Harvard College Observatory

Interviewed by
David DeVorkin
Interview date
Location
Harvard-Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
Abstract

Family history and educational background; undergraduate degree from University of California Los Angeles (1924-1927); PhD from University of California Berkeley (1927-1931); orbit computing with A. O. Leuschner; thesis work at Lick Observatory with Donald Menzel; work at Harvard College Observatory (1931-1955); with Harlow Shapley, Donald Menzel, Annie Jump Cannon, Antonia Maury, Bart Bok, Leon Campbell, Cecelia Payne Gaposchkin; comets and meteors; radio astronomy; Super Schmidt meteor camera project (1948); Director of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (1955-1973); science fiction authors, especially Arthur C. Clarke; Moonwatch project, Armand and Grace Spitz; military and science funding; Multi-mirror telescope with A. B. Meinel; "icy comet" model.

Interviewed by
Katherine Sopka
Interview date
Location
Wellesley, Massachusetts
Abstract

Family background, education, and emergence of scientific orientation. Undergraduate years at Wellesley College (1912-1916); description of physics department. Assistant examiner in U.S. Patent Office during World War I. At MIT under E.B. Wilson as graduate student and laboratory assistant, then lab instructor (1920-24). Returned to MIT for doctoral work in 1928. Mathematical physics thesis under Norbert Wiener, while teaching at Wellesley. Depression years brought teaching position at Wilson College (1930-43), used Wellesley as model. Work on Zeeman Pattern earns her Guggenheim Fellowship (1949-50) at MIT and European labs. World War II years as head of OSRD British Report Section. Returned to Wilson (1945-56), worked part-time at National Science Foundation (1953-56). Retirement years including affiliation with U.S. Army and spectroscopic work at Harvard College Observatory. Comments on women in physics in U.S., her own opportunities, and teaching in general.

Interviewed by
W. James King
Location
Grover's home, Schenectady, New York
Abstract

Early education. Krause and Harry Goodwin as teachers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard Observatory work before 1900; assistantship at Wesleyan University, association with Edward B. Rosa, Walter G. Cady, and John Van Vleck, work on vector treatment of alternating currents. Joined Lafayette College. Joined National Bureau of Standards (NBS) in 1902, historical data on and description of NBS, influence of Rosa and Julius Stratton, Irving Wolff's work on EMF and R standards, major work at NBS of standardizing electrical units for industry, beginning of his work on capacitance. Ph.D. at George Washington University, faculty members, research on frequency and temperature and variation of condensers; Munich research with Arnold Sommerfeld and supervisors, 1908. Return to NBS, work with J. Howard Dellinger and Harvey L. Curtis; 1910 Conference on electrical standards and silver voltmeters; time at Colby College, teaching, inductance and capacitance work, Wenner's standard unit. Joined Union College faculty in 1920; attended 1931 Faraday Centennial in London. Later life at Union and association with General Electric.

Interviewed by
David DeVorkin
Interview date
Location
Gingerich's astronomy and history office, Harvard, Massachusetts
Abstract

The interview is both a biographical and professional profile.  He discusses his childhood and family life in Iowa and the emergence of his interest in astronomy and building telescopes and observing the sky; the family's move to Kansas and to Indiana; his college years at Bethel College; exposure to journalism and interest in chemistry; summer work at Harvard College Observatory and Sky & Telescope; interest in science journalism; his graduate years at Harvard; working as a summer assistant for Harlow Shapley and recollections of him and the department under Shapley; Harvard astronomers and the general atmosphere in the Harvard College Observatory; recollections of Harvard staff:  Fred Whipple, Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin; faculty divisions over government funding; Menzel's directorship; alternative service at the American University in Beirut to satisfy conscientious objector obligation; encountering Baade's lectures on the Evolution of Stars and Galaxies; teaching at Wellesley; learning to program an IBM 704 for stellar atmospheres work; work in support of Project Celescope; infrared research; reflections on the management of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in the late 1960s; factors leading to the creation of the Center for Astrophysics; the reorganization of CFA and Gingerich's migration to history.

Interviewed by
David DeVorkin
Interview date
Abstract

As the daughter of astronomers Sergei Gaposchkin and Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, this interview covers her home life in Lexington, Mass., and growing up in the atmosphere of the Harvard College Observatory in the 1940s and 1950s.  Discussion includes her relationships with parents and siblings; caring for Peter Gaposchkin; exposure to astronomy, career plans, interest in languages, decision to attend Swarthmore in 1954; studying Russian and Russian culture; early contacts with Harvard faculty and students - Jesse Greenstein and R. N. Thomas; mother's relations with Whipple and Menzel; Shapley's retirement; mother's interest in moving to University of Chicago; recollections of Bart Bok; changes at Harvard College Observatory; recollections of  Sputnik; meeting John Haramundanis and his work in mathematics; Yoshihido Kozai; being hired by Smithsonian in 1958; satellite tracking and analysis of satellite positions and brightness; growth of Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and its working atmosphere; star catalogue work and the reduction of systematic errors in the FK4 system; sense of competition with her mother; shift to the Celescope Project at Whipple's request just before launch in 1968; role in data production; identifying star fields and filter reductions; Camera 2 failure; reduction protocols; recollection of Robert Davis; calibration problems drew HCO staff attention; Charles Lundquist and Andrew Young's involvement, mother's reaction to calibration problems and inaccurate data.

Interviewed by
David DeVorkin
Interview date
Location
Center for Astrophysics
Abstract

In this interview George Field discusses topics such as: his time at the University of California, Berkeley; Charles Townes; Lick Observatory; working with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); radio astronomy work with Ed Purcell; detecting neutral hydrogen gas at big red shifts; Fred Whipple; moving to the Harvard College Observatory; planning for the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics; Charles Lundquist; Riccardo Giacconi; Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory; Northeast Radio Observatory Corporation (NEROC); orbiting solar observatories (OSOs); Dave Challinor; Bart Bok.

Interviewed by
Richard Hirsh
Interview date
Location
Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Abstract

Career of George B. Field, theoretical astrophysicist and administrator of astronomical research at the Harvard-Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO). Discussions of education at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton and Harvard Universities, interest in cosmological problems; possible detection of hot intergalactic matter in 1964; colleagues at University of California at Berkeley; views on popularizing science; reactions to Sputnik launch in 1957; funding of research from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); views on the manned space program; effects of Vietnam War on NASA and astronomical research; involvement with the Space Telescope; views of the Space Shuttle; extensive committee work for NASA; astronomical research under NASA; work at SAO; new programs at SAO, such as x-ray astronomy and the Multiple Mirror Telescope; service on the Jesse Greenstein and Allan Bromley survey committees of astronomy and physics; and his view of the universe. Also prominently mentioned are: Kinsey Anderson, Stuart C. Bowyer, Jim Bradley, Tony Calio, Riccardo Giacconi, Thomas Gold, Leo Goldberg, John Hagen, Noel Hinners, Fred Hoyle, Frank Martin, John Earl Naugle, Al Opp, Edward Mills Purcell, Martin Schwarzschild, Dennis William Sciama, Henry Smith, Sylvia Favior Smith, Lyman Spitzer, George Steiner, Frank Sulloway, Pat Thaddeus, James Van Allen, Fred Whipple; American Science and Engineering, Inc., Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Congregational Church, Harvard College Observatory, Harvard University Society of Junior Fellows, High Energy Astronomy Observatory, Lick Observatory, National Academy of Sciences (U.S.) Astronomy Survey Committee, National Academy of Sciences (U.S.) Greenstein Committee, National Science Foundation (U.S.), New York Times, Orbiting Astronomical Observatory, Princeton University Matterhorn Project, Project Apollo, Skylab, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory Multiple Mirror Telescope, Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum, Space Shuttle, United States Naval Ordnance Laboratory, United States Office of Management and Budget, United States Office of Naval Research, University of California at Berkeley, and Viking (Rocket).

Interviewed by
Richard Hirsh
Interview date
Location
Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Abstract

Career of George B. Field, theoretical astrophysicist and administrator of astronomical research at the Harvard-Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO). Discussions of education at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton and Harvard Universities, interest in cosmological problems; possible detection of hot intergalactic matter in 1964; colleagues at University of California at Berkeley; views on popularizing science; reactions to Sputnik launch in 1957; funding of research from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); views on the manned space program; effects of Vietnam War on NASA and astronomical research; involvement with the Space Telescope; views of the Space Shuttle; extensive committee work for NASA; astronomical research under NASA; work at SAO; new programs at SAO, such as x-ray astronomy and the Multiple Mirror Telescope; service on the Jesse Greenstein and Allan Bromley survey committees of astronomy and physics; and his view of the universe. Also prominently mentioned are: Kinsey Anderson, Stuart C. Bowyer, Jim Bradley, Tony Calio, Riccardo Giacconi, Thomas Gold, Leo Goldberg, John Hagen, Noel Hinners, Fred Hoyle, Frank Martin, John Earl Naugle, Al Opp, Edward Mills Purcell, Martin Schwarzschild, Dennis William Sciama, Henry Smith, Sylvia Favior Smith, Lyman Spitzer, George Steiner, Frank Sulloway, Pat Thaddeus, James Van Allen, Fred Whipple; American Science and Engineering, Inc., Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Congregational Church, Harvard College Observatory, Harvard University Society of Junior Fellows, High Energy Astronomy Observatory, Lick Observatory, National Academy of Sciences (U.S.) Astronomy Survey Committee, National Academy of Sciences (U.S.) Greenstein Committee, National Science Foundation (U.S.), New York Times, Orbiting Astronomical Observatory, Princeton University Matterhorn Project, Project Apollo, Skylab, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory Multiple Mirror Telescope, Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum, Space Shuttle, United States Naval Ordnance Laboratory, United States Office of Management and Budget, United States Office of Naval Research, University of California at Berkeley, and Viking (Rocket).

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
CFA offices, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Abstract

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.