Astronomical observatories

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
Stephen Dick
Interview date
Location
Bateson's home, Tauranga, New Zealand
Abstract

Early life in Sydney; interest in astronomy (Halley’s Comet, 1910); American astronomers; war years and science in New Zealand Navy; employment in Cook Islands, 1945-1959; manager of a trading concern; contract with Brad Wood, University of Pennsylvania; lecture tour to Canada and the United States (Harlow Shapley, Charles D. Shane), 1957; state of astronomy in New Zealand in the 1920s and now; establishment of Black Birch Observatory in New Zealand; interest in cooperative ventures with the United States; the Mt. John years, funding efforts; 1965 total solar eclipse in Cook Islands; comments on retirement, publications, UFO?s and extraterrestrial life; role in Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand.

Interviewed by
Spencer Weart
Interview date
Location
Santa Barbara Street, Pasadena, California
Abstract

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.

Interviewed by
David DeVorkin
Interview date
Location
Indiana University Department of Astronomy, Bloomington, Indiana
Abstract

Early life and education in Manchester; World War I; spectroscopy work at Oxford under Frederick A. Lindemann; visits to Gottingen and Berlin in 1920s; ideas on stellar energy source and stellar structure; work and teaching at Rutgers (1929-1937); World War II research on de-Gaussing, ballistics; moves to Greenwich, then Herstmonceaux observatories; their administration and instruments; solar eclipse work; general relativity theory; return to U.S. Also prominently mentioned are: Herbert Jefcoate Atkinson, Irmin von Holton Atkinson, Mary Kathleen Jane Ashe Atkinson, Niels Henrik David Bohr, John Edward Campbell, Arthur Stanley Eddington, George Gamow, I. O. Griffith, Fritz G. Houtermans, Edwin Powell Hubble, James Hopwood Jeans, H. Spencer Jones, Walther Nernst, Henry Norris Russell, Frederick Soddy, Richard van der Riet Woolley; Aberdeen Proving Ground, Balliol College of University of Oxford, Great Britain Admiralty, Indiana University, Royal Astronomical Society, Royal Greenwich Observatory, United States Proving Ground at Aberdeen, MD Ballistics Research Laboratory, and Universitat Gottingen Observatory.

Interviewed by
Paul Wright
Interview date
Location
Perceptions of Scientific Works
Abstract

Childhood and unconventional early education; Harvard University: impressions of courses and social climate; Caltech, Mt. Wilson, comments on Walter Baade and background of Baade’s theory; differences between astronomy and astrophysics; early professional career work on Magellanic clouds; interest in peculiar galaxies, Viktor A. Ambartsumian at the 1957 Solvay Conference; Fritz Zwicky; Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies; comments on published papers: Distribution of Quasars compared to Maarten Schmidt’s work with similar title; Edoard Stephan’s quintet; work on discrepant red shift with respect to the Friedman universe; future research interest, non-professional interests. Also prominently mentioned are: Basch, Bart Jan Bok, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, William Alfred Fowler, Jesse Leonard Greenstein, Edwin Powell Hubble, Milton Lasell Humason, Bernard Lovell, Rudolph Leo Bernhard Minkowski, Jan Hendrik Oort, Edison Petit, Robert Richardson, Allan Sandage, Maarten Schmidt, Harlow Shapley, Dick Stoy, Vanderlaan, Gerard Henri de Vaucouleurs; Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies, Institut de Physique at Solvay, and United States Navy.

Interviewed by
Robert McCutcheon
Interview date
Abstract

Early career of V. A. Ambartsumian during the 1920s and 1930s; childhood in Tbilisi; early education, and the development of his interest in mathematics and astronomy; move to Leningrad at age fifteen; education at the Herzen Pedagogical Institute and Leningrad State University; graduate work at Pulkovo Observatory under A. A. Belopolskii; his term as scientific secretary at Pulkovo. Discussion of first scientific works, conducted jointly with N. A. Kozyrev and D. D. Ivanenko; how he came to study the “inverse problem;” work in the Mirovedenie Society in Leningrad; work with G. A. Sham on planetary nebulae; the organization of Soviet astronomy in the 1930s. Students V. A. Dombrovskii, M. A. Vashakidze, B. E. Markaryan, and V. V. Sobolev; the problems facing Soviet astronomy today resulting from disruptive years of World War II. Discussion of the Commission for the Study of the Sun and the founding of the Byurakan Observatory. Other astronomers and scientists mentioned include: Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, D. I. Eropkin, A. A. Ivanov, S. A. Khristyanovich, V. N. Kondratev, N. A. Morozov, N. G. Ponomarev, F. F. Rents, S. L. Sobolev, D. O. Svyatskii, V. T. Ter-Oganezov, and G. A. Tikhov.

Interviewed by
David DeVorkin
Interview date
Location
Palo Alto, California
Abstract

Interview centers around experiences as a child on Mount Hamilton (Lick Observatory) just after the turn of the century; schooling on Mount Hamilton; father's observing with 36-inch refractor; Lick public observing nights; general life on Mount Haiilton; Mrs Phoebe Hearst's support for private schooling; father's recollections about Lick astronomers; World War I.

Interviewed by
Patrick McCray
Interview dates
October 28 and 29, 1999
Location
Tucson, Arizona
Abstract

Abt discusses his childhood and youth in Germany and then the United States; his student days at Northwestern University and his graduate work at Caltech; use of the Mt. Wilson 100-inch telescope; research topics include W Virginis stars and Zeta Auriga; his work at Lick Observatory and later at Yerkes; use of the McDonald 82-inch telescope for postdoc research; site survey for the building of Kitt Peak in 1959; life at Kitt Peak in its early years including building and design of new instruments; his work as editor of The Astrophysical Journal and the changes that took place over the years; and the final part discusses his personal life and public service efforts.