e Papers of Woodruff T. Sullivan III


[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 Arnold Shostak
At his home in Fairfax County, Virginia
June 20, 1976
Interview Time: 50 minutes
Transcribed for Sullivan by Bonnie Jacobs

Note: The interview listed below was either transcribed as part of Sullivan's research for his book, Cosmic Noise: A History or 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.

Sullivan

Ok, this is talking with Arnold Shostak at his home in Fairfax County, Virginia on 20 June 1976. Can you just tell me a little about your background?

Shostak

Sure. As you know, I was the Director of the Electronics and Allied Programs of the Office of Naval Research [ONR] in the period from approximately '54 to '73. In that career sponsored, encouraged, and attempted to stimulate into some useful application for the Navy and the other services and also for the civilian economy, the methodologies, and techniques which derived from the discipline of radio astrophysics. Now the reason the Navy Department, which is pioneering... its tradition of pioneering in physics- ships are dispersed at sea, and far removed in the areas of communications and navigation, undertook to do the work which is now done in the main in this country by the National Science Foundation. It was simply that there was no National Science Foundation [NSF] and Congress set up the Office of Naval Research...

Sullivan

Is this right after the War?

Shostak

Right after the War, to continue on what was then clearly realized important work of basic research in the country, the sciences. It turns out that the Constitution prohibits the Army from using funds for certain research facets.

Sullivan

But not the Navy.

Shostak

Accordingly, Congress selected the Navy. And so the Office of Naval Research was established in 1946 to perform the work which is now done by the Science Foundation. There was no Science Foundation, there was no Office of Scientific Research of the Air Force, and there was no Army Research Office, although there was the Signal Corps. Well anyway, those of us who were involved in physics, electronics and astronomy, and there were early-on programs in optical astronomy.

Sullivan

Can you give some examples?

Shostak

Yes. For instance, Leo Goldberg at the University of Michigan was supported by the Office of Naval Research to study the sun. Similarly a chap at Caltech, Jesse Greenstein, was supported by the Office of Naval Research.

Sullivan

Ah yes, I see.

Shostak

But there was no radio astronomy to speak of in the country other than the work I referred to, namely the work of the Carnegie Institute following on [Edward Mills] Purcell, Pound, and [Harold Irving "Doc"] Ewen’s work at Harvard, getting their instrumentation down to Washington and starting to look at the discrete lines. In addition, there was other work at Cornell in the Electrical Engineering Department. That work, which actually antedated the Carnegie work in its genesis, was mostly concerned with the solar effects on the ionospheric perturbations of the radio signals, burst radio signals, particularly were centered around 200 MHz.

Sullivan

And who were the people that...

Shostak

The principal contractor in the early stages was Professor Charles Burrows, formerly at the Bell Labs. And allied with him was Professor Bill [William E.] Gordon.

Sullivan

Who is now at Rice, you said?

Shostak

Yes. And also Mrs. Stahr Carpenter who kept a bibliography on radio astronomy under contract with the Office of Naval Research for many years.

Sullivan

Yes, I know that.

Shostak

Its been very valuable to the metamorphosis of industry, and also to minimize duplication of effort, over-emphases, and gaps, and voids.

Sullivan

When ONR gave out money, did it have to have some maybe vague connection with what the military might be interested in or was it only the scientific value of it?

Shostak

In the early phases of the operation of the Office of Naval Research, the impact of relevance was minimal. Science was pursued for science's sake. On the other hand, broad areas, for instance areas of astronomy and some applied mathematics had higher priority performance than some esoteric subject, which although no one could predict would be useful didn't seem to have as much use, in general, to the civilian and military economy. Now there were people who had the foresight to realize the impact of the growing field of radio astronomy in science in the US who weren't directly concerned with the programs that were established at ONR. And these included Manny Piore who was in ONR, Randle Robertson who was in ONR at that time then went to the Science Foundation, Dr. Bill Wright now still at the NSF...

Sullivan

Could you spell Piore’s name, please?

Shostak

P-I-O-R-E. You will know him as the Vice-President in charge of Engineering for IBM thereafter, and had previously been at RCA as a solid state physicist. The main point here is that there were people who, influenced by the International... the deliberations of the American Physical Society, International Astronomers Union, Union Radio Scientific International, that was URSI- Lloyd Berkner, for instance, who was a Navy Reserve Admiral. They could see that the Dutch and the Australians and English were doing things that would be awfully important in our own avenue of scientific endeavor.

Sullivan

May I ask you if Berkner and/or [R. M.]Emberson are alive and if you know where they are?

Shostak

Berkner is dead. Piore can be reached...

Sullivan

Well, Emberson is the other one I was wondering about.

Shostak

Dr. Randall Robertson, yes I tried to get him for you on Friday. He's Dean of Research at Virginia Polytechnic Institute in Blacksburg, Virginia. I tried to get him the other day but he had gone to the Science Foundation. Well, continuing and specifically, the work at Harvard on the 21 cm line and its instrumentation which you will recall had been stimulated by the contemplations of [Jan Hendrik] Oort and [Hendrik C.] van de Hulst in Holland, who realized that the product of the transition probability and the abundance of neutral hydrogen in the outer regions of space were sufficient so that there'd be a finite product and a chance of seeing the radiations there at 21 cm. That gear was brought down to Carnegie Institute [DTM] to Professor Merle Tuve formerly at Johns Hopkins. Incidentally, the founder of the Applied Physics Lab which in turn has been the main developer of the Navy's guided missiles - the Tarter, the Talos, the Terrier... all of which were produced under Section T of the contract between the Navy and the Applied Physics Lab, T for Tuve, and Terrier and Tartar and Talos for Tuve... was the entrepreneur for this radio astronomy effort.

Sullivan

Ewen's thing did not go to the Applied Physics Lab, it came down to the DTM?

Shostak

The equipment.

Sullivan

Ewen's receiver, right.

Shostak

And there it was used to make some preliminary sky surveys at 21 cm. Tuve, as you probably know, was working on high velocity for charged particle clouds, which at one time were felt to be coming into the Earth but seemed to be coming in, going out, in some kind of regular pattern of swirling around our own Galaxy. But anyway, the early experiments then were as far as this discussion is concerned (a) the work at Carnegie, (b) the work at Cornell under ONR sponsorship primarily having to do with solar disturbances and their effect on radio communications, (c) the work at Naval Research Lab [NRL] under Professor John Hagen who was also really America's first spaceman, because you see, John was doing this radio astronomy relatively with his work on the Viking missile.

Sullivan

I see, the same time.

Shostak

The Viking missile would have been up. As it was it was up one month too late, before Sputnik. If John had had his way, but funding constrictions kept him from accomplishing that feat. And it was with dismay that we read about the Russian Sputnik circling the Earth every 90 minutes. But that was one reason for the thrust of the John Hagen/NRL work with the 50 foot dish, which is still visible down there at NRL, and which required a lot of construction reinforcement because it was in a Navy milieu and all that.

Sullivan

This is a little different because this was more or less in-house funding, this at NRL.

Shostak

Yes. Well, NRL is under the Office of Naval Research.

Sullivan

Right. Was there any other radio astronomy effort within the Navy?

Shostak

Very little at that time. There was an effort, however, at the Signal Corps at Fort Monmouth, to which I will refer in a moment. Now what I urge is that you communicate with John Hagen there at Penn State University and ask him, particularly what the early effort consistent in and also how he got started. I did refer to Fort Monmouth, the Signal Corps.

Sullivan

Yes, what do you know about that?

Shostak

There is a chap named Fred Daniels, D-A-N-I-E-L-S, and probably others whom I don't know anymore, who were interested in radar and particularly in probing, the kind that Watson-Watt did in England. He and his group undertook a project, I believe called Diana, probed the surface of the moon and thought that the re-radiation of the radar signals was diffuse, whereas in fact, it turned out as was determined by James Trexler of NRL at a later date and as indicated in my article here on Navy Telecommunications in the ONR Research Reviews December 1965...

Sullivan

Is that the article you referred to on the phone, that you were looking for?

Shostak

No. That another one. But here you see that in experiments conducted in '51 Trexler at NRL, has shown that UHF signals could be successfully bounced off the moon and so on. It's interesting to note that radar astronomers on Diana had shown the Moon diffusely; however, the NRL experiments had shown that the Moon was specular and so on. And as a consequence...

Sullivan

I've talked to Trexler actually, also.

Shostak

We now have the Maryland-Hawaiian moon-bounce communications circuits still operating, really the first satellite communications on a regular basis.

Sullivan

A natural satellite...

Shostak

And as this article shows clearly indicating the importance of pioneering studies because the Army shortly thereafter gave up on its radar astronomy. By the way there was a fine woman named Edith Tebo who was with that group and who may be able to help.

Sullivan

Do you know where she is?

Shostak

She may still be at Fort Monmouth.

Sullivan

Anyone else that could help me with my project?

Shostak

Yes, but I'll have to think of this chap's name. And so, getting back to the main theme here, the genesis then was, as I say, at NRL and Carnegie and at Cornell, not counting what went on at [Grote] Reber's amateur installation or at [Karl] Jansky's- and I might point out that in both of those cases, of course, they were looking at ionospheric phenomena really rather than any discrete radiations from atomic and molecular species which might be radiating, like the 21 cm radiation from hydrogen.

Sullivan

Well, they weren't looking at the ionosphere. They were looking at interstellar regions.

Shostak

They were looking at interstellar regions but they were looking really, primarily to see what the effects of the earth's ionosphere could be on the radiations. Well, if you don't like that...

Sullivan

Well, we can argue about that later.

Shostak

Well, no, that's all right. At least they were looking to see if there were any radio radiations.

Sullivan

Right, it was a different sort of thing.

Shostak

It wasn't discrete, in any case.

Sullivan

Yeah.

Shostak

Incidentally, an important contribution along that line was made by the Florida State University is it, at Tallahassee in looking at radio signals from Jupiter in the high frequency region somewhere around 20 megacycles.

Sullivan

When did they get started?

Shostak

Well, they were also supported by ONR. I believe beginning around 1955 but I would have to check that.

Sullivan

Well, here you say '52 in your letter.

Shostak

Is that right? Well that must be right. Is this Florida?

Sullivan

Yes.

Shostak

I didn't know I'd referred to that. Yes. I've forgotten the name of the man but I can find out and so can you.

Sullivan

Alex [Alexander G.] Smith, you mean?

Shostak

Yes, that's right. You can find out more about its actual history by calling Miss Jean Streeter, whom I believe is still in the Washington area, retired from ONR, who headed up the optical astronomy section for ONR for many years.

Sullivan

It just occurred to me - did Reber ever apply to you for any funds?

Shostak

I think he did, late in life. Not in the early days.

Sullivan

Not in the '40s?

Shostak

No, not to my knowledge. Late in life I think we got a solicitation from him but by that time we were being compelled to phase out on fundamental astronomy work.

Sullivan

You mean in the ‘60s now, when you say late?

Shostak

Yes, late ‘60s.

Sullivan

Let me ask another general question about the whole records. Are there available files where I could find these grants, how they were worded, the proposals and this sort of thing?

Shostak

Your best bet and to answer you directly would be to go back via each of the universities, because the government files have long since been destroyed or stored in inaccessible places. It's tragic, but it's true...

Sullivan

I see.

Shostak

In this connection let me give you the name of my colleague, Dr. Everett HurIburt, Silver Spring, Maryland, who will be glad to supplement...

Sullivan

What was his position?

Shostak

He was really the man in charge of radio astronomy for ONR, working for me. He’d be glad to tell you whatever he remembers. Also he and I wrote an article in the ONR Research Reviews circa '63 which was titled, "Radio Astronomy in the Universities." I can try to get a copy of that for you today. In fact, before you leave I’ll call Everett and ask him to see that I get a copy so that I can send it to you.

Sullivan

ONR Research Reviews around '63 titled, "Radio Astronomy in the Universities." I should be able to find that.

Shostak

You can get quite a ways by calling Mr. Lescure in the Office of Naval Research. The chief scientist would be glad to give it to you. Well, let’s see if I can pick this up then. Now as the ONR effort in astronomy expanded, it was realized that a natural supplement was that of the radio astrophysical effort, as a supplement to the optical work. The trouble was that the equipment as contemplated by the various proponents of instrumentation in this country was rather expensive. For instance, Caltech wanted two 90 foot dishes on heavy track so that the interferometer which was derived from these dishes could be made variable in baseline separation. And even at that time, as I recall, the initial installation was about $.5 million. Similarly the installation at Danville, Illinois, for the University of Illinois, the one that Professors [George C.] McVittie and [George W.] Swenson promoted, it was about 400 x 600 foot, there about. That meant a big job of earth, soil, cement, and putting it up, and so on. So that it was not easy to get the monies especially since there was competition for those funds from many other disciplines. But thanks primarily to Randall Robertson, who was at the time Director of Research, and myself, but with the encouragement of Manny Piore, who was the chief scientist. And I might add, Jerry [Jerome] Wiesner, now the president of MIT, who was Kennedy's Science Advisor but before that was a friend of mine who knew the importance of radio astronomy including its implications on his own institute, MIT. We were able to get the monies and so the monies were in some cases trickling out year by year. Sometimes all at once for the initial facility and then a little operating money thereafter made available. This all in competition with the in-house activities for the military and military laboratories, they would have liked to have done a thing too but it was thought at that time that the universities could make a contribution.

Sullivan

Were there any other Navy labs besides NRL that wanted to do radio astronomy?

Shostak

Yes, the Naval Electronics Laboratory in San Diego had a man named T. J. Keary, now retired, who wanted to put a 60 foot dish in. And then the Navy Postgraduate School, a guy named [?], now dead, Dean of Electronics out there, wanted to have something available for his own use. But those things never went. The only thing that did go was the very large dish, plans for the 600 foot dish at Sugar Grove, 30 miles from Green Bank in West Virginia, which was originally intended to be used for some counter measures purposes and intelligence purposes, not for basic research, but then it was thought it would sell better if we were to make it sound like it had some scientific merit too. And as a matter of fact it got more and more ponderous and expensive as new ideas were increasing the number of uses of the instruments were developed, to the extent that finally they started putting radar here or these radar probes on this battleship-heavy Bureau of Yards and Docks endorsed steel, the stuff sunk into the West Virginia mud and when Jerry Wiesner got to be Kennedy's Science Advisor, he scrubbed the whole thing after an expenditure of about...

Sullivan

I see, in your view then he's the key man rather than [Robert] McNamara? Was it was his recommendation?

Shostak

No, I think you'll find it was Jerome Wiesner. Wiesner was a member of all the Telephone Company people, the group that surveyed the thing and they pointed out that increasing from what would be acceptable or say viable dish, from 300 foot to 600 foot would only pick up some 6 dB and that you could pick up with at that time advancing improvements in radiometry.

Sullivan

Right. Is this report still available?

Shostak

That report was secret. And it may be that it's still available at the Naval Research Lab but you’d have to ask the Director of Research.

Sullivan

Let me ask you a couple of other things about Sugar Grove...

Shostak

Incidentally, Trexler was very much involved in that.

Sullivan

Yes, I talked with him. From your point of view, this was not really through ONR, was it?

Shostak

Well, only in that the Naval Research Lab reported to the Chief of Naval Research on everything they did.

Sullivan

I see. But it was sort of an extra huge funding thing that required separate...

Shostak

An applied effort, an exploratory development in signal intelligence.

Sullivan

And what you say is that the radio astronomers got tagged on essentially, in that they really had nothing to do with the design and so forth?

Shostak

Very little.

Sullivan

Or not culpable anyway for this whole thing?

Shostak

No, that's right. But the main point there was I'm not sure if it was a competition between the external program, which was a contract program in the universities and so on. Some industrial people were interested. For instance, as I recall, Lockheed on the West Coast wanted us to help them out. And perhaps we did with some equipment. It wasn't always necessary to give them money, sometimes we would ship radio gear for instance, UE 1 timers, Loran timers for precision timing, frequency synthesizers and stuff like that. They wanted to get into the act, too. But the point is that the Navy in-house program and the contract program were really relatively mutually exclusive because their sources derived from different categories of funding.

Sullivan

The general question I still haven't asked you is, why did the U. S. get started late in radio astronomy? What is your opinion?

Shostak

Well, it's not unusual. Many of the things that have led to advances in physics, Nobel Prizes, for instance, the Mössbauer effect and so on have come from smaller countries which have the scientific flexibility to maneuver around, doing without this business of expensive instrumentation by some industrial behemoth. That's the main part, I believe. Also the constrictions of our laboratory system, civil service and so on, is not conducive to flexibility and ease of advance in scientific research. That would probably be the answer. The other thing is, we have traditionally emphasized application and technology versus science, always. The reason why we're ahead in computers and in citizens band gear and so on and so forth. It’s always been so that we've coupled everything going and so with money-making.

Sullivan

Yes, that's a good point.

Shostak

Well, furthermore, there are great numbers of scientists overseas, always have been relative to the population. Take the case of Holland with its tradition dating back to Leeuwenhoek, the button maker, microscope maker. Right, and so on. They sit there and contemplatively discuss things and do it- used to anyway, economically. I ought to know, that's what I did for many years in ONR, watched them. But also I might add the British really have a tremendous tradition, and the Scots, in astronomy. The Scots especially, you'll find that many of the people who run the British laboratories are of Scot antecedents.

Sullivan

During World War II, however, the U. S. of course had a huge microwave development thing at the MIT Rad Lab and so forth. It still surprises me that someone like, well, [Robert] Dicke would have been a possibility, to found the Radio Astronomy Laboratory in...

Shostak

A very good point.

Sullivan

Is it just a matter that some person didn't take it up whereas you had [Martin] Ryle who did, and [A. C. Bernard] Lovell and [Joseph L.] Pawsey who did in other countries?

Shostak

You're absolutely right. The truth of the matter is that when it came to actual advance in the instrument, in installing the instruments, building and so on, we tapped the Australians and the British and the Dutch. Witness John Bolton, really an Englishman. Incidentally, [Robert] Hanbury Brown at NRL during the War may have had some influence on the interest of radio astronomy.

Sullivan

In what way? I haven't heard that.

Shostak

Hanbury Brown was working for the Naval Research Lab, helping transfer the technology of radar.

Sullivan

Oh, I didn't realize that.

Shostak

Take another case, Gart Westerhout, whom I visited long ago at Leiden, he had made the first survey at 21 cm. Now at the University of Maryland.

Sullivan

Oh, there's endless Dutch people...

Shostak

That was the way the infusion took place by transfer of these bodies. And I might point out that early on we in ONR were sensitive to Professor Lovell's contributions and gave him money.

Sullivan

Yes, apparently you say you supported him. What was that project?

Shostak

Yes. Several. One we gave out and out money to help pay and supplement to the Nuffield Foundation monies for the 250 foot alt-azimuth...

Sullivan

I see, when it was in financial straits?

Shostak

Indeed. And I got a letter just the other day from Seth [Sullivan: Shostak, his son]. He’d gone up to Macclesfield to conduct a colloquium of some kind, and Lovell wanted to know if he was related to related to us and he recalled out of happiness how we'd given them money and bailed him out in the early days. But then later Lovell was interested in flare stars looking to see if the velocity of propagation of the light and the radio signals were the same, and, of course, that's been well tabulated. It turns out that it's related to the inverse-square law and that the ‘2’ in the ‘r-squared’ is good to about 30 places.

Sullivan

He was the first to pick up the flare stars.

Shostak

I don't know about that.

Sullivan

Yeah, he was. Now did you fund part of that?

Shostak

That's what I started to say, we started originally just to fund Lovell en banque and later on specifically we had a little task for him for a long time to study his flare stars. That was our connection with the British.

Sullivan

Another question that comes to mind. Do you know of any case in the American military in World War II where they accidentally or purposely picked up solar radiation? There's the famous story of Hey, of course. It seems to me improbable with this tremendous American military machine that there were not similar accidental findings and yet I've heard of no zero.

Shostak

No. I don't know of any, I'm sure there must have been.

Sullivan

Do you have any idea how one would go about trying to find such a report?

Shostak

Your best bet there would be the Signal Corps at Fort Monmouth. The people who were engineers and scientists in the...

Sullivan

Were they sort of the central processing people for such things, the Signal Corps?

Shostak

Oh, yes. Most of the early mattress-spring radars were at Monmouth, there's no question about that. But I cannot answer that question. Jerry Wiesner's group might know. And by the way, don’t hesitate to call Jerry and tell him I told you to call him.

Sullivan

Ok.

Shostak

He’ll give you a recommendation. He may know something about that.

Sullivan

Did you fund project Diana?

Shostak

No. That was the Signal Corps.

Sullivan

Let’s see. I interrupted you. You were talking about...

Shostak

I might add incidentally, Wiesner and his group knew the importance of radio astronomy to the extent that one of the earliest things in Lincoln Lab was the Haystack activity and later on the Westford and so on.

Sullivan

Right. You mention here the Tri-Service program that funded Burke. What was that?

Shostak

Well, that's very important. The joint services electronics program was really the follow-on to the Radiation Laboratory activity at MIT and to the Radiation Research Lab at Harvard and Stanford. And also the Columbia Radiation Lab, which in turn was a subsidiary of the MIT Rad Lab. In particular Rabi and his group were busy with the K-band, 1.2 cm type of radiation trying to make magnetrons and later on...

Sullivan

Masers.

Shostak

Well, this is before masers. It was that same group.

Sullivan

You're talking about the late '40s?

Shostak

Yes, during the War, that’s what they did. So after the War it was decided by enlightened men that the work of these laboratories would be continued. One of the labs involved was the University of Illinois, there [?] and also Wheeler Loomis and Fred Sykes, all of whom had been at the Rad Lab during the War when they heard that the Air Force was going ahead with the Lincoln Laboratories at Hanscom Field to make continental air defense radar, thought that they would be able to do the same thing for the Navy. And since they had a lot of experience in the high-speed electronic digital computer field, the ILLIAC, it was clear that they should try to marry radar with the computer for the first time and that's what they did under a project called Cornfield and a part of which gave rise to Swenson's activities under McVittie, who had his own cosmological interests, which led up to the radio astronomy group there. But the Tri-Service program you asked about included MIT's Research Lab of Electronics. It was first Wiesner who was the Director, and then later on Henry Zimmerman. Bernie [Bernard F.] Burke is still a member of that group. Secondly, Harvard's Division of Engineering and Applied Physics. That was . J. H. van Vleck for a long time, then later on Harvey Brooks and Nicolaas Bloembergen, who made a solid-state maser. Also Professor R. W. Peking and his antenna group and people who were put in control methodology and later on in information theory Dave Mittleton and Barry Hough. Third, Columbia, the Director there was Rabi for a long time, then Poli Kush, two Nobel Prize winners. Now it under the direction of Hartman and another chap whose name I've forgotten. Then Stanford under [Frederick] Terman and there we have the Electronics Research Laboratory and also the Microwave Laboratory, the Microwave lab is run by [Schoderow?]. The Electronics Research Lab nowadays is run by John Linnville and in that complex Ron [Ronald N] Bracewell, another Australian, again doing radio astronomy. As a matter of fact I helped him get started in the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

Sullivan

When did he start at Stanford now?

Shostak

Ron was there already in 1950 [Sullivan: wrong]. I can remember very vividly having something to do, it may be '55,[Sullivan: right] with asking Carl [?] who was then the Director of the Lab to keep on that radio astronomy group and in particular to keep on Ron Bracewell. It may have been '56.

Sullivan

Yeah, I think it was mid ‘50s.

Shostak

It's impossible to remember all that. But getting back to the Tri-Service program, so you have two contracts at Stanford, the Microwave Lab and the Electronics Research Lab. Then in later years we had added on the University of Texas, Professor Straiton down there, and in part an interest in the millimeter wave gear which came from Straiton's interest in millimeter wave work in Fort Davis, and then also the University of Southern California, [???] who were students at the University of California at Berkeley. But those people never did much in radio astronomy at USC. However, at University of California, Berkeley under joint services program had a man named Professor Sam Silver who wrote the Rad Lab book on antennas when he was at the Radiation Lab. Sam became the Director of the Space Sciences Lab at University of California, Berkeley and had students, Jack Welch, Doug Thornton working for him and then thanks to Sam, we gave- we always had a contract with Sam- we gave him a special money, a special contract to get a millimeter wave dish, a little 10 or 20 foot dish, I've forgotten by now, spun at NRL in an off period and sent across the country on a special car. And with that Sam started looking at first the Sun and other sources and the Moon. They were really pioneer moon millimeter wave.

Sullivan

Is this the same dish that Welch took over, I think it’s a 10 foot antenna?

Shostak

Well, then he had another one made, and they had a couple of them put up at Hat Creek. But then Harold Weaver came along and we gave Harold a separate contract. And Welch and Thornton worked with Harold for the 85 foot dish at Hat Creek. That was also... But you see the origins there were in the Tri-Service program, Sam Silver and John [?].

Sullivan

Tri-Service, I assume means that all the services were chipping in?

Shostak

Right. Share and share alike. So in addition to those- the University of Illinois, University of Texas, University of Southern California, University of California at Berkeley, MIT, Columbia and Harvard- the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute was very important, they were the ones under Weber and more recently under [Palmer?] whose done such things as represented- a whole gambit of electronics research, tremendous outfit, not too keen on radio astronomy because it's noisy around that area. They were then supplemented by contracts at Purdue and Northwestern, which were later scrubbed.

Sullivan

What about [John D.] Kraus? He's the only person you haven't mentioned.

Shostak

We did not support him. Kraus was on his own for a long time and then I believe he got Air Force support, yes. And I might remind you again that Bracewell in recent years was supported by the Air Force also.

Sullivan

Well, this is perhaps a good place to ask about the relative funding from ONR and other Federal agencies and how that varied with time. Could you just give me some estimates?

Shostak

Beginning in the period around '55, '56, '57, ONR, except for the in-house work was almost, because it was all alone anyway, was almost the only supporter of basic research and especially in radio astronomy in the United States. And then after the Air Force Office of Scientific Research was established there was a little bit of an effort.

Sullivan

When was that?

Shostak

I don't remember exactly but I would say around 1960. One, Dr. Marsh Harrington right here in town can tell you all about the origins of the Air Force Radio Astronomy effort. The Army Research Office did very, very little on radio astronomy to my knowledge, nothing at least up until I retired. So you're dealing almost exclusively with ONR and that’s amazing that the Navy would do all the radio astronomy in the contract program in the country.

Sullivan

You imply that this is really a constitutional accident, the fact that it is going?

Shostak

Oh, well I wouldn't make too much of that.

Sullivan

Would you say there is a different attitude in the Navy relative to the other services, relative to basic research?

Shostak

I wouldn't say that, no. Just in general ONR was set up because they wanted somebody to do it and the Navy volunteered. And as I say it did have something to do with that clause in the Constitution. There was no Air Force at the time.

Sullivan

So they felt the Navy could take care of it for all the services essentially?

Shostak

Sure, that's right. And for the whole country.

Sullivan

When did ONR fade from the scene as far as supporting radio astronomy and NSF began to take over?

Shostak

This occurred as a consequence of several factors: (1) science, which at one time was a very small item in the U.S. overall economic effort and then the budgets of the Congress, mushroomed and burgeoned in the period around 1962-'63. This is a time when the war babies I suppose were going into the universities. But also, although it had more to do with space, the excitement of space experimentation, of space methodologies, and anyway every Department of Astronomy in the country was expanding and so were the Physics Departments and so were the Engineering Departments and so on. So that more and more call was made on the Congress for monies for scientific pursuits and support. Well, when that happened, especially with the coming of the NSF, each one of the services said, "Well, we'd better do things that have to do with our own individual requirements." For instance, the Navy said, "Let’s do things which are clearly Navy."

Sullivan

Why did they say that though?

Shostak

Because of the limitation of funds.

Sullivan

But didn't the amount of funds expand pretty fast also?

Shostak

As the inflation crept along, the demands for practical equipment and new weapons and more ships became really very severe. And also relative to that the demands for the technology that went along with it. Secondly, student activism on the campus became very prominent. The psychology- the underlying causes for that I won't dwell on, others including myself could do that just as well as I can, and better. But the net reaction was that in Congress anyway, and also among the senior executive people in the government, "What the heck, why should we be supporting these Reds in the university. We'll begin to slow down on research and a derivative of that point of view was, let's make whatever they do, in case you're supporting it with money, especially from the military, see this was anti-war activity and anti-militarism, is in reducing the funding levels." So that's really what happened. It came at a nice time because the Science Foundation was growing anyway. But as a consequence, if you couldn't show clearly and immediately that effort in radio astronomy was relevant to some military evolution, equipment, device, technology, system, methodology, or requirement and application, then turn it off. Let someone else do it.

End of Tape 45A

Sullivan Tape 45B

Sullivan

At his home in Virginia, 1976.

Shostak

So that activism on the campus and the reaction in the Congress and in the executive branch of the government resulted in a decrease in funding.

Sullivan

Right, that makes a lot of sense. It makes sense that that's why it happened. And it was the same I suppose with the Air Force funding also?

Shostak

Oh, very definitely. It was rather interesting to me that in a fit of exasperation and frustration I believe, one of the last things I did for the Office of Naval Research Radio Astronomy program, diminished to virtually a nonexistent stage, was that I asked Professor Burke at MIT, and NRL, Barry Clark, and Green Bank people to get together and conduct a workshop on the systems applications of the techniques of radio astrophysics, which they did at NRL and there's a report out on it. As a consequence of this, some interest was indicated in inverse Shoran type navigation systems using radio stars or the water vapor type stars.

Sullivan

When was this conducted?

Shostak

This was about 1971. Connie [Cornell H.] Mayer and Ben [Benjamin S.] Yaplee at NRAO participated as well. On the other hand Connie told me very recently that efforts to pursue these navigation systems have been shot down for one reason or another. But on the other hand, Ben Yaplee has gone ahead and done some radio astronomy related practical work at Naval Research Lab, which has to do mostly with geodesy and observing interconnecting map contiguities over various parts of the Earth. But surely there are other very important contributions which were derived from studies in radio astronomy that don't get their just recognitions. For instance, the data processing methodology of very long baseline interferometry and the synthetic aperture array techniques is of vital importance in towed array, sonar array methods where you're making synthetic apertures.

Sullivan

You're doing the same thing.

Shostak

And an item of utmost consequence to ARPA these days, amazing.

Sullivan

So you think they're missing the boat somewhat?

Shostak

Well, the point is that it's very difficult to document the exact lineage between what has been done in the basic area and something which is practical and useful, because it requires that someone... that's how it developed. We've tried that kind of hindsight study and it's never been satisfactory.

Sullivan

Could you name a couple of things that perhaps during the '50s you think grew out of the radio astronomy research?

Shostak

Everybody knows the first maser generated by Charlie [Charles H.]Townes at Columbia was brought down by one of his graduate students, Gordon, to NRL because there the 50 foot dish could be used to test out its noise figure and actually see if it could be employed on observing very sensitive sources. Similarly with the parametric amplifier, the first parametric amplifiers, those, for instance, made at Airborne Instruments Lab [AIL] by Matt Lebenbaum and Bernie Salzberg and so on. Those found immediate application to radio, radar, and other sensors, receivers and electronic support mechanisms. It's kind of an intelligence measure. But first usually tested out on some radio astronomy guys. That's the point. Similarly with data processing and the use of the hydrogen maser. Why, I can recall as clearly as a bell, people telling me, "Knock it off with Professor Ramsey in studying the hydrogen maser and evolving improved models." And in fact before that it was Zacharias and so on, the atomotron, all those devices came through our shop. And they said, "Well you can tell time well enough right now, don't bother me with one part in 1013." Wrong, wrong. The hydrogen maser was used in frequency synthesis and so on for many military applications and civilian applications today.

Sullivan

Is there anything in antennas? Most of what you said is receivers so far.

Shostak

Well, of course. Deep space tracking methods surely derived from the experience that came from radio astronomy. Many of the things that age Communications did and the SAGE system and so on. A very... Goldstone, Jet Propulsion Laboratory stuff, of course most of those people were originally at Caltech- a kind of fount for radio astronomers in this country.

Sullivan

OK. Well, that's a very useful overview. If you have any other comments...

Shostak

Well, I recommend you get ahold of Everett HurIburt.

Sullivan

I’ve got his name down.

Shostak

And if you want me to go out and call him...

Sullivan

Thank you very much. That ends the interview with Arnold Shostak on 20 June 1976.


Modified on Tuesday, 29-Jan-2013 08:50:23 EST by Ellen Bouton, Archivist (Questions or feedback)