NATIONAL RADIO ASTRONOMY OBSERVATORY ARCHIVES
Finding Aid to the Papers of Woodruff T. Sullivan, 1946-2009
Note to researchers: All audio tapes have now been digitized and the working files related to the interviews have been processed; see the Finding Aid below. Processing of additional materials will continue as they are received from Sullivan. For more detailed information about materials and availability, contact the NRAO Archivist.
The NRAO Archives acknowledges with thanks the 2011 Pollock Award from Dudley Observatory, which funded digitization of the 255 audio-taped interviews of 20th century radio astronomers and the creation of related Web pages.
The NRAO Archives acknowledges with thanks a grant from the American Institute of Physics, Center for the History of Physics, for the period November 2012 - April 2013, which funded Web publication of 55 transcribed interviews with 44 radio astronomers.
For a video of Sullivan's 2012 LeRoy E. Doggett Prize Lecture, "Cosmic Noise: The Pioneers of Early Radio Astronomy and Their Discoveries", given at the American Astronmical Society's 219th meeting in Austin TX, January 2012, click the link for lecture on the AAS meeting 219 video page.
Location of collection: National Radio Astronomy Observatory, Archives, 520 Edgemont Rd., Charlottesville, VA. Phone: 1-434-296-0203, email: archivist at nrao.edu
Title and dates of the collection: Papers of Woodruff T. Sullivan, 1946-2009
Size of the collection: Currently 15 linear feet plus 188 tapes and corresponding digital files. Additional materials will be added.
Papers/Records created by: Sullivan, Woodruff T., III (1944- )
Short description of collection: Woodruff T. Sullivan IIIís book, Cosmic Noise: A History of Early Radio Astronomy, was published in 2009 by Cambridge University Press. Sullivan's book covers the history of radio astronomy from its beginning in 1933 through 1953, and represents 30 years of intensive research by him. In 2010 Sullivan donated to the NRAO Archives the 188 audio tapes and related paperwork for the extensive set of interviews he conducted between 1971 and 1988 with 255 radio astronomers around the world. In Appendix B to his book, Sullivan writes, "The goal of the interview project was to talk to everyone who had published at least one article in the field of radio astronomy before 1960.... I wanted to talk not just to the 'generals,' but also to the foot soldiers, the 'average' early radio astronomers.... Over the period 1971-88 (but mostly 1973-81) I interviewed a total of 255 persons."
This collection currently includes the original audiotapes, digitized versions of all tapes, as well as Sullivan's extensive files about the people interviewed and about radio astronomy institutions and programs. Additional materials, including those related to Sullivan's other publications, subject files, reprints, photographs, and other materials will be received and added at a later date.
Biography: Woodruff Turner Sullivan III was born in 1944, received his B.S. in Physics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1966, and his Ph.D. in Astronomy with a minor in Physics from University of Maryland in 1971. Following a post-doctoral fellowship at Kapteyn Laboratory, Groningen University, The Netherlands, he joined the faculty of University of Washington in 1973, where he is now a Professor of Astronomy, an Adjunct Professor of History, and one of the leaders of the Astrobiology Program. He has held visiting positions at the Universities of Cambridge, Cornell, Groningen, and Paris
At the University of Washington, he has built and maintained an undergraduate Student Radio Telescope, developed the topic of "life in the cosmos" in the astronomy curriculum, developed and regularly taught "History of Physics and Astronomy, 1800-1940," and co-founded an innovative graduate program in Astrobiology in which six departments now participate.
Sullivan's astronomy research focused primarily on the interstellar medium of our Galaxy and the properties of other spiral galaxies. His work in the history of science has included the early development of radio astronomy, and his current long-term historical project is a biography of William Herschel. His contributions to many aspects of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) led him to astrobiology, the study of life on Earth in a cosmic context and the search for extraterrestrial life.
In astronomy-related fields, he has designed a dozen public sundials in the Puget Sound region, as well as the first extraterrestrial sundial, part of NASA's Rovers that landed on Mars in 2004. He was the first to produce an "Earth at Night" image showing the effects of humankindís activities at night on our planet, in particular urban light pollution.
He has published 90 scientific articles and five books:
Sullivan is a member of the International Astronomical Union, the International Scientific Radio Union, the American Astronomical Society, and the History of Science Society. He served on the NASA Science Working Group, and the NASA Investigators Working Group on Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. He has been President of the History Committee of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, the American Astronomical Society Historical Astronomy Division, and International Astronomical Union Commission 50 (Light Pollution and Radio Interference).
In recognition of his research, writing, teaching, and leadership in the history of astronomy community, Sullivan received the 2012 LeRoy E. Doggett Prize from the Historical Astronomy Division of the American Astronomical Society.
[Biographical note written by Ellen Bouton, based on information provided by Sullivan.]
Accession history: The 188 audio tapes were donated to the NRAO Archives in August 2010, and related working files in May 2011 and October 2012. Additional materials, including materials related to Sullivan's other publications, subject files, photographs, other materials will be received at a later date.
Access to collection: No restrictions. The Archives are open part-time; contact the Archivist for appointment.
Publication rights: Copyright for his material has been assigned by Sullivan to The National Radio Astronomy Observatory. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Archivist. Note that much of the material in the Working Files is biographical or other material about interviewees gathered from a variety of sources, including other institutions and archives, for which neither Sullivan nor the NRAO Archives holds publication rights.
Use policy for interviews: Sullivan has signed a release as interviewer. We have made extensive efforts to obtain release forms from interviewees or their heirs/next of kin allowing us to open the interviews to researchers and to post them on the Web. In cases where we have been unable to find anyone to give permission, we have allowed access to the interview and posted the transcript with the goal of providing access to the material. For interviews without releases we are unable to grant permission to cite or publish. We would be grateful to anyone who is able to provide contact information allowing us to obtain release forms for the interviewees or their heirs/next of kin listed on this page.
Preferred citation: For material from interviews: Sullivan interview of [person, date], Papers of Woodruff T. Sullivan III. Archives, National Radio Astronomy Observatory / Associated Universities, Inc. For materials other than interviews: [Identification of item, box, and file], Papers of Woodruff T. Sullivan III. Archives, National Radio Astronomy Observatory / Associated Universities, Inc. After the initial citation, abbreviations may be used: W.T. Sullivan III Papers, NRAO Archives, NRAO/AUI.
Processing notes: Initial inventory of the tapes was done in 2010 by Ellen N. Bouton. Digitization of the tapes was done by Sierra Smith in summer 2011, funded by the Herbert C. Pollack Award received by Ellen Bouton from the Dudley Observatory, with additional funding from NRAO. Sullivan numbered his tapes sequentially through 173; during the digitization process additional unnumbered tapes of meetings and lectures were assigned sequential numbers 174-188. Transcription of 55 interviews with 44 radio astronomers was done by Sierra Smith in 2012, and a grant from the American Institute of Physics, Center for the History of Physics funded Web publication of those interviews between November 2012 and April 2013.
Arrangement, description, indexing, foldering and boxing of paper material was begun in summer 2011; all material received to date has been processed. During the processing, photocopies were made to replace thermofax sheets and newspaper clippings, fasteners were removed, and materials were removed from binders of various types.