Women in astronomy

Interviewed by
David DeVorkin
Interview date
Location
Smithsonian, Washington, D. C.
Abstract

In this interview, Andrea Dupree discusses topics such as: her family background and childhood; doing her undergraduate studies at Wellesley College; Janet Guernsey; C. P. Snow; becoming interested in astronomy; what is was like being a woman and fitting into the physics profession and dealing with gender inequality; Sarah Hill; Allan Sandage; Hans Bethe; Phil Morrison; Otto Struve; going to the Royal Greenwich Observatory for a summer; Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin; Dorrit Hoffleit; variable star fields; deciding to go to Berkeley for graduate school; Ivan King; Hyron Spinrad; Lick Observatory; coming back to Harvard University after a year; George Wallerstein; William Liller; Leo Goldberg; her affiliation with the American Astronomical Society (AAS); Don Osterbrock; Simon "Pete" Worden; Owen Chamberlain; Alex Dalgarno; Harvard College Observatory; Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics; Ed Lilley; solar physics; ionization rates; Herb Friedman; Dick Tousey; Henry Smith; stellar atmospheres; Fred Whipple; Donald Menzel; Margaret Burbidge; orbiting solar observatories (OSO); Skylab program; Lyman Spitzer; Robert Noyes; Henry Norris Russell; International Astronomical Union (IAU); National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); George Field; Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO); Eric Chaisson; Jesse Greenstein; Celescope.

Interviewed by
David DeVorkin
Interview date
Location
Campbell Hall, University of California, Berkeley
Abstract

Covers her career in astronomy. Focuses on college education at Goucher, 1945-1948, and Harvard Graduate School from 1955; influence of Bart Bok and Cecilia Payne Gaposchkin. Positions at Naval Research Laboratory, Air Force Cambridge Research Laboratory; funding, satellite tracking, telescope for Cerro Tololo, Berkeley, 1965; Hat Creek. Discussions on radio astronomy in 1950s and 1970s; very large array telescopes; women in astronomy and search for alternatives. Also prominently mentioned are: William W. Campbell, Harold Ewen, Thomas Gold, Helen Dodson Prince; Harvard Radio Observatory, United States Air Force, Cambridge Research Laboratory of United States Air Force, and University of California at Berkeley.

Interviewed by
David DeVorkin
Interview date
Location
Carnegie Institution, Washington, D. C.
Abstract

This is a biographical history starting with Dr. Burnell's early life in Northern Ireland; schooling in England; growth of interests; decision to study astronomy and specialize in radio astronomy.  The discussion continues with gender issues in her training, marriage and career, and the critical period during her graduate training where she worked with Tony Hewish in the construction of the 4.5 acre radio array and the work done with it takes special attention.  Their discovery of pulsars is discussed in detail including her exclusion from the inner circle deliberating over the matter.  Beyond her Cambridge years, the interview covers her many subsequent positions, taken in consequence of moves her husband was making in his career, the growth of public and popular recognition of her role in the discovery of pulsars.  She discusses her subsequent research in gamma ray astronomy and her roles and responsibilities at Southhampton, the Mullard Space Science Centre, at Manchester and at the Open University.

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
Katherine Sopka
Interview date
Location
South Hadley, Massachusetts
Abstract

Mildred Allen was born in Massachusetts in 1894, the elder of two daughters of an MIT professor of civil engineering who had met her mother while working in New Mexico. She graduated from Vassar College in 1916 with training in mathematics and physics. Her Ph.D. in physics (1922) was granted by Clark University where she studied with A. G. Webster, but her thesis research was one at MIT. She taught at Mt. Holyoke, Wellesley and Oberlin Colleges during the 1920s and early 30s, as well as studying further at the University of Chicago and Yale. She did research at the Bartol Foundation, 1927-30, and at Harvard University, 1931-33. She then taught at Mt. Holyoke from 1933 until her retirement in 1959. Since then she has done additional research, most recently (paper published 1971) on the behavior of torsion pendulums especially during solar eclipses.