[Cover of Sullivan's book 2009, Cosmic Noise]
Sullivan's Cosmic Noise, Cambridge University Press, 2009


NATIONAL RADIO ASTRONOMY OBSERVATORY ARCHIVES

Papers of Woodruff T. Sullivan III: Tapes Series

Interview with Nikolai S. Kardashev
By phone from Groningen to Max Planck Institut für Radioastronomie in Bonn
24 August 1978
Interview time: 25 minutes
Originally transcribed by Pamela M. Jernegan (1979), retyped to digitize by Candice Waller (2016)

Note: The interview listed below was originally transcribed as part of Sullivan's research for his book, Cosmic Noise: A History of Early Radio Astronomy (Cambridge University Press, 2009). The original transcription was retyped to digitize in 2016, then reviewed, edited/corrected, and posted to the Web in 2016 by Ellen N. Bouton. Places where we are uncertain about what was said are indicated with parentheses and question mark (?).

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.

Click start to listen to the audio for tape 113A of the 1978 interview.

Begin Tape 113A

Sullivan

This is 24 August 78 and talking on the phone between Groningen and Max Planck Institute fŁr Radio Astronomie in Bonn, where Ken Kellerman has lined up for me, more or less, the two Soviet radio astronomers, L. I. Matveyenko and N. S. Kardashev. Iím going to do my best to interview them over the phone, perhaps with Kenís assistance, and Iíll let you know who is who when it happens.

Hello. This is talking with Kardashev now. What I would like to know are the sort of things which one cannot get from publications about the history of Soviet radio astronomy.

Kardashev

If I remember about this.

Sullivan

Yes, for instance, I find that the first paper that you published in radio astronomy was in 1955 about 3-cm observations of Cassiopeia A, Taurus A and so forth.

Kardashev

Yes, yes.

Sullivan

Is this correct?

Kardashev

Yes, it was a publication about it Ė it was in Soviet Astronomical Journal and special book.

Sullivan

Right. The Trudi of that conference in 1955.

Kardashev

Yes.

Sullivan

Can you tell me exactly, what antenna were you using and where was it located? And can you tell me about who was in the group and so forth?

Kardashev

Yes. It was three-meter dish antenna. It was a (Banks?) radio (?) system. The place of this antenna near to Moscow. And what was the other question Ė the group?

Sullivan

Right. Was Shklovsky head of the group?

Kardashev

Shklovsky, author and Kaidanovsky. Kaidanovsky is coworker of Prof. Heiken.

Sullivan

I see.

Kardashev

From the Lebedev Physical Institute.

Sullivan

Right. Now who actually built the equipment for these observations?

Kardashev

First (?) was from Shklovsky, of course, He predicted that (?) gas must give continuum radio emission in radio waves.

Sullivan

In short wavelengths.

Kardashev

Yes.

Sullivan

Right. But I was wondering who built the equipment that you used?

Kardashev

Who built?

Sullivan

Yes.

Kardashev

It was prepared by Kaidanovsky, and maybe two people that Iíve forgotten. But the main chief was Kaidanovsky.

Sullivan

I see. Was the usual practice in those days that there was one person that concentrated on building the equipment and another person that concentrated on the astronomy, or was it the same people who did both? So that a person would build his equipment and take his observations and then write a paper? Or was it different people that did the two things?

Kardashev

Research (?) dividing. Shklovsky concentrated on theoretician predictions and Kaidanovsky and two people concentrated on the preparing equipment and myself, I concentrated on observation and processing results.

Sullivan

And is this typical of the way Soviet radio astronomy was done at that time?

Kardashev

(?) Situation, but for initial stage it was really (?)

Sullivan

Iím sorry, what did you say?

Kardashev

In the initial stage in our country it was the usual situation, but it is possible -

Sullivan

Right, but Iím talking about then. Okay. Now did you know about the, as you took these observations in 1954-55, did you know about the work that was going on at the Naval Research Laboratory in America at a very similar sort of work?

Kardashev

No, we had no contact with the U.S. and it was independent here.

Sullivan

I see. Were you reading the western journals in astronomy or were you pretty much operating entirely separated?

Kardashev

I think also we have small contact, only after publication it was possible.

Sullivan

I see. Only after publication.

Kardashev

Yes.

Sullivan

But you were reading the journals?

Kardashev

Yes, of course.

Sullivan

Well, now, Iíd like to ask you about this 1955 meeting on the problems in cosmology which covered pretty much all aspects of Soviet radio astronomy, I believe. Could you tell me who organized that meeting and what was the purpose of it and any memories that you have?

Kardashev

Probably it was organized by Astronomical Council of Soviet Union. And probably if you have this book on the first page must be writing about who prepared it.

Sullivan

Yes, yes.

Kardashev

I forgot, of course.

Sullivan

But do you have any memories of this meeting? Was it an important meeting for the development of Soviet radio astronomy, would you say?

Kardashev

Yes. It was third big meeting for, in the direction of radio astronomy, and about this year was organized a special radio astronomical council in our country.

Sullivan

I see. Separate from the optical astronomy?

Kardashev

Yes, yes.

Sullivan

And this was about the same time as this meeting?

Kardashev

Yes.

Sullivan

Do you remember what the main issues of discussion were at this meeting Ė what were the main problems that people were interested in?

Kardashev

I think it, very many problems connected with solar astronomy in this meeting. Very many. And about the moon radio emission.

Sullivan

Right.

Kardashev

It was starting -

Sullivan

Troitsky was working on it.

Kardashev

Troitsky and Gorky Group. Very little work in the, for the distant sources.

Sullivan

For the radio sources, yes.

Kardashev

Yes, the radio sources, very little.

Sullivan

Why was that?

Kardashev

Itís, we have only a small radio telescopes for this problem. It was very difficult.

Sullivan

Right, you needed larger telescopes. Well, that brings me to another question. It seems that many of the main contributions of the Soviets in the 1950ís were in the theory rather than in the observations. And I was wondering if you could comment on that Ė was there a definite decision made that Soviet radio astronomers would concentrate on theory, or what was the reason for this?

Kardashev

(?) you may be (?) in two direction; itís mainly astronomer have initially very big interest to radio astronomy problem. It was about 1954, Shklovsky at Moscow University starting special course at the university for the students and for the science people.

Sullivan

I see. In radio astronomy?

Kardashev

In radio astronomy, especially in radio astronomy.

Sullivan

I see.

Kardashev

It was very popular course, and many people from other institutes participated in this seminar.

Sullivan

Thatís interesting.

Kardashev

Yes. And at the same time Ambartsumian at the Armenian Observatory was also very interested in the problem of radio astronomy and started a small radio observatory near the Byurakan Observatory.

Sullivan

Right.

Kardashev

And second is many physicists and radio physicist also connect like in U.S. and other countries also concentrated on radio astronomy.

Sullivan

So people like Ginzburg, you mean?

Kardashev

Yes. For physicists firstly it was (?) and Trankin, Professor Trankin.

Sullivan

Trankin, yes?

Kardashev

Yes, he also helped (?) because he was an expert in mechanics problems and not only in radio physics, and also was Professor of Moscow University for four years.

Sullivan

So you are saying then that the leaders in the field were more physicists and astronomers, they were not radio engineers.

Kardashev

Yes, yes.

Sullivan

And so how did they find somebody to build the equipment for them? Did they go to the electrical engineering department at the university and try to find somebody to interest them or -

Kardashev

Yes, it was both possibilities. I think at Physical Institute, Lebedev Physical Institute was very good radio laboratory that connect with problem radio spectroscopy; therefore, ó

Sullivan

Oh, yes. Of nuclei.

Kardashev

The same laboratory that was connected with Basov and Prokhorov that now is Nobel prizes people. And he has a very good tradition in radio spectroscopy that immediately may be connected with radio astronomy.

Sullivan

I see.

Kardashev

And so observations for 21-cm also was prepared in this laboratory.

Sullivan

Who was that? What people were -

Kardashev

The main people who connect with 21-cm observation is (?)

Sullivan

Oh yes, right. And so they had the knowledge to build the equipment because of their background in this laboratory.

Kardashev

Yes, yes.

Sullivan

Were there any people who were trained as radio engineers who got interested in the astronomy as the years went by, you know, in the West that was usually what happened. People were trained as radio engineers and then they gradually became radio astronomers. Did this happen at all in the Soviet Union?

Kardashev

Iím sorry Ė Repeat that please.

Sullivan

Well, in the West, what usually happened is that a person would be trained as an electrical engineer or a radio physicist and then he would begin doing some radio astronomy observations and gradually he became more and more of an astronomer. And Iím just wondering did this happen in the Soviet Union also?

Kardashev

Yes, of course. (?) also was radio engineering. And Gorky group also Troitsky and many other people was before radio engineering.

Sullivan

I see, so it did happen, but maybe not quite as often as in the West or would you say that it was the usual case, or what fraction of the people would you say had an engineering background as opposed to a science background?

Kardashev

I think most possible that people were before radio engineering.

Sullivan

Most of them?

Kardashev

Only a small part were astronomers. Very small part.

Sullivan

I see. Can I ask you, what was your training in university? What field did you train in?

Kardashev

I, in astronomy.

Sullivan

In astronomy, I see. And that was at Moscow University?

Kardashev

Yes, yes.

Sullivan

Right.

Kardashev

I studied (?) Moscow University in 1955 together with Pariiskii who is also now a radio astronomer.

Sullivan

Right. And when did you get your degree at Moscow University?

Kardashev

First degree about Ď62. Second degree about Ď64.

Sullivan

Okay. Well, now Iíd like to ask you also about the recombination line suggestion, of course, which you published in 1959. Can you tell me, how did this idea come to you, and just tell me what you thought about it at that time?

Kardashev

It connect with many ideas from the Professor Shklovsky. Very great interest to the different lines connected with different atoms or molecules and I was (?) Shklovsky. Shklovsky was my teacher. And I read an article of Wildt.

Sullivan

Oh yes, I know that article. About the Zeeman splitting? No, you mean the one in 1952 in Astrophysical Journal.

Kardashev

Yes. And after (?) I attempted to calculate what the probability of such process for highest atomic levels. And simultaneously I observed on the 21-cm at the Crimea Observatory together with (?) simultaneously I calculated the probability of this transition.

Sullivan

I see. You were trying to find the recombination line at 21-cm?

Kardashev

No, no.

Sullivan

Or looking for the -

Kardashev

I only calculated how it possible.

Sullivan

Oh, I see.

Kardashev

And Shklovsky think that very small probabilities, very small population of such very high levels.

Sullivan

Right. But you were observing the hyper-fine line of hydrogen at that same time, is that what youíre saying?

Kardashev

At the same time.

Sullivan

I see.

Kardashev

Yes.

Sullivan

And so youíre -

Kardashev

I calculated about one year; I prepared this theoretician. The calculation and after it this question was discussed at the IAU meeting in Moscow.

Sullivan

In Ď58 that would be, right?

Kardashev

Yes, yes.

Sullivan

Did you give a paper at that meeting?

Kardashev

Not a special paper, but itís unofficial I talk all about the special radio astronomy and additionally discussed many radio astronomer possibilities to observe this.

Sullivan

I see. So you talked to Commission 40 then informally?

Kardashev

Yes, yes. Exactly.

Sullivan

And did you find much response that this was a good idea or ó

Kardashev

Yes, yes, of course. Many people think that itís possible to observe and after it about five or ten people sent me letters that he prepared for (?) observation in the U.S.

Sullivan

Right. But now it took four or five years, though, before the line was discovered, did it not?

Kardashev

Yes.

Sullivan

Why did it take so long?

Kardashev

What?

Sullivan

It was not until 1964, or í63, I believe, that the recombination line was detected.

Kardashev

Yes.

Sullivan

Why was there this five-year period? Why did it take so long?

End Tape 113A

Click start to listen to the audio for tape 113B of the 1978 interview.

Begin Tape 113B

Kardashev

- observatory is connected Khaikin.

Sullivan

Khaikin at Pulkovo Observatory -

Kardashev

Chief of this radio astronomy laboratory from the Pulkovo.

Sullivan

Right, but were they trying for that entire period of four years to detect this line?

Kardashev

The people prepared new, special new receivers.

Sullivan

But did they begin as soon as 1959?

Kardashev

Not immediately Ė about two years probably they discussed it, what is needed or not. It was attempt with negative results, oh, say after three years in U.S. the same negative results was, but after five years it was positive.

Sullivan

Right. Well, there was a paper presented at the Hamburg IAU meeting, right? In Ď64 Ė now were you part of that paper?

Kardashev

No.

Sullivan

That was Dravskikh?

Kardashev

It was prepared by two groups Ė one group is from Pulkovo, is Dravskikh and second group is from Lebedev Institute and is (?)

Sullivan

I see.

Kardashev

And they not connect with I working in other organization near the University extended institute at (?) in this experiment.

Sullivan

I see. Were you still in radio astronomy or had you changed?

Kardashev

Yes, yes.

Sullivan

What were you working on then?

Kardashev

I working at Astronomical Institute up to 1967, but now I working in Space Research Institute.

Sullivan

I see, but at that time when the recombination line was discovered, what projects were you working on?

Kardashev

I working in direction of 21-cm searching. We prepared for far away of the galactic plane of 21-cm and connect the problem with -

Sullivan

Problems of galactic structure and so forth.

Kardashev

Yes.

Sullivan

But now did these two groups who discovered the line, were they working with two different antennas and discovered it, more or less, simultaneously?

Kardashev

Practically it was simultaneously. All different antennas.

Sullivan

I see.

Kardashev

One antenna was near Leningrad at Pulkovo and second antenna was near Moscow, at Puschino.

Sullivan

I see. Okay. And when you saw these lines, they were very weak, of course, there was not much signal to noise, did you believe they were real?

Kardashev

I think that it was independently two positive results in the, and because we have two positive results it maybe -

Sullivan

That gave you more confidence, right. Because I know that there was quite a bit of criticism at the Hamburg meeting, people did not really think it was that good a quality data.

Kardashev

Yes.

Sullivan

I was wondering, do you happen to have any old photographs of these antennas in the mid-fifties and late fifties that you worked with? See, Iím trying to eventually, when I write this book, beginning maybe two years from now Iíll begin to write it, Iíd like to have a lot of good photographs and theyíre especially difficult to get for the Soviet Union. Do you possibly have any old ones?

Kardashev

Yes. What antenna do you want?

Sullivan

Really as many as you can find because I have very little about the Soviet Union in terms of good quality photographs. There are photographs in articles, but you know, I canít use those for publication. So that any old photographs of antennas and if you could label them, of course, as to what they are and roughly when the photograph was taken, that would be very useful.

Kardashev

I attempt to find such photographs.

Sullivan

Thank you. I will send you down my address and so forth. Iíll send it to you via Ken Kellerman.

Kardashev

Good.

Sullivan

Now are there any other points that you would like to tell me about in Soviet radio astronomy in this period Ė things that I should know about?

Kardashev

In this period. Maybe I send you together with photographs some, itís difficult Ė I forgot many.

Sullivan

Okay. Well, if you think of any other things that might be relevant, send them to me. And I appreciate it very much.

Kardashev

Good, good.

Sullivan

Ok. I hope to be able to visit the Soviet Union sometime and then maybe I can meet you in person.

Kardashev

When?

Sullivan

I donít know because Iím trying to arrange it between the - That ends the interview with Kardashev over the phone between Groningen and Bonn on 24 August 1978.

End Tape 113B


Modified on Tuesday, 24-Jan-2017 16:18:15 EST by Ellen Bouton, Archivist (Questions or feedback)