[John Findlay, 1963]
Findlay, 1963 (Photo courtesy of NRAO/AUI/NSF)



NATIONAL RADIO ASTRONOMY OBSERVATORY ARCHIVES

Papers of Woodruff T. Sullivan III: Tapes Series

Interview with John W. Findlay
At URSI Meeting in Washington, D.C.
August 14, 1981 and August 18, 1981
Interview Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
Transcribed by Sierra Smith

Note: The interview listed below was either transcribed as part of Sullivan's research for his book, Cosmic Noise: A History of Early Radio Astronomy (Cambridge University Press, 2009) or was transcribed in the NRAO Archives by Sierra Smith in 2012-2013. The transcription may have been read and edited for clarity by Sullivan, and may have also been read and edited by the interviewee. Any notes added in the reading/editing process by Sullivan, the interviewee, or others who read the transcript have been included in brackets. If the interview was transcribed for Sullivan, the original typescript of the interview is available in the NRAO Archives. Sullivan's notes about each interview are available on the individual interviewee's Web page. During processing, full names of institutions and people were added in brackets and if especially long the interview was split into parts reflecting the sides of the original audio cassette tapes. We are grateful for the 2011 Herbert C. Pollock Award from Dudley Observatory which funded digitization of the original cassette tapes, and for a 2012 grant from American Institute of Physics, Center for the History of Physics, which funded the work of posting these interviews to the Web.

Please bear in mind that: 1) This material is a transcript of the spoken word rather than a literary product; 2) An interview must be read with the awareness that different people's memories about an event will often differ, and that memories can change with time for many reasons including subsequent experiences, interactions with others, and one's feelings about an event.

Part 2 | Part 3

Sullivan

Ok, this is 14 August 1981, talking with John Findlay at the URSI [International Union of Radio Science]Meeting in Washington D.C. Well could I start off by asking what was your training in university? I know that you didnít begin working in radio astronomy but it would be very interesting to learn about your first contact with radio astronomy and how you observed the development of [Martin] Ryleís group at Cambridge.

Findlay

Yes, well that is a question that covers an awful lot of time but since you might just as well have the beginnings of my academic life, so to speak, I am proud of the fact that I was an undergraduate in physics in Cambridge University quite a bit prior to World War II. The dates you can get. I finished up with a degree in Part Two of the Natural Science Tripos in physics and then in 1937 July was accepted by Lord Rutherford as a Ph.D. student. He died two or three months later- there was no connection- so I am one of the three or four final Rutherford students; however, I started my research work with [John "Jack" A.] Ratcliffe doing ionospheric research and that lasted for only two years because, of course, for us the war started in 1939. Then just before the outbreak of the war, I got in just a week or two before the outbreak of war, I went back to Cambridge and there for the first time met Martin Ryle who had just arrived as a young research student. Ratcliffe had got him from Oxford. Ryle had had a very distinguished undergraduate career at Oxford with [Frederick Alexander?] Lindemann was the professor, I believe. Yes, I believe they were. And the method of teaching, you are certain you wonít put all this in, but Iím going to tell you what comes to my mind. The method of teaching at Oxford that Ryle described to me was so different from Cambridge where our school of physics, even in the part two, was thirty, forty, fifty people, they tended to concentrate on the good ones and Ryle, I think, for at least a year in his undergraduate work was, so to speak, almost getting personal tuition. He was being allowed to think and to bring up ideas. I think thatís interesting.

Sullivan

Iíve never heard that comment.

Findlay

Well, Iím pretty sure thatís right. Of course, you can check. Then during the war, of course, Ryle was very quickly put into TRE [the Telecommunications Research Establishment] that you know all about, this bit of his life. He worked throughout the war in TRE and I met him many times during the war. I worked there myself actually physically in TRE for the first year or so of the war close to him, watching him do first of all antenna research and then later after I left physically TRE to go out to what we call the Middle East, Ryle continued and, of course, did a lot of the radar counter measure work which was, of course, connected with the most highly sophisticated use of electronics and all that kind of thing.

Sullivan

And radiometry?

Findlay

And radiometry.

Sullivan

Now what were you working on briefly?

Findlay

My war career was radar and particularly making it work, the usefulness of it. I was still associated with Ratcliffe. At TRE, Ratcliffe was head of a group of people who worked with Bomber Command, Fighter Command, with the Air Force helping to make radar work. This sounds silly but radar didnít work, with due respect of [A. C. Bernard] Lovell who built some of it, it didnít work basically and it needed scientists at the working level to make sure that it did work. We called it Post Design Service, of all the silly names.

Sullivan

So what you are saying is that in principle it could work in the lab but when you got out into the field it didnít work?

Findlay

Thatís right and you couldnít set up a really good training program. You trained Air Force officers and people to maintain it and so on but there were simply things that you hadnít trained for. Well, my war was spent doing that kind of work. First in what I call the Middle East, you called it North Africa, over that part of the continent and then for the final years of the war doing the same thing in what we called Southeast Asia which was essentially India, Salaam, as much of Burma as the Japanese hadnít got.

Sullivan

Now why do you say with due respect to Lovell because he was on the other side of this...?

Findlay

No, Lovell was building it, with due respect for the people like Lovell who developed NTRE. He developed the H2S. You would have gotten this, I guess, from him. He developed the navigation aid NTRE and some of his life story is the...

Sullivan

Well tell me, once you had a working system in the lab and you needed 100 of them, were they built at TRE or were they built by a firm?

Findlay

No, they were built by a company. I was more in the grand radar end where the systems were built by a number of people, that is the transmitter came from so and so and a receiver part came from so and so and, in fact, in India we put the pieces together. That is they were shipped to us and we assembled them and made them work and then sent them out. Well, I donít think my World War career is of much interest.

Sullivan

Well, I just wanted the flavor of what you had done.

Findlay

The only comment Iíll make on it just for fun. At the end of my career in India, I was in Southeast Asia serving. I wore a uniform so I can say I served for Mountbaten who was a great man and I came back at the end of the German war but the Japanese war, as you remember, was not ended and we were going to continue TRE operation in that theatre for as long as Japan stayed in. So my last task was to come back to England and put together a unit of TRE to move near Bombay. Well, there was no great point in this except that one of the better radar people who actually went to Bombay was Graham Smith [Francis Graham Smith] and he had never forgiven me for it. He said, "You came to TRE looking healthy and told us what a wonderful thing it was to do," and they shipped him out to India and, of course, within a few weeks the war had ended and he was sent back again. Graham still says, "I will never forgive you for that." Well, the end of the war then was quite simple. I, of course, got back to Cambridge that year, that is I had already been elected a fellow of Queens during the war so I had a job waiting for me. I went back and started that October, that is October 1945, and Ryle must have been as quick to get out as I was.

Sullivan

Just about that time.

Findlay

Yes, he would have told you the month but he was back there at the Cavendish and Ratcliffe was back and then the Ryle group, Ryle knew precisely what he was doing.

Sullivan

And [Derek D.] Vonberg.

Findlay

And he and Vonberg started putting together- I didnít know Vonberg before that- putting together the first instrumentation.

Sullivan

Now let me ask about yourself, were you actually involved in dissertation research which was interrupted by the war before so you had to sort of pick that up afterwards?

Findlay

Yes, but you see it was a long war. I was a Ph.D. student before the war. I hold probably the world record in Cambridge. I think it was 13 years before I actually troubled to write a thesis. As you know, we didnít in general, many people did not...

Sullivan

Well, Martin Ryle never got around to writing.

Findlay

Jack Ratcliffe never did. Many people never troubled and the sense of the correct thing to do there if you were staying and Ryle should have done it and I donít know whether he did, is just take a ScD [Doctor of Science]. You just wrap them up with a red ribbon around them, pay in those days 10 guineas- I suppose thatís several hundred now- and pick up your ScD. Tommy [Thomas] Gold has just done this. Tommy never wrote a thesis.

Sullivan

Is that right?

Findlay

He did as a matter of fact, he wrote a very good thesis on the mechanism of hearing and heís an expert and he either never submitted it or in Tommyís [?] fashion says, "Iím not going to pay them for a Ph.D."

Sullivan

So you mean heís only recently became Dr. Gold?

Findlay

Heís recently become Dr. Gold and Ryle is not a doctor. And has anybody given him an honorary degree?

Sullivan

I donít think so.

Findlay

They should have.

Sullivan

Not that I know of.

Findlay

Cambridge wonít you see probably.

Sullivan

No, Cambridge wonít.

Findlay

No they wonít because he belongs there but Oxford should. You should speak to somebody from Oxford. No to say that is bad because he is a very distinguished...

Sullivan

Well anyway.

Findlay

Now that is enough. Now thatís almost an answer to your question. Very well, beginning years in that Ratcliffe group...

Sullivan

What was the set up?

Findlay

The group belonged to Ratcliffe. It was his old ionospheric group of many years standing. So there was an ionospheric contingent, Kenneth Weeks, who was mentioned in that group, and myself, Roy Piggott, with the beard, was [Edward] Appletonís assistant and about that time Appleton came back to Cambridge. And I canít remember the year of that, he was there after the war.

Sullivan

I donít remember when he came, he left in í48. Thatís went he went to Edinburgh.

Findlay

Thatís right, í45-í48. He came back to the second chair of physics at Cambridge, I canít remember the name of it but we can get it, and for three years he was there and Piggott was his assistant and the only other person associated with him was [Bynan?].

Sullivan

But Appleton would be above Ratcliffe?

Findlay

Well, yes except that the right-hand man of the whole lab was Ratcliffe. That is Appleton...

Sullivan

Appleton was more involved in administration?

Findlay

Well he had the, what did we call it? Iíve forgotten the name of the professorship. It was a freewheeling professorship. He didnít have to run anything and he did concentrate on research and I donít know what else he did. But the ionospheric group was quite a strong group. Well, [Ronald N.] Bracewell was in the ionospheric group. Bond was there. I think, he was the only one who went into radio astronomy. [Sid Bowheel?] was there at that time. Ratcliffe had a strong group and, in parallel, Ryle, was starting as though he were a research student, built up a strong radio astronomy group. Youíve got most of their names.

Sullivan

Oh yes, sure. Now Iíd be interested if you can remember at that time Ratcliffeís degree of enthusiasm or support about radio astronomy?

Findlay

I can answer that in two ways. First of all, as you know youíve met Ratcliffe, you canít judge his enthusiasm. He is the most controlled man Iíve ever met. He could never understand me for example.

Sullivan

Or Ryle, I suppose.

Findlay

And I was his student except, of course, I was also an assistant professor. You see, you canít describe the student relationship in those terms. When Iím teaching in the Cavendish, I am, in fact, essentially his equal.

Sullivan

As a demonstrator?

Findlay

Yes, I was a demonstrator. Now, he used to ask me to meet with him once a week to see how my research was going and he, of course, being Ratcliffe it would be 9 oíclock on Monday morning. Well. Findlay always turned up at seven minutes after nine on Monday morning. There was poor Jack sitting at his desk wondering why I was late and every time he could never get it. Anyhow, to come back, he supported Ryle in two very noticeable ways. First of all, on a very practical level, we all as a group worked together and I and many others worked on practical matters for Ryleís group. Ryle had problems. His research station started on what we called the Old Rifle Range and so he was building his antennas there. Thatís where we had one of our little ionospheric research huts and so we had to extend our operations, get permissions for power and telephones [???].

Sullivan

And people like you participated in this?

Findlay

And I did that, yes. I mean I was by this time I was 30 and I was perfectly competent to manage some affairs for Ryle. A very minor point but we had a lot of fun, immediately after the war, I was the person to set going and physically collect surface equipment from all over the country. We knew where it was in the establishment. We simply took a truck, made each telephone call...

Sullivan

Ryle has told me that whole story where you come back with the WŁrzburgs.

Findlay

Bring back the oscilloscopes, they lasted for years, all sorts of electronic equipment. That was the spirit at that time. Now the other significant point which Iím sure Ratcliffe was responsible for, he saw to it, Iím not sure he did it, who was the professor of this, [William Lawrence] Bragg...

Sullivan

The Cavendish professor, Bragg.

Findlay

Yes, all my time [?]. Iím sure it was Ratcliffe. Ratcliffe saw to it that Ryle was never loaded with any teaching at all and to earn oneís keep, he wouldnít have been to begin with because he had a source of money...

Sullivan

A separate research fellowship?

Findlay

Separate research money but they very soon appointed him a lecturer that is up one from the demonstrator level but never gave him a teaching load. Now that, I think, is a very significant point. I think it shows that, if it was Ratcliffe at any rate, it shows that Cavendish was doing that thing which I think the British do very well, pick somebody who is good and they put the money in them and I think they did that at Oxford when they took Ryle and I think Cambridge did it again.

Sullivan

What about the administrative side of things? Was it the same way there that Ratcliffe was taking a load off of Ryle? This might be more relevant to later years, perhaps.

Findlay

I doní think Ryle had to do anything much, you see. You know how you collected people to do research with you or for you each year, the [?] is on the graduate students, those who get first class degrees in part two are automatically given financial support, from the government at that time, I think thatís still true, and they are up for grabs and if you were one and you looked around at the possible professors and you saw Ryle, youíd almost certainly and they did. So Ryle could pick who he wanted. Outsiders were not coming to him much at that time from other places but he had a readymade supply. Again which Iím sure Ratcliffe helped.

Sullivan

Well, he had a considerable reputation also.

Findlay

Yes, and he knew these undergraduates, you see, so all he would say is Martin...

Sullivan

Yeah, thatís right because he did a lot of teaching. We havenít talked about that yet.

Findlay

And he was a good one and he is also an examiner, you see. He was into the business of knowing who good people were.

Sullivan

But what about the matter of getting governmental support, this kind of administrative thing? I mean was that pretty much off Ryleís shoulders also?

Findlay

Yes, again the way the Cavendish was operating, you know, with very little money. The cost of Ryleís operations measured in hundreds of pounds only and, in the same way, DSIR, Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, gave me £300 a year when I became a student because I got a first class degree, they gave, I think, directly to the Cavendish though it may have been pointed to Ratcliffe and then subsequently to Ryle, support for the cost of research. And youíve read about the amount of money Ryle would be spending in those early days. They were very small. He was using the local ironwork to make his simple antennas; much of the stuff was made there.

Sullivan

And all the surplus equipment.

Findlay

Yes and all the surplus equipment was there. Equipment as you know was quite simple and [when shops were good?] and if youíve been in the Cavendish youíve seen his early phase switch. Itís there. That was made in the shops at Cavendish. My guess would be a £1000 a year would keep Ryle happy and I believe he didnít have to ask for it. Iím sure as candy because after all my ionospheric research was supported in the same way. I never asked for any money for anybody for the seven years I was there.

Sullivan

Right, Ratcliffe took care of it all.

Findlay

You just got equipment, you know. Now, Ryle would be spending more than I was because his...

Sullivan

His group.

Findlay

So there that was the Cambridge University way. One was relieved of those responsibilities.

Sullivan

Now, does this hold true right until the late Ď50s, I mean, when Ryle became a professor or are you only talking about the early years now?

Findlay

I have to stop, you see, at 1952.

Sullivan

Thatís when you left?

Findlay

Yes and by then he had not got into any of the instrument building even the One Mile Telescope, even the...

Sullivan

The 4C Aerial?

Findlay

Yeah, thatís right.

Sullivan

Now Lordís Bridge didnít come along till í55, í56.

Findlay

Thatís right so thatís a good marker to put on it. Iím speaking of the days before Lordís Bridge.

Sullivan

The Grange Road site.

Findlay

Thatís right, the Grange Road operation. [?] and you can check with any of the others but I donít think you had to ask for money. I think that was nice, isnít it? Now that he must have done afterwards. He must have been the fundraiser, the fund requester.

Sullivan

Now, can you remember Ratcliffeís attitude towards radio astronomy intellectually, you might say? I mean, was he always probing with questions about radio astronomy itself or did he did sort of just let Ryle run with the whole thing and then he worry only about the ionosphere?

Findlay

I think he just let Ryle run with it. I would be sure that he understood and followed every work that was being done but I really believe he left Ryle very free. I was going to suggest spend ten or fifteen minutes with Henry Booker if you havenít done so.

Sullivan

No, I havenít.

Findlay

Henry was our theoretician in the ionospheric group- that is he and Ratcliffe were side by side- and Henry left in about 1950 but he is older than I am and he and Ratcliffe were very much equal intellectually and ask him about Jack Ratcliffe. Henry Booker.

Sullivan

Yes, I have seen him. Now while we are on the subject of Ratcliffe, one final question would be his famous lectures. Could you tell me about him as a teacher and how that influenced you think that influence the Cavendish radio astronomy group?

Findlay

Iím very happy to answer that one, Woody. That sounds a bit formal but it is true. The first lecture I went to in the Cavendish as an undergraduate was Jack Ratcliffe when I was 19 and he stands out still as being probably the best teacher of physics at the undergraduate level and all the way up that Iíve ever met. He was so good that when I became a supervisor and tried to teach people afterwards, privately as they do in Cambridge, I realized how...

End of Tape 151A

Sullivan Tape 151B

Sullivan

Ok this is continuing with John Findlay on 14 August 1981. Now you were saying that when you began giving tutorials, what did you realize?

Findlay

I realized how bad Ratcliffe was because of his ability to overcome for the student almost all the difficulties of the subject. But the famous course of lectures-it wasnít a course-it went on, it must have gone on for a whole term, 13 weeks or so. It may have gone on for longer than that and it was an organization that Ratcliffe set up but once a week his group, I think other graduate student could come, but we all sat there once a week for one hour and he gave thirteen lectures, I think it was in the course and in the course of that in my opinion, he covered the basic principles essentially of aperture synthesis. As I said early, Iíve never read Bornís Optics- thereís an admission- but I believe he had, of course, and a lot of antenna theory came out of that. Henry Booker, of course, sat there too. Bracewell sat there. Everyone sat there. And Ratcliffe in his perfect way set it all out. Iíve forgotten everything practically. I donít think I troubled even to take notes. It was so good, I just sat there.

Sullivan

What you are saying, is it not true, is that the whole idea of aperture synthesis and so forth was implicit in what he was saying but he wasnít explicitly giving these?

Findlay

No, he never said that but the relationship between a pattern on the ground in amplitude and phase from a source in the sky whose properties were not changing, the fact could be described simply as he did, simply explore the pattern on the ground in amplitude and phase and you have the intensity distribution in the sky. Now that to you and me is a fact that is not worth saying but not quite as clear to many of us in those days and once youíve said that itís quite simple that you can put an antenna here and an antenna here and use this as a reference and dot them around.

Sullivan

I should really endeavor to get a copy of the notes of the course.

Findlay

Do ask Ron Bracewell. I think he did take notes. I sure heís got them and I would like that because memory is so bad on this. I canít remember precisely the things that Ratcliffe was saying. I can remember him sending a [plain/plane?] wave through an ordinary ionized medium but not in the standard way at all just describing how the electrons themselves go slower or faster on an absolutely microscopic level. I mean itís very obvious. He would not just write down the standard equations for propagations of a wave. Of course, he would do that but then he would do it another way and if he could another way.

Sullivan

What you are saying it was to a fault in the sense that he led you down a path where you could never understand how you could never understand how you could go anywhere else and itís all too clear?

Findlay

Yes, thatís it. Of course, you can talk to him too but I donít know whether you really want to but he is there and I understand that he must be over 80 by now.

Sullivan

Is he really that old?

Findlay

Well, I can tell you he graduated in either 1923 or 1924. He doesnít have to be 80.

Sullivan

Well, that would make him almost 80.

Findlay

Almost 80, yeah.

Sullivan

Ok, letís go back to the radio astronomy group as you saw it developing in the late Ď40s now. Now, you were continuing to do ionospheric research?

Findlay

Yeah.

Sullivan

Can you just briefly say what kind of research you were working on?

Findlay

Yes, I did only one thing at Cambridge. I was in essence using a specific technique in the use of pulsed ionospheric work. The standard things to do in ionospheric work at that time from the ground was merely to observe the ionosphere doing either [P-def?], as we use to call them. I didnít do any of that because I was [???]. I developed a method it was phase sensitive radar. It was the same [???]. But it studied the variations of phase within a pulse of radio frequency sent to the ionosphere and back so I could watch sensitively changes of what I called phase height, this was the phase velocity that I was dealing with and I concentrated on the E region and what came out of it as was usual in ionospheric research not all that much. I found what happened when radio fade outs occurred, how the properties of the E region change. I think I located where the fade out ionization was fairly closely in the atmosphere by the method which was based on phase heights and I found moving patches of ionization in the E region because again you could see these and you could see the phase changing differently for these than you could for the others. And I published three or four papers on this subject.

Sullivan

What kind of frequencies?

Findlay

2 MHz. Real nice low frequencies. 2 MHz.

Sullivan

And this is what became your thesis?

Findlay

Yeah, I wrote a thesis on that and that was the end of my ionospheric work.

Sullivan

That was 1950?

Findlay

I got a Ph.D. in 1950. I said thirteen years.

Sullivan

I saw it in the collection there from the past year. Now like you said, you left in í52 but Iíd be interested in your comments on how you saw the radio group developing in the late Ď40s and early Ď50s when it was becoming much larger in size and more known around the world?

Findlay

Again you will have to check on my history. I think by the time I left, í53, when was it that Ratcliffe went to Slough [Radio and Space Research Station at Slough], you see he left Cambridge.

Sullivan

About that time but I donít know exactly.

Findlay

I think he was already closing down the ionospheric group. He didnít close it down so much as not take more people and, I think, therefore at that time he must have said to Ryle essentially you are on your own, that is. And of course, when he went to Slough Ryle essentially became leader of what you might call radio physics which was radio astronomy.

Sullivan

Well, there are still people there.

Findlay

Are there?

Sullivan

Budden?

Findlay

Well, not really. Is [?] still there? I think [?] is still there. They had essentially moved off into what you might call mathematical physics.

Sullivan

Not experimental?

Findlay

Not experimental but Kenneth was a great experimenter. In fact, he and I worked together in the early days [???].

Sullivan

But anyway, what you are saying is that it wound down as Ratcliffe left?

Findlay

It wound down and the block of offices in that old building, Ratcliffeís office was taken over by Martin. The area of offices became radio astronomy and when you went there, there it all was. Martin running it.

Sullivan

That happened before you left?

Findlay

I donít think so but I donít remember.

Sullivan

Well, I can easily find out when Ratcliffe left.

Findlay

It obviously happened when Ratcliffe went to [?], that is by that time Martin was taking over but donít quote me on dates on that because, you know, Iíve been back so many times afterwards.

Sullivan

But do you think it was partly the predominance of Ryle that made Ratcliffe want to have a separate show?

Findlay

No, I donít think so but that is an absolutely personal opinion. I know Ratcliffe to have been a very patriotic, you know what I mean. If the job at [?] needed doing, [?] was on the decline, he was by far the top ionospheric physicist in the country. They needed somebody like that and I think he nobly went and did it. Perhaps I better just interpolate, youíll get it, I donít think anybody knew Ratcliffe. We used to play tennis together with Kenneth Weekes but he never talked directly.

Sullivan

Personally?

Findlay

Personally, yeah, and the barrier was not obvious but it seemed to be there and thatís a pity. Thatís why I suggest Henry Booker. Henry may have talked to him. I talk to him. I talk all the time but you never got the...

Sullivan

He just stayed to himself.

Findlay

Yeah.

Sullivan

Well, what about Ryleís group in the late Ď40s, early Ď50s as you were doing your research? Were you still helping with odd things or was it being to be more separate?

Findlay

No, it didnít separate much while I was there but I was only helping in a purely administrative fashion but I watched, of course, particularly the early experiments when Ryle was basically after solar physics or what was happening on the Sun. That ended up lasting for two or three or four years.

Sullivan

Really only two years then he got onto the radio sources?

Findlay

Yes, but that with his simple sun spot experiments going for the angular diameters, making straight forward radiometers while Vonbergís system worked and then I can remember the delight of seeing the phase switch radiometer come into use which did he used on the Sun, I think he did. He used it on the Sun first of all and then, of course, Cassiopeia and Cygnus were obviously there. They were known and so he started, Iíve forgotten what he did before 2C.

Sullivan

Well, 1C.

Findlay

Yeah, I know but Iíve forgotten.

Sullivan

It was a 50 source survey that came out in 1950. Martin Ryle, Smith, and [Bruce] Elsmore. That was with what was called the Long Michaelson, you probably remember. It was two arrays of dipoles.

Findlay

Yes, Iíd have to go back and look that up. Yeah. I wasnít following the operation of his group by í49, í50, í51.

Sullivan

But you must have been a participant in these famous Saturday morning sessions.

Findlay

Yes, yes.

Sullivan

In which case, everyone would be sharing.

Findlay

Yes, they were running with the whole group. They were partially a telling what they were doing and, as I remember them, they were a good way of doing a literature survey. I had picked two or three journals and it was my business to say at that session as I usually did, "There is nothing of interest in my journals." You know but report on them.

Sullivan

Oh, I see. Different people pick different journals to monitor more or less.

Findlay

Yes, and itís a trick Iíve often wondered that more people donít do. Youíve got a research staff there. You allocate certain journals and say next week tell us what is in your journal.

Sullivan

Yeah, it changed format later when people were assigned individual articles by a specific person but I think that was after you left.

Findlay

Yes.

Sullivan

Now another thing Iíve been told is that the early Saturday morning sessions were in essence planning sessions for what to do the following week.

Findlay

No, my memory is coming back. There were two kinds here; the kind Iíve described to you was when it was essentially the Ratcliffe group including Ryle. No, you are quite right. I didnít attend those. There was just a straight forward what are you going to do session and I didnít attend those because I wasnít doing [?].

Sullivan

Now were they alternative Saturdays or at different times on Saturday?

Findlay

What do you expect out of a memory? I have no idea but somebody will remember. My guess is they both happened each week. His had to.

Sullivan

Yes, thatís true.

Findlay

And I am pretty sure that the other one followed but it is just possible that the other one was every two weeks.

Sullivan

Ok. Well, what about the other people who came along? Graham Smith came along. Ken Machin. Bruce Elsmore. What are your memories of their roles in the group?

Findlay

Iím not holding out on you. They were more friends than I was close to what they were doing scientifically. I would hear what they were doing. You know, we used to go skiing. Graham Smith. One thing that we did, we would try to take a trip to Austria each year and I would go with him.

Sullivan

But you were not really observing them doing their technical thing, getting insight into who was the contributing one?

Findlay

I think that is the right way of putting it, Woody. They were working away happily and you would see the lovely swiggles on bits of paper but I can see it going well but I was not vitally interesting in what was coming out of it. It was easy to understand what was coming out of it in the general way.

Sullivan

Ok. Well, unless there is anything else you would like to say about the Cavendish group shall we move on to the next phase?

Findlay

Yes, stop it for a moment and let me just think.

Sullivan

So in 1952 you went where?

Findlay

I spent three not completely happy years in the British Ministry of, what did we call it the, the Ministry of Supply, I think we called it. I went back, in fact, for three years to do what you might call defense science and defense development.

Sullivan

R and D?

Findlay

Yes, but I was in the central headquarters being more a manager than I was being a maker and I didnít enjoy it very much but I made the break from Cambridge for one main reason. As I told you, I could see my interest in ionospheric physics was not great. I just couldnít see any where sensible to go. We had not foreseen satellites but, even if we had, I donít think I would have gotten interested in the direct exploration. The other opportunity would have been to stay there and do research and move into Ryleís group but without getting into it, I say that for me that would have been quite the wrong thing. Whether you use it or not, Iíve told you privately his mind is so fast that I would not have been able to keep up with it and thatís absolutely true and I think you have to be very good and nobody wants to work following someone like Ryle.

Sullivan

Well, I would disagree with that. I think some people do but it is a different kind of person.

Findlay

Yes. I wouldnít.

Sullivan

You wouldnít, right. Well ok, so there were these three years but then you had an opportunity in America?

Findlay

Yes, and that came about quite simply, of course, from my old ionospheric connections and I had kept friendly with Lloyd Berkner. I had actually been in America during my Cambridge career just for six or nine months. Merle Tuve invited me to do a good part of a year. This must have been 1952 [???]. Doing ionospheric research at DTM [Department of Terrestrial Magnetism], of course. Merle Tuve and his group were leaders in that field.

Sullivan

So you spent...?

Findlay

Almost a year here in Washington at that time and, of course, Iíd known Lloyd Berkner quite a bit and Iíd check back and he met Henry Booker and went up to Cornell and saw what they were doing.

Sullivan

What was Lloyd Berknerís position at that time?

Findlay

Lloyd, by that time, must have become president of AUI, Associated Universities.

Sullivan

And where had he come before that?

Findlay

He had been at DTM, himself. I saw him in his office in DTM. For all his scientific career, except his war career of course again he went away, he was a DTM scientist of the same sort, not quite as old as Merle Tuve, but the same generation.

Sullivan

And heís American?

Findlay

Heís completely American, oh yes. No, heís before your time. You can look him up. Heís in reference books.

Sullivan

And what was his field of research? Ionospheric?

Findlay

Ionospheric research so thatís how we came into contact and then I remember through my personal reason but I married an American wife and we settled down in England. I might as well tell you this because it is for a reason and while I was working in the London thing, we lived together in London and she was not particularly happy in London. She also wanted to work on her own. She is a very capable linguist and does work translating things from many languages to English and she could find nothing very happy to do in England and I wasnít particularly happy in this thing and I said to her one day, "Well, would you like to go back, shall we go to America." And she said, "Well can you fix it." And I said, "You never know, do you." Itís interesting. I wrote to Henry Booker and I wrote to Lloyd Berkner and said, "What do you think? Would I be employable in America, in the United States? And if so, do you have any suggestions?" And Henry sent me [?] suggestions and Lloyd sent very specific suggestions. He said, "I have just got the contract from the National Science Foundation to study..."

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Modified on Tuesday, 16-Dec-2014 15:52:54 EST by Ellen Bouton, Archivist (Questions or feedback)