactic topics. Move to Harvard, 1929, and atmosphere there under Harlow Shapley. Marriage to Priscilla Fairfield Bok; her contacts with William W. Campbell. Search for and interpretation of spiral auras of our galaxy; studies of stellar density distribution. Activities during World War II. Harvard astronomy group's difficult postwar transition; McCarthyism. Work on nebulae and globules. Comments on astronomy at Mt. Wilson, Tonantziutla, and South Africa. Origins of Harvard radio astronomy and National Radio Astronomy Observatory, and their funding. Move to Australia, 1956, and conditions there. Move to Steward Observatory of University of Arizona, 1964, and conditions there. Location of national observatory at Kitt Peak; management of Kitt Peak. Discussions of astronomy, education, popularization, employment, and organization. Also prominently mentioned are: Wilhelm Heinrich Walter Baade, McGeorge Bundy, Edwin F. Carpenter, Tom Cherry, James Bryant Conant, Arthur Stanley Eddington, Sergei Gaposchkin, Jesse Leonard Greenstein, Haro, David Heeschen, Ejnar Hertzsprung, James Jeans, Ivan Robert King, Bertil Lindblad, Antonia Maury, Nicholas Ulrich Mayall, Joseph McCarthy, Sidney McCuskey, Aden Meinel, Donald Howard Menzel, Robert Menzies, James E. Miller, Edward Arthur Milne, William Wilson Morgan, Edward Charles Pickering, Harry Hemley Plaskett, Nathan Pusey, Martin Schwarzschild, Willem de Sitter, Otto Struve; American Astronomical Society, Associated Universities for Research in Astronomy, Associated Universities, Inc., Boyden Observatory, Case Institute of Technology, Harvard College Observatory, Harvard Series on Astronomy, Indiana University, Mount Stromlo Observatory, National Science Foundation (U.S.), Ohio State University, Princeton University, Rijksuniversiteit te Groningen, Rijksuniversiteit te Leiden, University of Arizona, University of Illinois, University of Michigan, and University of Texas.

Interviewed by
David DeVorkin
Interview date
Location
Steward Observatory, Tucson, Arizona
Abstract

Interview discusses, not in chronological order: early home life and schooling; undergraduate at Leiden, influence of Paul Ehrenfest, Jan H. Oort, Jacobus C. Kapteyn, Gerard Kuiper, Antonie Pannekoek, Ejnar Hertzsprung. Recollections of work of Georg Uhlenbeck and Samuel Goudsmit. Assistant to Peter van Rhijn at Groningen ca. 1928, work on various stellar and galactic topics. Move to Harvard, 1929, and atmosphere there under Harlow Shapley. Marriage to Priscilla Fairfield Bok; her contacts with William W. Campbell. Search for and interpretation of spiral auras of our galaxy; studies of stellar density distribution. Activities during World War II. Harvard astronomy group's difficult postwar transition; McCarthyism. Work on nebulae and globules. Comments on astronomy at Mt. Wilson, Tonantziutla, and South Africa. Origins of Harvard radio astronomy and National Radio Astronomy Observatory, and their funding. Move to Australia, 1956, and conditions there. Move to Steward Observatory of University of Arizona, 1964, and conditions there. Location of national observatory at Kitt Peak; management of Kitt Peak. Discussions of astronomy, education, popularization, employment, and organization. Also prominently mentioned are: Wilhelm Heinrich Walter Baade, McGeorge Bundy, Edwin F. Carpenter, Tom Cherry, James Bryant Conant, Arthur Stanley Eddington, Sergei Gaposchkin, Jesse Leonard Greenstein, Haro, David Heeschen, Ejnar Hertzsprung, James Jeans, Ivan Robert King, Bertil Lindblad, Antonia Maury, Nicholas Ulrich Mayall, Joseph McCarthy, Sidney McCuskey, Aden Meinel, Donald Howard Menzel, Robert Menzies, James E. Miller, Edward Arthur Milne, William Wilson Morgan, Edward Charles Pickering, Harry Hemley Plaskett, Nathan Pusey, Martin Schwarzschild, Willem de Sitter, Otto Struve; American Astronomical Society, Associated Universities for Research in Astronomy, Associated Universities, Inc., Boyden Observatory, Case Institute of Technology, Harvard College Observatory, Harvard Series on Astronomy, Indiana University, Mount Stromlo Observatory, National Science Foundation (U.S.), Ohio State University, Princeton University, Rijksuniversiteit te Groningen, Rijksuniversiteit te Leiden, University of Arizona, University of Illinois, University of Michigan, and University of Texas.

Interviewed by
David DeVorkin
Interview date
Location
Steward Observatory, Tucson, Arizona
Abstract

Interview discusses, not in chronological order: early home life and schooling; undergraduate at Leiden, influence of Paul Ehrenfest, Jan H. Oort, Jacobus C. Kapteyn, Gerard Kuiper, Antonie Pannekoek, Ejnar Hertzsprung. Recollections of work of Georg Uhlenbeck and Samuel Goudsmit. Assistant to Peter van Rhijn at Groningen ca. 1928, work on various stellar and galactic topics. Move to Harvard, 1929, and atmosphere there under Harlow Shapley. Marriage to Priscilla Fairfield Bok; her contacts with William W. Campbell. Search for and interpretation of spiral auras of our galaxy; studies of stellar density distribution. Activities during World War II. Harvard astronomy group's difficult postwar transition; McCarthyism. Work on nebulae and globules. Comments on astronomy at Mt. Wilson, Tonantziutla, and South Africa. Origins of Harvard radio astronomy and National Radio Astronomy Observatory, and their funding. Move to Australia, 1956, and conditions there. Move to Steward Observatory of University of Arizona, 1964, and conditions there. Location of national observatory at Kitt Peak; management of Kitt Peak. Discussions of astronomy, education, popularization, employment, and organization. Also prominently mentioned are: Wilhelm Heinrich Walter Baade, McGeorge Bundy, Edwin F. Carpenter, Tom Cherry, James Bryant Conant, Arthur Stanley Eddington, Sergei Gaposchkin, Jesse Leonard Greenstein, Haro, David Heeschen, Ejnar Hertzsprung, James Jeans, Ivan Robert King, Bertil Lindblad, Antonia Maury, Nicholas Ulrich Mayall, Joseph McCarthy, Sidney McCuskey, Aden Meinel, Donald Howard Menzel, Robert Menzies, James E. Miller, Edward Arthur Milne, William Wilson Morgan, Edward Charles Pickering, Harry Hemley Plaskett, Nathan Pusey, Martin Schwarzschild, Willem de Sitter, Otto Struve; American Astronomical Society, Associated Universities for Research in Astronomy, Associated Universities, Inc., Boyden Observatory, Case Institute of Technology, Harvard College Observatory, Harvard Series on Astronomy, Indiana University, Mount Stromlo Observatory, National Science Foundation (U.S.), Ohio State University, Princeton University, Rijksuniversiteit te Groningen, Rijksuniversiteit te Leiden, University of Arizona, University of Illinois, University of Michigan, and University of Texas.