Mount Wilson Observatory

Interviewed by
David DeVorkin
Interview date
Location
Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Abstract

In this interview Robert Noyes discusses topics such as: his family background; undergraduate at Haverford College; graduate work at California Institute of Technology (Caltech); Frank Press and geophysics; Fay Ajzenberg Selov; Robert Leighton as his advior in graduate school; Mt. Wilson Observatory; Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO); Leo Goldberg; Chuck Whitney; astronomy; solar satellite project; helioseismology; Tim Brown; Dave Charbonneau; Ed Reeves; Bill Parkinson; George Withbroe; Andrea Dupree; Martin Huber; John Raymond; Peter Foukal; Jacques Beckers; Frank Low; Sacramento Peak Observatory; Orbiting Solar Observatories (OSO); Fred Whipple; space solar physics.

Interviewed by
Owen Gingerich
Interview date
Location
Bad Gastein, Austria
Abstract

Family background; education at Tubigen Univ.; Schrodinger Theory thesis at Univ. of Munich (1927), influence of Sommerfeld, Heisenberg. Potsdam experiments inspired by K. Schwarzschild, Emden: Local thermodynamic equilibrium and curve of growth. Spent 1928 at Mt. Wilson. Return to Germany to teach physics during Depression; use of microphotometer, Coude spectrograph; analysis of Tau Scorpii. Pre-war professorship at Yerkes with Struve: line profile information, stellar composition. WWII return to Kiel, star temperature detection, solar spectrum analysis, elements/energy production. Isolation and destruction of German physics, anti-German attitude. Remarks on history of science, views on contemporaries and astrophysical (radio) research; fate of Unsold's correspondence.

Interviewed by
David DeVorkin
Interview date
Location
Moore Sitterly's home, Washington, D.C.
Abstract

Interview examines early life in Pennsylvannia; family background; schooling; college years at Swarthmore, 1916-1920; choice of major subjects; contact with J. A. Miller and choice of mathematics curriculum; move to Princeton and work with Henry Norris Russell; arrival at Princeton, 1920; recollections of Russell family; research on the position of the Moon and eclipsing binaries; work at Mount Wilson on the solar spectrum, 1925-1928; the origins of the Multiplet Table; return to Princeton; the organization of the Princeton Astronomy Department; Ph.D. thesis under A. O. Leuschner at University of California, Berkeley; early work on the solar spectrum, influence of A. Unsöld; line intensity work; collaboration with physicists; Russell's mode of research; work with William F. Meggers; molecular spectra; atomic spectra during World War II; move to National Bureau of Standards after World War II; Russell and R. Dugan; J. Q. Stewart; recollections of Russell and Princeton years; organization of work at NBS.

Interviewed by
David DeVorkin
Interview date
Location
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Abstract

Extensive interview covering early life and family in New York and Maine; schooling and early interests in astronomy in New York City; observing Halley's comet in 1910; World War I and college years at Harvard University majoring in chemistry; medical degree from Cornell University; contacts with Henry Norris Russell and Harlow Shapley, and decision to move into astronomy; graduate work at Princeton; postdoctoral work and staff position at Mt. Wilson in the 1930s; interests in instrumentation and planetary atmospheres; the role of the Schmidt Camera in spectroscopy; planetary spectroscopy and the nature of the interstellar medium; founding of the FAR (Fund for Astronomical Research); World war II and work in optics for the National Defense Research Committee (NDRC) of the Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD); travels to Britian during the war; decision to leave astronomy after the war; move to Rochester for biophysical research; return to astronomy in 1952. The second interview concentrates on his contacts with Henry Norris Russell and activities during World War II.

Interviewed by
David DeVorkin
Interview date
Location
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Abstract

Extensive interview covering early life and family in New York and Maine; schooling and early interests in astronomy in New York City; observing Halley's comet in 1910; World War I and college years at Harvard University majoring in chemistry; medical degree from Cornell University; contacts with Henry Norris Russell and Harlow Shapley, and decision to move into astronomy; graduate work at Princeton; postdoctoral work and staff position at Mt. Wilson in the 1930s; interests in instrumentation and planetary atmospheres; the role of the Schmidt Camera in spectroscopy; planetary spectroscopy and the nature of the interstellar medium; founding of the FAR (Fund for Astronomical Research); World war II and work in optics for the National Defense Research Committee (NDRC) of the Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD); travels to Britian during the war; decision to leave astronomy after the war; move to Rochester for biophysical research; return to astronomy in 1952. The second interview concentrates on his contacts with Henry Norris Russell and activities during World War II.

Interviewed by
David DeVorkin
Interview date
Location
American Institute of Physics, New York City, New York
Abstract

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.

Interviewed by
David DeVorkin
Interview date
Location
University of California, Santa Cruz
Abstract

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.

Interviewed by
Charles Weiner
Interview date
Location
Mt. Wilson and Palomar Observatories, Pasadena, California
Abstract

Early life and education; research on spectroscopy with Robert A. Millikan at University of Chicago and Caltech; early teaching career at Caltech; work on forbidden lines, 200-inch telescope project; visitors to Caltech during the 1930s include Albert Einstein and Arnold Sommerfeld; effects of the Depression and World War II on astronomy; postwar reorganization, staff and funding at Mt. Wilson and Palomar Observatories; Edwin P. Hubble's role at the observatory; educational aspects of the observatory program (professional and public); research groups and research interests; theorists and observationalists, Jesse Greenstein, Guido Münch, Jan Oort, radio astronomy; recollections and evaluations of own work after retirement. Also prominently mentioned are: Walter Sydney Adams, Harold Delos Babcock, William Alvin Baum, Wilhelm Bjerknes, T. Bowen, Geoffrey R. Burbidge, Margaret Burbidge, Vannevar Bush, J. Carroll, Lee Alvin DuBridge, Theodore Dunham Jr., Edlén, Robley Dunglison Evans, William Alfred Fowler, Henry Gordon Gale, Cecilia Helena Payne Gaposchkin, George Ellery Hale, John L. Hall, Don Hendrix, Alfred H. Joy, Thomas Lauritsen, Ernest Orlando Lawrence, Max Mason, Edwin Mattison McMillan, Merriam, Paul Merrill, Rudolph Leo Bernhard Minkowski, R. Otis, Henry Norris Russell, John Donovan Strong, Richard Chase Tolman, Merle Antony Tuve; Carnegie Corporation of New York, Carnegie Institution of Washington.

Interviewed by
Charles Weiner
Interview date
Location
Pasadena, California
Abstract

Early life and education; research on spectroscopy with Robert A. Millikan at University of Chicago and Caltech; early teaching career at Caltech; work on forbidden lines, 200-inch telescope project; visitors to Caltech during the 1930s include Albert Einstein and Arnold Sommerfeld; effects of the Depression and World War II on astronomy; postwar reorganization, staff and funding at Mt. Wilson and Palomar Observatories; Edwin P. Hubble's role at the observatory; educational aspects of the observatory program (professional and public); research groups and research interests; theorists and observationalists, Jesse Greenstein, Guido Münch, Jan Oort, radio astronomy; recollections and evaluations of own work after retirement. Also prominently mentioned are: Walter Sydney Adams, Harold Delos Babcock, William Alvin Baum, Wilhelm Bjerknes, T. Bowen, Geoffrey R. Burbidge, Margaret Burbidge, Vannevar Bush, J. Carroll, Lee Alvin DuBridge, Theodore Dunham Jr., Edlén, Robley Dunglison Evans, William Alfred Fowler, Henry Gordon Gale, Cecilia Helena Payne Gaposchkin, George Ellery Hale, John L. Hall, Don Hendrix, Alfred H. Joy, Thomas Lauritsen, Ernest Orlando Lawrence, Max Mason, Edwin Mattison McMillan, Merriam, Paul Merrill, Rudolph Leo Bernhard Minkowski, R. Otis, Henry Norris Russell, John Donovan Strong, Richard Chase Tolman, Merle Antony Tuve; Carnegie Corporation of New York, Carnegie Institution of Washington.

Interviewed by
Spencer Weart
Interview date
Location
Mount Wilson-Palomar Observatories, Pasadena, California
Abstract

In this interview, Horace Babcock discusses how the field of astrophysics has changed over the course of his career. Topics discussed include: research administration; Mount Wilson Observatory; Ira S. Bowen; National Science Foundation; California Institute of Technology; stellar evolution; photomultiplier tubes; Joel Stebbins; Albert E. Whitford; Gerald Kron; Allan Sandage; Martin Schwarzschild; spectrographs; radio astronomy; x-ray astronomy; galactic evolution; stellar material; Robert McMath; societies; American Astronomical Society; International Astronomical Union; Jan Oort; Theodore Dunham Jr.; Alexander Pogo.