[Westerhout, 1966]
Westerhout with the 300 foot, 1966 (Photo courtesy of NRAO/AUI/NSF)


[Westerhout and Frank Drake]
Westerhout and Frank Drake (Photo courtesy of NRAO/AUI/NSF)


NATIONAL RADIO ASTRONOMY OBSERVATORY ARCHIVES

Papers of Woodruff T. Sullivan III: Tapes Series

Interview with Gart Westerhout
At Max Planck Institute, Bonn, Germany
November 22, 1973
Interview Time: 2 hours, 20 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 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 1 | Part 2

Sullivan

With Gart Westerhout on 22 November ’73.

Westerhout

This was with Bernie Burke and Tuve, we started in the winter of '62 already and one thing I did was get a lot of line profiles along the galactic plane and in particular the Perseus region. And that's the work that Jim Rickard reduced and got his Master's thesis on. That was a terrible headache because it was all on flux state and all sorts of errors in it and a lot of just chart recorders in typical DTM [Department of Terrestrial Magnetism] fashion. I think I then slowly, but surely got involved in the survey. And I, of course, got very much involved in the initial stages and the debugging of the auto-correlator.

Sullivan

The 100-channel, yeah.

Westerhout

Yes, the 100-channel correlator, the first one. And in fact the initial tapes from that auto-correlator in the first few months, the tapes went to Maryland because there was no computer at NRAO. There was a correlator and a tape recorder, but no computer. There was a 1620 desk sort of computer which, however, of course couldn't read tapes. So [Art] Shalloway rigged up something that connected it in that could read it bit by bit. But in essence we checked those very initial tapes to find out if was there anything on it. We had a little box with iron filings and we could then through a magnifying glass see the actual bits on the tape. That was in the summer of '64 and a few months later they got their 7040.

Sullivan

That was the first summer you spent out there?

Westerhout

No, I spent the summer of '63 there again with Burke’s equipment. The first winter of '62 we didn't do too much, it was more trying things out and so on. But then that summer we spent several months getting 21 cm line profiles with the DTM receiver.

Sullivan

But you didn't publish any of this?

Westerhout

I didn’t publish any of it, no.

Sullivan

In fact, really none of this has been published in journals.

Westerhout

No. There some of it in symposia reports by Burke and some of it, of course, in the Carnegie Institution stuff. Well, what of Carnegie has been published in journals? Very little.

Sullivan

But I was just thinking even of all of your hydrogen work, none of it’s been published in journals.

Westerhout

No.

Sullivan

You had the two additions of the survey, and now the third one.

Westerhout

Yes, quite correct. I more or less stopped publishing extensive papers since I came to Maryland, that's quite correct. And I hope now that I'm off administrative duties that I'll be able to correct that. Even though I have quite a list of papers after I did come to Maryland, most of those are either review papers or papers with other people or what have you.

Sullivan

What was the motivation behind the large survey? I mean one can think of a couple of obvious things, but was it the next step from Kootwijk I to Kootwijk II and now this would be the one that...

Westerhout

Yes. In Dwingeloo they never got around to making a complete survey. So I decided let's skip that step and do it immediately with a large telescope and I know this is going to take a number of years, but so what, so it will take a number of years. Actually it took longer than I expected. In other words use the telescope with the highest resolution available for as wide a region of the Galaxy as possible. And it was quite clear that we have to get down to the details now.

Sullivan

And of course it's quite suitable for a survey instrument also.

Westerhout

Right. The main motivation was, well, as you have noticed from most of my papers, I think they are all survey papers, I'm that way motivated. I like to produce something that is useful more than once, not just to me but to a lot of people. I've been doing that in essence in a whole lot of my research and I wanted to do that specifically with that and I defended the surveys specifically on that basis, service to the community we needed. I'm interested in the Galaxy myself quite obviously. But there is such a wealth of material that you should get at it in a systematic way or you'll never get it.

Sullivan

I just thought of one question that [Peter G.] Mezger commented on a little bit this morning, namely the early days at NRAO [National Radio Astronomy Observatory] there was various friction between the universities and NRAO, the former thinking that the latter wasn't worth too much. Now you were a university user of it in the early days. Were you not agreeing with these people?

Westerhout

Of course, I was very strongly in disagreement with those people because I felt NRAO - don't forget that I, of course, came from a university where there was a national facility that could be used by that university and by anybody else. I was already aware of the advantages of that sort of a set up. Well, right from the start I felt that if you want large telescopes you should do it nationally and not spread the interest all that widely. So I was very... no, it was indeed true that initially because of some bungling with the 140 foot and so on, things didn't go as rapidly as perhaps they should have at NRAO. But even initially NRAO did quite a bit of pioneering work. Some of it didn't quite come off well.

Sullivan

Well, there was a period though, I mean the first couple of years after the Tatel telescope, yes, but wasn't there a period of from sort of '60 to '64 where there wasn't a whole lot coming out of NRAO?

Westerhout

I was going to say for the first years of the Tatel telescope there was quite a bit coming out at that point. Then, of course, came the 300 foot when it was clear that the 140 foot would take much longer. In fact, the Tatel telescope was built as an after-thought.

Sullivan

That's right. The 140 foot was going to be the first one.

Westerhout

Was going to be the first one, then they decided let's put a smaller one up, too. Thank goodness they thought, they decided that. And then, of course, the 300 foot was built out of surplus funds more or less. Not quite, of course, I mean they had to have permission and all that.

Sullivan

That was very successful.

Westerhout

An unbelievable masterpiece, that telescope.

Sullivan

Especially when you look at the cost of it.

Westerhout

Yes. Well, not only the cost but everything that could be done with it. The thing that was wrong with it was not the telescope, but the damn astronomers. Not only at NRAO, but in particular the damn astronomers everywhere else who said, "I don't want to use that telescope because it's a transit telescope and I want to be able to follow the source." The things that could have been done with that telescope that weren't done because people just were too lazy.

Sullivan

Too lazy to add up different days...

Westerhout

Yes, unbelievable. I have never understood that and I still don't.

Sullivan

Well, shall we go back to the trip around the world? I'm interested in your comments about what was going on then.

Westerhout

During that trip, of course, I also visited NRAO and in fact, I was the second outside user of NRAO. George Field was the first.

Sullivan

I've seen your thing on the 8000 MHz survey. You had a little write-up, I think for URSI [International Union of Radio Science] or something, describing whether it would be feasible to do a survey with the Tatel telescope, a continuum survey.

Westerhout

I did?

Sullivan

Yes, I found that somewhere, I can't remember where. I think it was- 8 GHz sticks in my mind.

Westerhout

Yes, right! That's what I was going to do. I was going to make an 8 GHz survey with that telescope.

Sullivan

This describes the feasibility of it. And I thought your conclusion was that there were some problems in doing it.

Westerhout

Yes, quite. That was in '59.

Sullivan

This may have been an internal report.

Westerhout

Ok, that's what you may have seen. I cut my stay at NRAO short and at the end of that period, I wrote an internal report. I rediscovered the fact that the sky at 3 cm radiates. That was a rather interesting thing. I concluded that, given the large bandwidth of the travelling wave tube receiver that they had at that time and so on, I could do it, make a survey. Of course then I was again interested in a continuum survey, this time at 3 cm with a much higher resolution, looking at really the thermal radiation only. I mean it was all beautifully completely workable. In fact I'd still like to do it sometime. But the one snag that neither I nor any of the people at NRAO realized was radiation of the sky, the variable radiation of the sky.

Sullivan

From the atmosphere?

Westerhout

Yes. That could indeed be as serious as it was. And this was very funny because this receiver was provided by Ewen-Knight and we blamed the thing on the receiver. So John Campbell from Ewen-Knight would come over and spend days trying to fix the instabilities on the receiver. Then it would go nice and smooth for a little while and then everything would go all over the scale again. The recorder had a full scale 2° or something like that. And I made quite a number - I spent a number of nights making scans across the Galaxy and in the end found out what it was by going through the old MIT series, war-time.

Sullivan

The Radiation Lab?

Westerhout

The Radiation Lab series. And calculating all the various then effects and I then wrote an internal report and left.

Sullivan

I guess they must have known this at NRL?

Westerhout

Yes.

Sullivan

But it just wasn't known at NRAO.

Westerhout

None of the people at NRAO. Neither did I.

Sullivan

You said that George Field was the first user? I didn't know that he had done any observational radio astronomy.

Westerhout

Yes. What was he doing there at 3 cm? I’m trying to think what he was going there at 3 cm. No, he wasn't doing anything at 3 cm. They had a 21 cm receiver and he was trying to look for intergalactic hydrogen.

Sullivan

Oh, yes, there is a paper...

Westerhout

He was trying to look for intergalactic hydrogen.

Sullivan

Was he at Berkeley then?

Westerhout

No, he was at that time, I think, Princeton. He was at Harvard before then.

Sullivan

He got his degree at Harvard?

Westerhout

I think he did.

Sullivan

I see, so he's gone full circle now.

Westerhout

That was a very nice time there at NRAO because everything was rather primitive- although they had beautiful equipment, things worked sort of primitively. And me with my enthusiasm, well, I always wanted things better and more automated. For example, Bill Meredith still remembers, he was one of the telescope operators at that time. And, of course, Fred Crews could tell you that story, too, about my digital recording mechanism. There was in the corner one of the Hewlett-Packard printers which printed out numbers, just intensities, nothing else. So I decided that I wanted positions on there as well. And there was no proper way to get positions on that. The only way I could see to get positions on there was every degree to move the paper one step. That wasn't possible either. The only way you could move the paper was pulling this little handle. So I made a string running all the way across the ceiling to the operator’s table and every time he passed a degree he pulled the string and the paper went one thing further.

Sullivan

This sounds familiar. It sounds like the set-up that you had for your occultation.

Westerhout

Yes, right. I think I was referring to that earlier when I was talking about the occultation. Beeswax and...

Sullivan

Sealing wax and...

Westerhout

No, string and beeswax or something...

Sullivan

String and sealing wax.

Westerhout

What is sealing wax?

Sullivan

To seal something.

Westerhout

Oh, that sort of sealing wax- not with a C.

Sullivan

So that was the situation at NRAO?

Westerhout

Right.

Sullivan

Who else did you visit?

Westerhout

Well, I started out at Ann Arbor and in essence the whole trip was more or less just inspecting, looking around, seeing what everybody was doing. I started out in Ann Arbor and I went to Columbus, Ohio and saw...

Sullivan

Well, hold it. Can you just tell me very briefly just what was going on? At Ann Arbor did they have the 85 foot?

Westerhout

Yes - no. The 85 foot was just being finished. It was slightly behind the one at NRAO. And they had their 20 foot or whatever it was, and they were doing solar patrol and that was about it.

Sullivan

That was [Fred T.] Haddock?

Westerhout

That was Haddock and Howard was there at the time.

Sullivan

And then Ohio State?

Westerhout

Then I went to Ohio State and saw [John D.] Kraus' helical array with 96 helices- that was a neat instrument. And I went to Toronto where I saw [William H.] McCrae who had some horn antenna set up to do an absolute flux measurement experiment. And then I went to Harvard where, of course, I saw - Bok at that time was already in Australia and had been for quite a while- Tommy [Thomas] Gold was there in charge of the place.

Sullivan

He was in charge of the Agassiz station?

Westerhout

Of the Agassiz station but about to go to Cornell and trying hard to convince me to take it over. So I saw the Agassiz station set-up and I was very unimpressed by the general ineptitude of everybody. I had the feeling that they got absolutely nowhere. They had all sorts of equipment, but they weren't doing much. I mean, as compared to what they were doing in Holland. I found Harvard passé.

Sullivan

It's funny though, a number of good people did come out of that, but yet the work they did at that time I have to agree with you is not very interesting and in fact a couple of the things are just plain wrong, of course.

Westerhout

But yet a number of good people came out of it, so you never can tell. And of course I visited NRL quite extensively.

Sullivan

What was your impression there?

Westerhout

I was very impressed with NRL. There was an enormous amount going on, I mean all the way to the very high frequencies. I was sort of disgusted, and I told them so, that they didn't make more use of their big dish.

Sullivan

Which one, the 84 foot?

Westerhout

No.

Sullivan

The 50 foot?

Westerhout

The one on the roof.

Sullivan

Yes, by then it was switching over to radar.

Westerhout

Yes. And I absolutely flabbergasted Ed [Edward F.] McClain, who was then head of the section, by asking him when the 600 foot telescope was going to be ready. And he went, "What 600 foot telescope?" I said, "The 600 foot telescope that you're all building in West Virginia." Then he finally had to come up and he says, "How do you know?"

Sullivan

Was it supposed to be secret?

Westerhout

Yes! At that time it was highly classified. But we all knew about it in Holland somehow or another.

Sullivan

This was '58, wasn't it?

Westerhout

'59.

Sullivan

Oh, yes, very early.

Westerhout

We all knew about it in Holland.

Sullivan

This was before any of the real troubles began with it?

Westerhout

Yes, quite. So I got absolutely nothing out of him, obviously, because it was a classified subject. But I can still see him absolutely reeling back after this Dutchman tells him... for all you know he may have thought I was a spy from the CIA or something.

Sullivan

That why they made you have an escort around the Laboratory, you may remember that. As a foreigner, you had to have an escort?

Westerhout

Oh, yes. Well, that's still so. It's always the case. And so I think I visited NRL twice, I came back from NRAO to visit them once more. I was very- oh, those were the days, too. Here's maybe not an anecdote, but a real historical thing. I don't think you've ever seen it that way. The DTM, Broad Branch Road, Washington N.W.- they had this Würzburg sitting in the back yard and from the Würzburg went a little cable into the Lab and the Lab was in a room next to the Director's office, which was Merle Tuve’s. And the Lab was an absolute mess, wires coming in here, wires strung from here to there, an unbelievable mess. But somewhere in the middle was the recorder with a little table in front of it. And there were recording charts all over. So I came in and I was ushered into Tuve's office and we talked for about five minutes and Tuve said, 'We're wasting our time! Let's take some data while we're talking." So we open this door in his Lab and he switched on the recorder and said, "Where shall we point it today?" So we decided to point it - I wanted to see the famous λ = 50°, b=0°: our standard fields, so we pointed it to λ=50°, b=0°. That took quite a bit of doing. And in it came, "Oh, isn't that marvelous, look at those peaks, now let's look at something else." So we looked at something else. And that was a way line profiles were recorded at the DTM. Ah, most remarkable.

Sullivan

I'm sorry, this was the same one that was shown the Queen? The same field? I thought you said 150.

Westerhout

No, λ = 50°.

Sullivan

I thought earlier you had said 150.

Westerhout

No. λ is 50, b is 0. It's in the neighborhood of new longitude 90°. Just a Leiden standard field. It's a rotten field for a standard field. But I don't know how we got to use it. It's one of the classical profiles that goes with three beautiful humps and a little fourth hump at the end. On the one hand I was impressed by the way in which something came out of all the wires. On the other hand I was somewhat amazed that they had such good equipment there and did nothing with it. And I saw the Mills Cross out on River Road. And then I went to NRAO and stayed there for a number of weeks. Let me see, what other places did I visit on the East Coast- I think that was about it. There was Princeton and things like that, but there isn't much to say about those. I went to an AAS [American Astronomical Society] meeting in Rochester. And then I went to Caltech and I spent about two months at Caltech. Instead of spending the two months at NRAO, I then spent the two months at Caltech. I don't quite know what I did except talk with people, did a lot of talking to people. I didn't make any observations as such.

Sullivan

What did they have there then?

Westerhout

They had the new interferometer which was ready.

Sullivan

This was '59?

Westerhout

Yes.

Sullivan

Ok, it had just started.

Westerhout

Yeah, it was just starting up. That of course was a very exciting time. Everything was humming and buzzing with interest.

Sullivan

What about the optical astronomers there? Were they sort of aloof from all this radio stuff then?

Westerhout

Yes. I was and I have always been, invariably, even now, whenever I visit Caltech, I am always disgusted at the way the optical astronomers don't really know what's going on. They have no contact with the radio astronomy group even though it's in the same building and everything. It's amazing, absolutely amazing. And that includes Schmidt.

Sullivan

Yes, that's surprising.

Westerhout

Very surprising.

Sullivan

And even with [Jesse] Greenstein having contributed quite a bit to the early theory of radio.

Westerhout

Yes. They were sort of benevolently looking on. It was a good source of money, there was plenty endowed by the Navy or whatever, and I think they didn't see too much in it.

Sullivan

But scientifically it really wasn't.

Westerhout

I've always found that amazing. And that, of course, has been the downfall of Owens Valley, the array that they wanted to build.

Sullivan

Of the optical...

Westerhout

No, the lack of interest of Caltech itself. The radio astronomers were enthusiastic, but the school wasn't interested.

Sullivan

I didn't realize that. You mean for the full array?

Westerhout

Yes, the big one, when there was this competition between the VLA and the Owens Valley array before the Dicke committee. And then there was, of course, the various big dishes as well. I think that was the downfall, the non-interest from the optical astronomers was the downfall of that. The other thing that I'm always blaming them for is that they did not latch on immediately to Ryle's supersynthesis idea. They have all the phase equipment except that they didn't have a phase-stable system, even though a phase-stable system had already been made and proven and was in full operation at Stanford several years before, as developed by [Govind] Swarup- they didn't bother about a phase-stable system. They were working all the time- I'm now talking about '62 when Ryle came out with the supersynthesis thing. They had two dishes and they just had amplitude spacing diagrams and then fitted crude models to it. And they could have within half a year completely wiped out the field. When did they finally have a phase-stable system, starting doing aperture synthesis ... Oh, I don't know.

Sullivan

'65.

Westerhout

No, much later, '68. Long after Ryle had come out with all the beautiful maps.

Sullivan

Yes, you're right.

Westerhout

That really I would say sets.

Sullivan

Well, Kurt Weiler’s stuff I think was amongst the earliest of it- the Crab and all.

Westerhout

Yes. That I think really set radio astronomy in the United States back quite a bit. The fact that people in general did not catch on to new ideas, they stuck to their own old ways.

Sullivan

Well, do you have some other examples of that?

Westerhout

...(no answer)

Sullivan

Of course there's the whole fact that it wasn't developed at all after the War, whereas in England and Australia and in Holland it was.

Westerhout

Yes, but it got an enormous kick in the pants in the late 50s. Yet, somehow or another it didn't develop and the main reason there is that there was no astronomer interest. The only astronomer who was interested in a way was Bok and he left.

Sullivan

But that wasn't really what made it go. Well, in Holland, you have Oort, of course, but in England it certainly wasn't classical astronomer interest that made...

Westerhout

No, it wasn't classical astronomer interest. The people who were doing it were physicists who were interested in getting results. They were technicians.

Sullivan

You mean interest from the scientists rather than engineers?

Westerhout

Yes engineers, right. Sorry, I didn't mean to use the word technicians- engineers, right. It was engineers in almost every place. And those in collaboration with the astronomers could have done a lot, but somehow or another the astronomers never got to it. Dicke's hole in the ground is a funny example of that. I mean Swenson is a marvelous engineer. A hole in the ground was built, it had its struggles but somehow or another [George C.] McVitte wasn't the man to run it. And when support folded- no, not when support folded- he felt that the Navy had given him an assignment and it is little to do with the University, and he never got any University people involved. So eventually the thing fizzled out.

Sullivan

Did you visit Stanford?

Westerhout

Yes, I visited Stanford. I visited Berkeley.

Sullivan

What was going on?

Westerhout

Of course, I visited Berkely but I’m trying to figure out what was going on at Berkeley. I didn't go to Hat Creek because Hat Creek didn't exist yet. They were building Hat Creek. At Stanford, of course, there was Bracewell's beautiful solar cross which was going full tilt. That was a marvelous piece of machinery.

Sullivan

Who else was at Stanford besides Bracewell? You said Swarup.

Westerhout

Swarup was at Stanford at the time. There must have been a few more people, but I can't think of any names. [A. Richard] Thompson came later - Thompson was still in England at that time. He didn't come that much later, he came in the early ‘60s, very early ‘60s.

Sullivan

What about - I guess that covers the U.S.

Westerhout

Yes. I went to Australia and, of course, I was very impressed by CSIRO. This was when they were just beginning to lay - sticking for the first spades in the ground for Parkes. Everybody was still at CSIRO - am I right? '59.

Sullivan

Yes, they didn't start leaving until about 1960-61.

Westerhout

But you could feel the friction already at that stage. I mean they were in completely separate groups who would hardly talk to each other. But the thing that impressed me most at CSIRO was the unbelievable support staff. I mean the huge workshops. That's what made CSIRO what it is, that they have this enormous amount of manpower and availability of workshop time. I mean Paul Wild's machine, his circle, every single antenna was built in the workshop. Nothing was contracted out. The same with [Wilbur Norman "Chris"] Christiansen's array, which is still in use.

Sullivan

This was true in the late ‘50s also?

Westerhout

Oh yes, they had an enormous workshop.

Sullivan

Were most of the early antennas all- the early dishes all built...

Westerhout

All homemade.

Sullivan

I didn't realize that. So where else did you go? I guess all that's left is England and maybe France.

Westerhout

England and France I went to... oh, there's another section. I think this covers this particular trip around the world. There's another section after that and somewhat before that where you may be interested in hearing some of my comments and that is the Benelux Cross. This is an entirely different subject. You might write the number where we start on the Benelux Cross.

I was involved in that, of course, from the very beginning, which I think was '57 when Charles Seeger suggested a million dipoles in the form of a cross at 400 megacycles. I sincerely think that that man was an idealist and when he had an ideal and was enthusiastic for something he would not stop talking about it, and come up with more ideas and more suggestions and more things you could do with it. And he kept talking to Oort. And I think he talked Oort into it. I think the fact that there is Westerbork now is initially due to the enthusiasm of Seeger for building something really big. He would never bring it off, but he would certainly initiate the thoughts. The million dipoles of course already shows how completely unrealistic it was. But the idea of having something going, something big. And then Oort somehow or another got on of course to making it the Benelux project. Maybe it wasn't Oort, maybe it was [J. H.] Bannier and Z.W.O. [Netherlands Organization for the Advancement of Pure Research] who thought that might be a good trick. Of course it then became quite a design study of cylindrical paraboloids. At that point Bologna froze it because they at that point had money and built cylindrical paraboloids, more or less precisely to Leiden design.

Sullivan

Yes, Christiansen went down there and advised them for a few months.

Westerhout

That was still for 400 MHz and that was many kilometers long. I still remember making a picture of it on a map of Leiden to show how big it was. It was hanging on the wall for a long time there in the Sterrenwacht. And then it finally became 125 25 meter dishes in the form of a cross. And that was the point where we said now we're almost there. That was the most we were seriously negotiating with the Belgians about who was going to get what and where it was going. And I was then in charge of the site survey. And boy did I travel around. And the funny thing is that people kept saying, later on in particular, people always said, "Well, of course, it had to be built on the border of Holland and Belgium because it was a Benelux instrument." That was not the original reason at all. It so turned out that that was among all the various regions concerned, one of the thinnest populated regions. All border regions in general are thinly populated because the towns are either off in that direction or off in that direction with only one or two main roads in between.

Sullivan

Why are the towns that way?

Westerhout

People don't cross borders! Right?

Sullivan

So you can't have a town right...

Westerhout

So you can't have a town right on one side of the border. So the border area in general in many areas sets the towns rather far removed from each other. And no main roads. Little roads that gradually grow bigger as they get closer to the towns. But the roads are littlest right around the border areas. So looking at the maps and population general densities and industries and so on, those general areas between Holland and Belgium were extremely useful. Other areas that were useful were, of course, up north and the Zuiderzee.

Sullivan

You mean the polder land?

Westerhout

Yeah the polder land. We went and made a big expedition there with the heads of the Zuiderzee Werken and designed the thing right along a dike. In fact, we could still have had the dikes slightly changed before it was actually dredged out had we made the decision within the next three months then or so. They were still at the position where they could have arranged things according to our pleasure. And engineers went into studies of how stable the stuff would be, how fast it would sag, and it turned out that it was remarkably little after the initial settling of the soil. You did not have to worry too much about the telescope sort of slowly but surely sagging as the soil settled further. After the initial year where everything more or less settled and the water has been pumped out, very little more happens.

Sullivan

So your recommendation turned out to have political advantages, but that wasn't the reason...

Westerhout

That wasn't the reason, no. We drove back and forth around that border with special- usually accompanied by special customs officers or something like that. Because at the same time, we didn't want to give it too much fanfare.

Sullivan

Yes, publicity.

Westerhout

Publicity, at all. And we found a most marvelous site. That was the site in fact we had more or less decided on in the end, when we found out that in the big future plan, European Route E-3 or something like that was going to go right through there. And we still decided for that area because we then figured out that we could shield E-3. I then went to the Dutch Railways. Let me see, why the Dutch Railways? The Dutch Railways were very good at putting up masts and posts and things like that. So I had them calculate how much it would cost to put up concrete or what have you, or metal masts all the way across a railroad track, over such and such a length, and then cover them with wire. In other words put the whole E-3 in a Faraday cage. It was rather expensive- it was a million guilders or a few million guilders or something like that. So that was one possibility. The other possibility, which was very much cheaper which came to about a million guilders, was to make a dike on the appropriate side of that road.

Sullivan

A bank?

Westerhout

Yes. The bank was supposed to be 5 or 6 meters high and then on top of it we going to put a 5 meter metal fence. And believe it or not the calculation showed that that got the radio noise from cars riding on that road down by, I seem to remember 64 dB or something like that. Unbelievable! Just that expediency of going up 10 meters.

Sullivan

This is what they’re going to end up doing for the Cambridge 5 km with the nearby expressway.

Westerhout

Oh, they are? There is an expressway going by there? I didn’t know that.

Sullivan

They're going to have a big mound and a big fence, just this same sort of thing you're describing. That was the compromise.

Westerhout

So I was rather involved in that thing until more or less until the time here. In December of '61 we had this OECD Symposium in Paris, which I'm sure you have the proceedings of. I gave two papers there, one on the site survey and one on the sensitivity limits of an unfilled aperture with all the various quantities involved.

Sullivan

But you never got into interferometry?

Westerhout

No, I personally never got in to interferometry. I wanted to get into line interferometry at NRAO, but somehow or another NRAO decided they wanted to make that an in-house effort. So I never got into that. That was a pity. I certainly would have liked to. And of course I was at that stage already getting too involved in all the various administration problems at Maryland that I could really simply say, well, never mind whether you like it or not, I'm going to do it. What with Heinz there, I think we would have been able to get at it much more quickly than they actually did at NRAO.

Sullivan

Yes, and of course that's still not really figured out.

Westerhout

It’s still not really figured out.

Sullivan

Well, I think that covers an awful lot unless you can think of some other things that you'd like to put on the record. Thank you very much. The ends the interview with Gart Westerhout on 22 November 1973.

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Modified on Tuesday, 23-Dec-2014 14:30:19 EST by Ellen Bouton, Archivist (Questions or feedback)