Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
video conference

In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews George Wallerstein, Professor Emeritus at the University of Washington. Wallerstein recounts his childhood in Manhattan and he describes how the atomic attacks on Japan fostered his interest in science as a teenager. He discusses his undergraduate experience at Brown University where he pursued his interests in astronomy and in some of the philosophical underpinnings of physics. Wallerstein describes his graduate work at Caltech, at a time when the Astronomy department was only five years old, and where he focused on the origins of elements in star formation and the spectra of type II Cepheids. Wallerstein discusses his postdoctoral research at Berkeley and subsequent promotion to the faculty there, and he explains the advances made possible with the advent of digital detectors in the mid-1980s which replaced photographic analysis of high-dispersion spectra. He describes the opportunity leading to his tenure at the University of Washington, and he explains the significance of his work on G dwarf stars and the utility of the Hubble Space Telescope to investigate interstellar lines in supernova remnants. At the end of the interview, Wallerstein surveys some of the key advances to which he has contributed over the course of his career, including infrared astronomy and star positioning.