Campbell M. Wade, interviewed by Kenneth I. Kellermann on 21 March 2015

Creator

Papers of Kenneth I. Kellermann

Rights

Contact Archivist for rights information.

Type

Oral History

Interviewer

Kellermann, Kenneth I.

Interviewee

Wade, Campbell M.

Location

Original Format of Digital Item

Digital audio file

Duration

2 hours, 4 minutes

Start Date

2015-03-21

Notes

Transcribed by Candice Waller and Ellen N. Bouton, 2017-2018
In 2018, the transcription was read and edited for clarity by Wade, and some short portions were temporarily redacted at Wade's request. It was prepared for the web by Ellen Bouton in 2018. Minor notes added for clarity in the 2018 review process are in brackets. Only part 1 is available in audio format.

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.

Series

Oral Histories Series

Transcription

Begin Part 1

Kellermann

Ok, so it’s March 21st, I think?

Wade

March 21st.

Kellermann

And we’re in Socorro with Cam Wade. Not Socorro. Albuquerque with Cam Wade. And we’re going to talk about the early years at NRAO, in particularly with respect to the VLA. So, as I remember you, you finished at Harvard, you went to Australia for two years, and then you came directly here. To Green Bank. What brought you to Green Bank? Were you recruited? Or it was on your own?

Wade

I had been corresponding with Dave Heeschen all through that time, and so eventually I – I don’t think I asked for a job. It would have been obvious to anyone I would like to have it. And so, duly it was done, it was a near thing, because I think if I had stayed in Australia another year, I might have stayed down there permanently.

Kellermann

Yeah, I know what you mean.

Wade

I had a, I went down with one child, came back with two, all that. I should caution you before we go further, my memory is not likely to be perfect, and I’m sure of that because there are things that I have a very clear memory of that also could not have happened the way I remember them. And with advancing age, one wonders.

Kellermann

Well I know, but you know, there are other people, I think I told you, I talked with Dave Heeschen a lot – Oh! That reminds me, I had lunch yesterday with Dave Hogg and Ted Riffe and they both said to say, “hello.”

Wade

Oh, thank you. Oh, please when you have the opportunity, return the greeting.

Kellermann

We talked to lots of people, because, you know, you try to get the same story from everybody.

Wade

Well, because people, I have seen this more and more as I get older, people will both remember the same incident, but they will not remember it the same. And —

Kellermann

Well, in fact, yesterday at lunch with Ted, no it was Dave, he told one story about when Barry [Clark] and I got tenure together, and the story I had heard was slightly different.

Wade

OK [Laughter]

Kellermann

Anyway, yeah so you and Dave -

Wade

You and the gospel according to Wade, yeah all right.

Kellermann

But in that interview you had with Robyn [****Harrison, interview with Wade. December 2003], you mention other offers that you had, or other possibilities beside NRAO.

Wade

Oh! At that stage there weren’t any that really interested me. I think Caltech was looking for people, but NRAO sounded right, and that’s also nearer the part of the country that I came from, and that, I come from a rather strong family so that was a factor.

Kellermann

Ok, go back, I’m just remembering when we talked with Dave Heeschen, and I think you alluded to this in your interview with Robyn, but she didn’t know enough of the background to pursue it. You played a major role at Harvard in getting him started in 21 cm research.

Wade

I probably did. I think I made the difference to helping the seesaw –

Kellermann

Well, what happened?

Wade

Ok, well, what happened was I came back after serving my country for several years in January of 1952. And when I was in the Army we were an artillery unit, we did a lot of work with radio, and I got interested in radio. I learned a fair bit about radio as practiced at that time. And I also, I kept up with Sky and Telescope, and things like that, while I was playing soldier, and could see that things were happening in radio part of the spectrum. And no expertise, but an awareness that things were going on there, this was a new field to plow. And so, I came back, as I recall, I talked to Bart Bok, whom I had known slightly before I went off in service.

Kellermann

You had already been a few years at Harvard before you went to the military?

Wade

I had two years at Harvard, and then they couldn’t handle the situation without the 452nd Army Field Artillery Battalion, of which I was a part [Laughter] and so I came back, and – most of us came back – but anyway, we, we’re not the same. I had my eyes open to a lot of things, and it was being young and brash and having nothing to lose, and I renewed acquaintances with Bart Bok, who was pretty much my mentor, he said, “Why don’t we at least look at what you can do in the radio.” Well, the timing was very good because that was very near the time when Doc Ewen had gotten the 21cm line at Harvard, and then Purcell who was Doc Ewen’s advisor, was a close friend of Bart Bok.

Kellermann

So when was this, when did you come back? Before or after the –

Wade

Let’s see, I think he had already found it, before, I think it was in ’51.

Kellermann

Yes, it was ’51, and you came back —

Wade

I came back in early ’52. And so it was all there, but nobody at Harvard had any background in this. They knew what Ewen had done because of the connection was intergalactic, excuse me, interstellar space, Bart Bok was more likely to be interested than people like Menzel or Whipple. And so he was more receptive. But, I think what I did was to get people of some influence to actually thinking about it, just by being brash and asking stupid questions, which is something I’m good at. So, that was my contribution, but then I was much involved with it and we got it going – we built the 20 foot dish.

Kellermann

Dave Heeschen said that you had gone to Ewen to work with him…

Wade

I worked for Doc Ewen, that’s how I made my money when my first child was on the way [laughter], but I worked gratis on a lot of that stuff, but what we tried to do was adapt the, well, back up here. They arranged for Dave Heeschen and Ed Lilley, both graduate students, and myself coming back as a junior, at what should have been my senior year, or the last semester of it, we were designated to go and work with Doc Ewen and learn how to run his equipment. Well Doc took us down and showed us, a lot of the jargon that I’ve never heard before still sticks with me. For example, when you’re – the set up procedure on this lab-grade equipment, not field-grade, was pretty daunting. And Doc was really slangy. I remember, “What does he mean ‘we’re beating the crystal against the rail’?” [Laughter].

Kellermann

Yup, I know what you mean.

Wade

A precarious kind of thing. So anyhow, we three learned how to get that thing set up and going, and that funnel-shaped horned antenna, that’s out in front of the Jansky lab. I guess it’s still there?

Kellermann

Yup.

Wade

Now, stuck out of the window upstairs in Jefferson Hall, the physics building, and that’s where we went and learned how to use it. Doc’s equipment was still set up just inside, more or less as he used it. Well, that was all great. And then, not sure how we’d discovered this, I think maybe we went back there, the three of us, to see if we could remember how to set it up, and the room was locked. Well, what happened, nobody told us, the physics department decided to shift all that equipment down to the Carnegie Institute in Washington. So it disappeared from Harvard. But Doc wanted to build a new receiver and all that. And he did it, and everything was very primitive in those days by modern standards, and much vacuum tube stuff, and so on. One thing led to another, I think it was by December 1953 we had that small antenna, I believe it was 20-24 feet in diameter at Agassiz station. And we all began, it was Lilley, and Heeschen, and myself. Largely we got everything set up. We did everything from greasing the gears, to tuning the electronics –

Kellermann

So where were people like Howard and Menon and Kassim, because they were all senior to you, weren’t they?

Wade

They were ahead of me, they came into that thing later on. [Note added 2018 by Wade: The grad students came in this order: (1,2) Heeschen and Lilley, (3) Matthews, (4) Menon, (5) Wade. Howard, Drake, Kassim, Dieter, and one other followed me.] Tom Matthews and Kochu Menon got involved with that small antenna out there and they, I think, Howard and Kassim came in later when we had the 60-foot, if I recall, we got the, well we were running the, why can’t I remember, it was 20 or 24 foot, but I think it’s gone to China now or something. But it was 1953-54, I lived at Aggasiz Station free, in return for being janitor, and that was fine. The Heechens were living there in the Aggasiz Cottage with their little two-year old daughter. And I lived upstairs; they lived downstairs. We all worked together a lot getting that going, ’53 into ’54. If I recall, it was ’54 that Dave and Ed had their oral exams on the same day. But it’s not clear who was the first, because Ed went first before the Board for the oral, he passed but it was a conditional pass. The condition was that he learn enough German to pass his exam. So whereas Dave Heeschen got it all finished off [Laughter] a couple hours later, you know? All complete. [Note added 2018 by Kellermann: It was Heeschen who didn’t pass the German.] [Note added 2018 by Wade: I still think it was Lilley!]

Kellermann

No he had some issue too, because, no I think he also had a language problem because he, when he left to go to Wesleyan to teach, he said he was supposed to be an assistant professor, and they down-graded him because he hadn’t completed his —

Wade

I didn’t know that. Ok, so maybe they were in it together. Ok.

Kellermann

Yeah, apparently, that’s something that’s been burning him up for 50 years and he kept it in [Laughter].

Wade

Well, I never had any problem with German. Older people in my family were speaking it when I was a kid.

Kellermann

In fact, the date that he gives on his CV for his PhD is not the date that Harvard granted it because of this delay.

Wade

Oh ok, there’s also a scheduling problem; they date their degrees at semesters, and see, so I finished everything first of August, 1957. But my degree is dated 1958.

Kellermann

Right. I presume you were at the dedication of the 60-foot antenna in ’56.

Wade

Yeah I was there, and Bart Bok was about to take off for Australia then. And —

Kellermann

I was there.

Wade

You were there?

Kellermann

I was there!

Wade

My God!

Kellermann

I was a freshman at MIT, I was taking an astronomy course; it was taught by a geologist, and he took us out there.

Wade

Ok, you and I were breathing the same air, but we didn’t know it [Laughter]. Ok, great.

Kellermann

That was my first exposure to radio astronomy.

Wade

Ok, alright, well -

Kellermann

We had one lecture during this course, it was a guy from BU who later did work on Stonehenge, he was quite well-known. Do you know who I mean?

Wade

Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah I know it was an Englishman. He wrote the book on Stonehenge, [Gerald] Hawkins.

Kellermann

That’s right. And he came in, for some reason he was called in to give a class on radio astronomy.

Wade

He was a somewhat strange guy, a fun guy, but he was strange.

Kellermann

Anyway, let’s get back to the VLA. So I read your 1963 memo, which sort of outlined everything.

Wade

Nobody reads that. Remember you notice the date it was written? The day before Kennedy was shot. Nobody’s paying any attention to -

Kellermann

Yes! I did not appreciate that until I read your interview with Robyn.

Wade

I didn’t know anybody had ever read it.

Kellermann

Dave Heeschen pointed us to it, and he sort of thought that was the, that was the sort of the beginning.

Wade

OK. I went out and spent about 3 weeks at Caltech. [Note added 2018 by Wade: November 1962]

Kellermann

Right.

Wade

And that must be where I actually met you.

Kellermann

That’s right, in the Owen’s Valley.

Wade

I remember Bob Wilson was still a graduate student then.

Kellermann

Well, you’re getting a little bit ahead. First, what inspired that memo? Was it that Heeschen requested this to get something down on paper that you guys had been talking about?

Wade

Alright. My recollection, you know, going back, you certainly know from the interview about the coffee break in ’61.

Kellermann

You mentioned that, yeah.

Wade

And so this was, I think, some people were thinking about it. Dave Heeschen had a lot on his mind besides the new projects then.

Kellermann

The 140-foot.

Wade

The 140-foot was big. We all did. I was trying to get some research done, some papers written, blah, blah, blah, but I think, of the members of the scientific staff, I was a little more intrigued with this idea than any of the others at the time. Dave Hogg, I think, was a graduate student at the time. He doesn’t remember that meeting, that coffee break, at least he didn’t at the time I talked to him a year or so ago. I remember it very well, I could go point to where the table was in the cafeteria. I tend to have a very geometrical memory, which can be handy. But, let’s see, back to the thing, writing the thing. I had learned a lot during that visit to Caltech, which was essentially October of ’62 and then I went up and spent a couple days in the San Francisco area, actually down at the place south, the fiber optics were just coming along.

Kellermann

Well, I was surprised when I read that. I wasn’t aware that it was being done that early.

Wade

So I visited some industrial places there, and that was the one time I visited the Stanford effort. I guess Dave Cudaback, I lost track of him, maybe he doesn’t live anymore.

Kellermann

I don’t know.

Wade

He was the one who showed me around because Bracewell was out of town. But anyway, I found it very interesting. But I concluded correctly that we’d better stick with cable at that stage because it was obvious that technology was a), promising, b), had a hell of a long way to go before it was useful. And so – But I’d been thinking about all this array stuff, and I believe when I wrote that thing, I don’t even have a copy of it now, I’m pretty sure, I saved very little when I left. I think we were still thinking in terms of just a rectangular array. We hadn’t gotten to the point of seeing if that was the best way to do it. Leonard Chow later on came up with a “Y” configuration.

Kellermann

By rectangular, you mean a “T,” or a cross.

Wade

Alright, a “T” is a subset of a rectangle. So yeah –

Kellermann

Right. You didn’t mean NxM antennas in a rectangle -

Wade

No, it was, I was just trying to get a few things down to start from. I’d sort of say alright, something needs to work on. Let’s assume this, let’s then see if we can beat it. And that comes naturally to me, and so we did. It was in the course of that, that I realized that the locus in the UV-plane for a two element interferometer was a true ellipse. And that I’m sure other people knew it, but I discovered it for myself, and just because when I wrote those parametric equations, I realized, “I’ve seen these before somewhere.” And I think that’s where I discovered there were ellipses in the UV-plane, and – I can’t even recall what all I did there. But I handed it in, and it was circulated, but nobody was thinking about that stuff because of the Kennedy assassination, and after all these years, I assumed nobody had ever read it.

Kellermann

Dave brought it to my attention, Dave Heeschen.

Wade

Ok, great.

Kellermann

In his mind that was sort of the initiation of the —

Wade

Ok, well, as I say I was writing it down largely for our own benefit, but figured so that everybody speaks the same language, I should circulate it. It’s as simple as that. Now at that point I, that was the same week that I turned 33 just to get a scale on it, so I was a lot younger then, it was 51 years ago!

Kellermann

Well as you pointed out, everybody was young then.

Wade

Yeah.

Kellermann

I wonder if it was possible because the science was young.

Wade

It was. But you know, can I digress just a moment, I mentioned this the last time I sat down and talked at any length with Dave Heeschen, it was the 80th birthday party for George Swenson, and I was in fact invited by the Dickels. And we sat down there at Dickel’s house one day, Dave and I, reminisced a bit, and I ventured to him an idea that I think still has merit. We’d never have built the VLA except that we were young. We didn’t realize what couldn’t be done. So we went out and did it. I don’t know if that makes sense to you.

Kellermann

Yeah, sure it does.

Wade

But it, that –

Kellermann

It’s true of lots of things, you wouldn’t get into it if you knew how difficult it was going to be. Incidentally, George is still going strong.

Wade

Yeah, I know I saw him there; he was 80.

Kellermann

No, no, but I talked to him a few months ago.

Wade

Oh, you did, ok. He’d be in his 90s. I don’t know if he’s still flying airplanes, he was when he was 80, though. He must have done it right, he’s lived till his 90s, you know.

Kellermann

I asked him about that, but I honestly don’t remember the answer.

Wade

Huh, ok.

Kellermann

But he was still working, and he still has his office, and he was still doing mostly in acoustics, you remember he was doing a lot -

Wade

One of the problems with George was, until you knew him well, he didn’t come across as being particularly intelligent. Then you realized, hell, there’s a lot here.

Kellermann

So in that memo, I was interested in how you came up with an 82-foot antenna, by some diabolical circuitous argument that with hindsight is completely irrelevant.

Wade

We all had a gut feeling that 25 meters is probably about right. A subjective thing. However, when it came time to write the proposal, I wrote the chapter on the antenna and went through all the thermodynamic arguments to show that given what receiver characteristic, blah, blah, blah, 25 meters was reasonable.

Kellermann

But in that memo you had how long it took to go through one cell of the UV-plane was 350 seconds, and therefore -

Wade

You remember more of that than I do.

Kellermann

Well, I just read it.

Wade

Oh, you just read it, ok. I wonder if I would recognize it.

Kellermann

You came up with the right answer.

Wade

Well, anyway, just a small digression here, it’s not what you’re writing about. But you know, Bob Hjellming and I got the first, possibly the first, believable stellar radiation using Green Bank interferometer, and you know how that started?

Kellermann

I think I did know, but I don’t remember.

Wade

What it was, I got to wondering here, I was using the equation in the proposal that I derived, and figured, you know, given the right atmospheric properties on stars and so on, I think it first would be Be stars because there’s something funny going on outside the atmosphere. And you know, it should be detectable, but that was the first coincidence, and the second coincidence is I quickly realized that I didn’t know enough about stars, so I walked down the hall and said, “Can I pick your brain, Bob?” [Laughter] Now he got interested. So we got busy and came up with all the wrong answers. But this was just the time the 3-element interferometer was going, and so they turned the 3-element interferometer over to us so we could get it working.

Kellermann

Right.

Wade

Well, it turns out the engineers were so good it was working from the first day or so. So we had all this time we found all sorts of stars that didn’t radiate but we got normal novae. And there’s more story there, you didn’t come to talk about that, but the serendipity of it was terrific. But it was that chapter of the VLA proposal that I think is where the idea came in my head and Bob Hjellming picked up right on it and pretty soon was running away with it.

Kellermann

Yep.

Wade

And so – But the stellar radio emission was another thing, but it was a byproduct of the VLA proposal, in my opinion. The only person who could dispute it would be Bob Hjellming, and he’s not around to do so, so –

Kellermann

Wait a minute I’m missing something here. Maybe I was writing something. Say it again, what did they VLA proposal have to do with it?

Wade

The chapter on the antenna, we had to justify the 25 meters. So I went through all this, it’s sort of a theological argument, you know, you start out with the answer and come up with the right questions. And so that was it, but we divided up the proposal writing. Are you aware of how we did that? This was George’s idea. Everybody had a chapter, or chapters, to write. I had two. The site, and the antennas, which is largely theoretical. Then, each of us gave our chapters to somebody else to rewrite. Mine weren’t rewritten very much because nobody else knew any more about it than I did. Some others got heavily rewritten. It was a good approach, though, because it meant that one guys shortcomings and strengths did not dominate the chapter. And it was a good idea.

Kellermann

Dave set it up that way, didn’t he?

Wade

Dave certainly went along with it, but —

Kellermann

Oh, George.

Wade

But I think the idea was George’s, that is my recollection, for what it’s worth.

Kellermann

Yeah, no you said that. That’s right. But, so you were looking, I still don’t get the connection, so you were looking to see what sensitivity was needed to detect stars.

Wade

Well, why do we have 25 meter antennas?

Kellermann

Right.

Wade

To be perfectly honest, we all thought, “Well, that’s reasonable.”

Kellermann

They were also available commercially.

Wade

And the technology for building them actually existed. So we didn’t have to break a lot of new ground to do it.

Kellermann

You had one already.

Wade

That’s right, we had one. You’re exactly right, and then we added to it. Because of the VLA, that’s how we got into the interferometer.

Kellermann

No, I know that, yes.

Wade

Anyway, you got to keep me from rambling here, because you’re bringing floods of memories back.

Kellermann

But again, you were looking at what sensitivity you needed to detect the stars?

Wade

Yes, and it was an argument given what we knew would be reasonable – by that time we knew that radio galaxies were a dominant thing for radio astronomy. For example, we knew that most of these extragalactic sources were double.

Kellermann

The whole VLA proposal is based on that.

Wade

It was, in the background, it was how to do we build an instrument to exploit the doors that are open by the phenomena we’re seeing. And you came in and did quite a bit with it, too.

Kellermann

Sources counts and everything.

Wade

So this was a lot of interaction.

Kellermann

In 1962 Joe Pawsey visited Green Bank. Pawsey –

Wade

Oh, Joe Pawsey, yeah.

Kellermann

The new director.

Wade

That’s where his brain tumor surgery (?) I can remember —

Kellermann

Do you remember meeting with him or talking to him?

Wade

Oh, very much. Oh, he was my boss in Australia, remember.

Kellermann

Right.

Wade

But I was sitting in my office there upstairs in Jansky lab, and Pawsey was the prospective new director, and the AUI Board appointed him. He was over there seeing what the deal was. And he had a rather distinctive walk. And I can remember he was quite tall, rather slender. You probably knew him.

Kellermann

Not really, because remember, I didn’t come to Australia until ’63.

Wade

Ah, ok.

Kellermann

But I met him very briefly at the ’61 IAU in Berkeley.

Wade

OK.

Kellermann

I was still a graduate student.

Wade

Well, what it was, I was sitting in the office there, and I heard Pawsey coming down, but his walk sounded different. It didn’t sound symmetrical, as it were. And that was the day that he realized that something had happened, and so, Doctor Sweet, neurosurgeon, was one of our Trustees, I forget his first name —

Kellermann

Bill, I think.

Wade

Ok, yeah.

Kellermann

William Sweet.

Wade

Yeah, that’s right. So he immediately, we got Pawsey to him and diagnosed him, Sweet diagnosed him correctly, a considerable malignant brain tumor. [Note added in 2018: Pawsey was not diagnosed with a brain tumor until later in the trip.]And so he was put in hospital in Washington, D.C. And I forgot which hospital it was, it doesn’t matter. But since I knew him, he had been my boss for two years, they sent me up to be his gofer. And so I was there for that week. And I did ‘gofering’ for him. That was the last time I saw him, because then, taken out of my hands, he was flown back to Australia. It was known that he couldn’t be director. That was in ’62.

Kellermann

But after that, he sent a letter, I can’t remember whether it was to Heeschen or to Rabi, I think Rabi, maybe it was Heeschen, but outlining his plans for the Observatory. And one of the things he pointed out was the need for an imaging instrument.

Wade

Ok, I was not aware of that, no.

Kellermann

That was my question, if you —

Wade

Yeah, I was not aware of that. Remember, I was very low.

Kellermann

Yeah, so you don’t recall talking to him about that either then? Or him talking to you about that.

Wade

I do not recall it, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

Kellermann

No, of course. Well, I know it happened, I’ll send you the letter.

Wade

Ok, anyway –

Kellermann

Well, so he had no idea – well he had ideas about how to do it – and he said, you know, you built the Mill’s Cross, an array like Paul Wild’s array, all aperture synthesis. And that project was to be the main thing, so I’m wondering to what extent – but you were already doing something about it before that.

Wade

I was, in fact, when I was at Caltech in ’62, Pawsey had gone back to Australia where he died, right around that time. I was in the airport in San Francisco to come back East, I’d finished my bit down in Silicon Valley, on the waveguides, not waveguides, fiber optics, and I was in the bookstore there finding something to read on the cross-country flight, and Dave Heeschen tapped my shoulder. He was on his way to Australia at that point. I think Pawsey died either just before or just after Dave got there, I don’t recall the time. [Note added in 2018: Pawsey died after Heeschen arrived in Australia; Heeschen visited him in the hospital just before his death.] I wasn’t there, but talk about a coincidence again. You’ll never finish if I keep —

Kellermann

Yeah, I just wondered how much influence he had.

Wade

He had very little on me directly. Indirectly, I think Joe Pawsey’s the one who first realized Fourier transform, I believe that idea was his first.

Kellermann

You know his famous sentence in the paper, I mean, he showed through the paper, and he showed, this was the cliff interferometer and that what you were observing was one component of the Fourier transform, but then he dismissed it, saying, you know, you can’t change the height of the cliff.

Wade

Well, this was when they were using the cliff interferometer.

Kellermann

Yeah, he says you can’t change the height of the cliff! [Laughter]

Wade

That’s right, but still, that was an immensely insightful recognition that underlies the whole VLA.

Kellermann

So, the Caltech visit, Dave send you there? And what was the purpose, to find out about interferometry?

Wade

I think someone at Caltech, Dave must have been talking to someone, it might have been Bolton, it probably was Bolton.

Kellermann

No it had to be Stanley. Bolton left at the end of ’61.

Wade

Oh he did? Ok, alright, it would have been Stanley. I suspect. Or it might have been someone like Greenburg, I don’t know.

Kellermann

Greenstein.

Wade

Hmm?

Kellermann

Greenstein.

Wade

Greenstein, yes. You see my memory. I also have some dyslexia, so it (?) Anyway so yeah - Probably Greenstein is the one. Now, I think it suggested to Dave that we ought to have somebody out there to learn to take advantage of what they were learning through 90 footers.

Kellermann

Yeah I think Jesse [Greenstein] was on the Visiting Committee or something.

Wade

That is probably right. And the recollection is very dim on this but I think Dave asked me if I’d be interested in going. The reason he asked me probably is, I think I was, of all people on the scientific staff the one who was most interested at that stage. There’s something about the concept that grabbed, and it’s not that I was any better I was just there.

Kellermann

Yeah I realize you were the one that was working on it. So what’d you learn at Caltech that turned out to be useful or –

Wade

It was a great learning experience, and a lot was going on in parallel. For example, it was the first time I ever saw a working interferometer. Because, I didn’t participate in the Australian interferometery, most of that happened before I was down there in fact. It was very early. But that was something. Another thing that impressed me very heavily, I couldn’t get away, was how they were going about it the hard way, manually reducing all these charts with fringes on them. And I immediately thought, I think, the way to do it. And it was in ‘64 that I wrote the memo about how – it’s one of the memo series we had, in ’64, I’m sure – about how we could make the computer get the fringes out for us. And I think that could be behind the way we still do it, I don’t know.

Barry Clark came out, and followed up my memo with a memo of his own. He arrived right after I wrote that thing. And he wrote a memo of his own. I had ignored what happened, if you didn’t have an even number of cycles in these things, you’d have any case of Fourier analysis (?) the cut off. But he started, out he said something to the effect in his memo that I had a good idea there, he wanted to show how to make it better. Memorable phrasing. And he was right, of course. But if I have to look back and think of something that I did that was really worth having, that might be it.

Kellermann

So was Green Bank already doing computer data, recording data, punch tape, I guess?

Wade

Well this was at just the time that we were getting the interferometer going. We hadn’t really developed a working – Nigel Keen was there.

Kellermann

Even the 300 foot, how was data taken there? You were one of the early users.

Wade

We had strip charts.

Kellermann

Right so, ok.

Wade

I don’t think we really computerized it yet. But what I really wanted to do was get it so all this work with rulers and pieces of paper spread over the floor could be avoided. That wasn’t the way to get any science done.

Kellermann

I spent a year doing that.

Wade

But that hit me at Caltech, a year and a half earlier. When it came to writing that memo, I’ll never forget this, it’s the only time in my life I ever did this. We had all gone to bed we were living down in Green Bank in a gray house, and I had been wondering a lot about how the hell you do it. And I was lying there just thinking about it and it hit me. I had this matter of, I forget exactly how I set it up, I don’t know if you even know the memo, I’ll not try to dig up the details, but anyway, by the time, maybe 4 o’clock, I went to sleep, I had composed an entire report. I got up first thing in the morning, wrote up a rough version, then checked it later after I’d had some breakfast, and lo and behold, I think this will work. But it’s the only time in my life I’d ever had that experience. And, that thinking, because a lot was going on subconscious, for quite a while before hand, and began to float up. So, anyway, that was momentous for me and I think it did open a lot of doors at a critical time, because we were starting to get, we’re at the point of pulling in data and this -

Kellermann

With the Green Bank interferometer.

Wade

Yes. Two elements. It was about ’64 we got that going. And learned a hell of a lot. I keep interrupting myself. This is what happens, you run stream of consciousness. [Irrelevant side comments deleted.]

Kellermann

So how was, from the beginning the Green Bank interferometer had tape, magnetic tape recording.

Wade

It was magnetic tape, and it was magnetic tape for a long time. Because we were shipping this tapes over to Charlottesville after we made the move. Tape was it, for quite a while.

Kellermann

Yeah, well I was doing the same thing on the 140 foot. Well let’s turn to the site selection.

Wade

I’m sorry?

Kellermann

The site selection. When I read in your interview that was, you sort of picked the Plains of St. Augustin right from the beginning from just inspection of maps and everything, and then went through a long, long process to make it official.

Wade

Let me go get something. A relic. And then we’ll talk about site selection.

Kellermann

OK.

End Part 1

Begin Part 2

Wade

It’s in the spring of 1965 the AAS had one of its meetings in Lexington, Kentucky. Alma mater of my father and brother and all that. And I was wandering around, I believe Warren Tyler with me. It was that spring we presented with the position work we were getting with the interferometer. And Dave wanted that done to show that we were actually producing something. And then went into an engineering supply store and I don’t know, this looks interesting. Would you remember from the interview with Robyn that I mentioned the compass?

Kellermann

Right, I do remember that.

Wade

[Showing compass.] This compass was very accurate. It was easy to use, sight to the edge of the disk, all that stuff. And found early on that it was hard to use out in sunlight because it was bare aluminum and so somewhere, somebody had some World War II Luftwaffe dark green paint. Which is ideal, it would adhere to aluminum. So I painted that thing. I used this thing all over the site. This is my friend. We didn’t have GPS. And I was using topo maps, windmills for marks, taking bearings. This thing was a part of the site selection. So it’s a valued memento. But it cost $15. Swedish… excuse me, Finnish forestry compass.

Kellermann

When we finish we’ll have to take a picture of that.

Wade

OK, well this is it. This isn’t the original case but, because that fell apart, but that was an integral part, I took that everywhere I went. And it made a terrific difference. It allowed you to take accurate bearings.

Kellermann

How accurate could you read that?

Wade

You could read it to a fraction of a degree. Look in the edge. Look through the lens. The top half –

Kellermann

Oh –

Wade

You see that? It well damped. That thing was my best friend in the site work.

Kellermann

Yeah, you could probably read it to one or two tenths degree.

Wade

So anyway – That was early in the year. It was that fall when we got the project organized.

Kellermann

Wait a minute, you said that year.

Wade

That’s ’65. That’s about March, about this time of the year. At the AAS meeting, I bought that thing in Kentucky, and boy was I glad to have it.

Kellermann

Now wait a minute, the AAS meeting was the spring of – ?

Wade

The spring meeting of the AAS in ’65, Lexington, Kentucky.

Kellermann

So you say wanted to demonstrate that the GBI was working. What did you have then, position?

Wade

I’m sorry I missed something.

Kellermann

You said you wanted to give a, or Heeschen wanted to give a talk at that meeting – ?

Wade

Positions

Kellermann

Oh, it was positions.

Wade

This was before we’d seen how to do the absolute positions. So we were doing a more formal method. But the main thing is he wanted to get a public record that we were doing something with the interferometer.

Kellermann

Yeah, I understood I just wanted to get which science it was, but it was the positions, yeah.

Wade

I think it was a political consideration.

Kellermann

I remember that. You wrote a paper on it afterwards.

Wade

Probably did.

Kellermann

But there good to a few seconds of arc, or a second of arc?

Wade

We were getting a few seconds of arc, it was enough to be competitive with what other people were doing then. After a while we were beating most people, but right then, at that stage we were doing it by sort of the old methods and so forth. But it did prove that we could do what the big boys were doing. And –

Kellermann

Wait a minute, back to the VLA. Socorro, that was one of the first places you visited.

Wade

OK. It was the first. What happened, Sydney Smith was on that (?). had four miles to the inch topo maps. [Note added 2018 by Wade: Sid Smith made the first map search using 1:250,000 USGS maps, 4 miles to the inch.] Which are not very good maps, but they were made in a hurry because the Cold War. Too much of the country wasn’t mapped. And the army needed maps if we wanted to defend the country. So there was built and put together in great haste but they were all we had, and Sydney had taken those things and gone over the south west. We were very interested in the south west because the great amount of open ground and the elevation. And the latitude.

I got on to it, and I took Sydney’s maps and I kept seeing Plains of St. Augustin, that’s sort of a poetic sounding name. And four different maps, that’s where they came together. Because you see the 107th meridian and the 34th parallel intersect very near the center of the array. So no one map had what looked like a good site. But, so I put those things together, and Sydney had made a list of, I think it was “Y” followed by a number, I think it was Y1 through 14. And so I had just called this thing, hey that’s looks promising, I called it Y0. Later on, when we got going, we decided let’s leave the zeros out so it became Y15.

But, now what happened was, we came out here, and from looking over the maps, Sydney had, and now from this other site I had found, the four maps came together, I thought, that really looks promising, I liked a lot of things about it, which I kept on doing. So Sydney and I, we went to Santa Fe, we talked to people, we looked into land availability, made first contact at New Mexico Tech, thought that came a little later, but we engaged an airplane, twin -ngine Beechcraft, that’s the way to look at ground. We’re not joyriding. And so we were up there, and I had my compass, that compass I could use in a twin-engine airplane. Single engine, no, because you had the generator –

Kellermann

The magnet, right.

Wade

You had that cable coming right back (?) In the twin the things are out in the wings and I could use the compass. And so that was it, and our pilot was very good. He was killed a month later in another incident. But it was – We saw that VLA site and that stuck in my mind. We went and saw some other sites too that he had picked out. I had an impression there that never left me that the VLA was the site to beat. So I think more or less, it fell in my lap, to look at the site work. No one else really wanted to do it. I had a considerable proficiency with map and compass because of the army that the other guys didn’t have. And I enjoyed flying around and getting out of the office. So that was what we did. But I came away from that feeling that I had a target. I mentioned earlier that I – if I am going to approach a new problem, I like to just get some starting point, I don’t care what it is. I’m not committed to it. But the whole idea of forcing convergence on the process is to have yourself a straw man and try to beat him.

But the VLA was always in my mind. We considered 34 sites. We did not visit all of them because they could be ruled out pretty easily, Air Force bombing and gunnery ranges and so on. But we actually investigated 20 odd. But I always had the VLA, the present VLA site,in my mind. And nothing else came close, in my opinion. But I still had to convince everybody else. And oh,, yeah, this was one of the battles. We had our frequent meetings about the project and I get this question, time and again: “How do you know this is the best possible site?” And I would say, “I don’t know, that’s a metaphysical question.” What’s best to one won’t be best to another. What we were trying to do was find a site that will work for the project, and not get in the way of the science. So you need the altitude and the dry air, blah blah blah…

But that viewpoint I had to keep reiterating because in fact there’s no such thing as a best possible site. Because it depends on who’s setting the criteria. But we could always agree on whether the site would work or not. It had to be acquirable, it had to offer water and things like that, but that’s another story. But it turns out that just because of the convenience of how we’re doing the airplane, the site in the Plains of St. Augustin was the first we looked at. That was fairly fortuitous. And I forget now what all we did do. But it occupied a lot of my time intermittently from late ‘65 until ‘72 when we were, when we decided, well really in ‘71 they decided that the present site should be it. I had done an awful lot of arguing with these people to get there. A lot of people wanted to be near a big city. Well, I’m a country boy I didn’t care whether there was a big city or not. Big cities also have a lot of manmade activity, which we didn’t need. Air traffic, and I don’t have to tell you. But it was a – I still think we got the right site. Thank heaven.

Kellermann

I gather you had some experiences with the land holders, the ranchers, etc.

Wade

Yeah, that’s another story if you want to get into that. I don’t know – I could probably – I don’t know, do you want to digress into that? At this point?

Kellermann

Let’s go on, and we can come back to it if we have time.

Wade

Because initially we were still being very quiet about it. Remember the Argonne site for the big accelerator near Chicago was chosen about that time for political and not scientific reasons, and we didn’t want to get into that. It was something Jerry Tape was very sensitive to, because he was in a position knowing what had gone on at the Argonne accelerator.

Kellermann

Were you also considering about speculation, the cost, the prices, land prices going up –

Wade

Oh yeah. You got prime agricultural land there.

Kellermann

But yeah if they hear the government wants to build something, all of a sudden the price of land goes up. Was that an issue?

Wade

Speculators come in from all over.

Kellermann

But was that an issue, was that one of the reasons why Tape wanted to keep it quiet?

Wade

There were two reasons that I recall now, that we kept it very quiet until we had to go public. And the first reason, and to my mind the biggest reason, was that we wanted to keep the politicians out of it. That was important. This is our game, we wanted to run it. The second one is really almost a corollary to that and that is the land prices. But most of the land was publically owned. You see most of the VLA is on state land out there. What’s not on state land is mostly on federal land. And there’s a little bit of private land involved.

Kellermann

But it’s leased to people who were using it for ranching, weren’t they? But they weren’t owners. Is that right?

Wade

Ranchers always lease. That’s why you have the ranch – the rancher owns the sections of the windmills and the wells, but that means he controls the rest of it, and he gets to lease it at a rate he can afford on much larger tracts of land. And the term used in this part of the world is ranch unit. It’s the patented land, the land he owns, plus the leased land that is necessary to make it economically viable.

Kellermann

I didn’t know that. See that was different from the Green Bank situation, where people owned the property that got taken over for –

Wade

No, that’s very different. But you see, this – one thing that turned out to be very valuable in all these site things, and we talked to people at a number of sites, was the fact that I grew up on the land. I knew how to talk to people on the land, and this was – somebody who grew up in Manhattan, they wouldn’t know how to go about it. But I knew the mindset. Because after all, I come from a long line of dirt farmers.

Kellermann

You may not remember, you and I went off once looking for VLBA sites.

Wade

I think I do – that was after the (break?) and I wasn’t coming up, he wanted to get the car going.

Kellermann

Yes, me in particular. It was just you and I.

Wade

I remember that well, Ken.

Kellermann

And we went in for some hamburger or something, and I ate, and I was fine, and I’m ready to go and you were sitting there chewing the fat and what not, and I was thinking to myself, “Come on Cam let’s get out of here.” And then of course I realized that you were asking, finding out all of the things we were sent there to find out about, water, and jobs, electricity!

Wade

I remember that very well. The other thing too, you’ve got to approach this by not seeming too interested.

Kellermann

I know, I know! I realized this.

Wade

When the guys start telling you stuff that you’re acting like you’re not interested in, you know you’ve got him whipped, because he’s gonna tell you everything he knows.

Kellermann

I know, I finally figured out what it was you were doing, because you were doing such a good job that you fooled me as well.

Wade

That’s right we had Jon Hertz, I think he was from BLM, he was driving if I recall. Now that was deserted country down there.

Kellermann

Dusty or something.

Wade

Dusty, it was dusty.

Kellermann

OK, anyway, let’s back up a minute before the approval and the site decision and everything, there was sort of a dark period in the late ‘60s. I mean, we’d put in a proposal, a Volume 3, and then nothing happened, and there were the Dicke Committees who were waffling and sort of favored Caltech.

Wade

Well there’s a lot of stuff here. The critical decade was the ‘60s. ‘61 is where we started thinking about it. That’s when there were all sorts of meetings about it. We put in the proposal, as I recall –

Kellermann

The first two volumes were in ’65.

Wade

The first two volumes I think it’s January of ’97 [i.e.’67].

Kellermann

Oh, that’s right. There was a volume in ’65, but it wasn’t a proposal.

Wade

Ok, yes.

Kellermann

It was a sort of informal description, yup.

Wade

There were two volumes, and there was an upgrade in ’69, that was Volume 3, and for example in there we went from 36 antennas to 27. The fourth volume was the one on the site. And I did the whole thing. Only book I ever wrote, and I don’t have a copy of it!

Kellermann

I have all four of them in my office.

Wade

So, yeah, that’s what it was.

Kellermann

I gather, I mean Heeschen actually stopped the project. For a while.

Wade

He made it hibernate. And another thing that’s relevant, of course, to the VLA, I think this is on the interview with Robyn, you see it was the Vietnam War eating up the money. That was the biggest hurdle. For example, they had a fire on an aircraft carrier that cost more money to make good than the whole array would cost. But we had a war going so they, blah blah blah

Kellermann

But still, all the committees were favoring the Caltech array.

Wade

The Caltech had a very strong competition. I remember once Dave Heeschen and I were out there, yeah, we actually went to Caltech, several of us. Barry Clark was there.

Kellermann

Right, that’s what I wanted to ask you about, yes.

Wade

I don’t remember who else but certainly Heeschen and Clark and I were there. Al Moffet was sort of our host out there. It was there that he actually had a recording of a pulsar. First one I’d heard. Late in ’69 if I recall. Anyway –

Kellermann

And what was the purpose of the visit?

Wade

I think to make sure everybody saw what was going on at Caltech. I could be wrong, but you see they were our big competitor, and we wanted to know what was going on. And I remember talking to Dave Heeschen at the motel afterwards, after a long day with those people, and we were comparing this – things develop in your subconscious and then come floating up – but I remember saying to Dave, you know, the difference between the VLA, and we were calling it by that name then, and what Caltech is doing is that the VLA concept has a grandeur that the others do not. And something like that. I remember I used the word grandeur. And he jumped on that. And I think it’s right. There’s more vision in the VLA than there was in the competing proposals.

Kellermann

And Caltech certainly was always to do it on the cheap.

Wade

You don’t build something like this to save money. You built it for results. So anyway, I do remember that. I don’t recall a lot of that thing.

Kellermann

Were you talking about a potential collaboration?

Wade

I’m sure it got discussed, in fact I’m quite sure it was. But I don’t recall any details; remember that I was still awfully junior.

Kellermann

Dave claimed that he was prepared to discuss a collaboration and build something, similar to the OVRO instrument. But it had to be elsewhere, because Owens Valley was too small.

Wade

Yep, well that was early very evident. Yeah, we never considered Owens Valley for the VLA.

Kellermann

But Caltech did.

Wade

Well that’s really a very fine space for an array. I guess it’s still operating, but I’ve been out of the game for a while.

Kellermann

The 90 foot antenna – there’s a solar array there now. And they had the millimeter array up in the Inyo Mountains, but that’s just been closed.

Wade

Ok, well, the 90 footers are maybe no longer operational I guess –

Kellermann

I think they’re used for the solar array. Together with a bunch of small antennas.

Wade

Ok well we digress here but –

Kellermann

So we were talking about George Swenson before, so he stayed for about two years or so?

Wade

George came when Dave got serious about organizing the project. Put George in charge in 1965, end of the summer if I recall. George took a leave of absence from University of Illinois, where his father had been a distinguished professor of electrical engineering also. George and Dave together built a very effective organization for the design group. That’s what we called each other. We also had some outsiders in there to give it credibility, and these were Frank Drake and Bernie – I have a problem with names –

Kellermann

Burke?

Wade

Burke! Burke. Bernie Burke. They would come to all the meetings.

Kellermann

Alan Rogers I think.

Wade

Alan Rogers was there but not as often as they were.

Kellermann

No, he was the VLBA… yeah. Moffet.

Wade

He knew what was going on but I do remember Drake and Burke sitting there. As far as I could tell neither one of them contributed anything to the effort. Though Frank Drake –

Kellermann

Moffet. Moffet was involved…

Wade

Moffet was not on this committee, no. I’m sure we talked to him. But he didn’t actually come to Charlottesville to sit in the conference room with us.

Kellermann

I came to some of those meetings I remember.

Wade

You were there in ’65. This was the summer we moved the offices from Green Bank to Charlottesville.

Kellermann

Yeah I stayed in Green Bank. And I was busy with the 140 foot, but I came over just to sit in on some of those.

Wade

Yeah, well I find that things get mixed up very easily in everyone’s memory. In this guy’s memory anyway. Anyhow, we got going with it. Looking back on it I think the way they organized the effort was fundamental to its success. As was the youth of all the participants. Even Dave Heeschen turned 40 about that point and he was the Director.

Kellermann

So George always claims that he was fired.

Wade

Yeah, he was. I remember that well. What had happened was we had put that proposal in in January of, I believe it was ’67, I think I said ’97 before. And immediately we hit delays because of the expenses of the Vietnam War. So things were getting put off, put off, put off. And then we did do Volume 3, and I think we did finish that off in ’69 where we took advantage of the delays to do things over again that we’d done in haste the first time. And I think it was really with Volume 3 that we had a workable proposal. A personal opinion. So, anyway, George got very discouraged. He decided, Warren Tyler decided, and several other people – Warren left because of “Ah, well, this is as far as this thing is going to go.”

Kellermann

Well he went off into industry or something.

Wade

Yeah. I’ve seen him once back in the 80s but that’s it. Anyway, I think it was Warren Tyler, but it might have been George, said, “Look, this is like scrubbing the decks of the Titanic.” It was a continued effort. Well, I did not want to let go of it. David I know didn’t. I thought, and I know he did, that we had a great idea here and we weren’t just going to put it down. And I know others must have felt the same way, but I can’t recall who’s strongest on it now. For one thing, I put too much damn work into the thing just to kiss it goodbye and – anyhow. So we did Volume 3, we got it out, but I think it was still in ’69 that, might have been ’68 even, I think it might have been ’68, late ’68, because that’s when Warren Tyler left. George Swenson walked into my office there, in Charlottesville, and had sort of a funny look on his face and funny smile and said, “You know, Dave just fired me.” He was sort of shocked. Dave thought that George was feeling defeated, and Dave very strongly didn’t want someone in charge of the project who didn’t believe in it anymore. They remained friends despite that. But George went back to the University of Illinois. I remember him walking into my office very well, that strange look on his face.

Kellermann

But you said a little while ago that Dave himself had called a moratorium on the project. He wasn’t going to put any more effort into it until it was funded.

Wade

Dave was incredibly good at foreseeing things. I think he missed it once or twice, but not very often. But what I think Dave saw, as we all did, was that nothing fast was going to happen with the VLA. He didn’t want to give it up, and I don’t recall talking to him about it, but I, knowing him, I’m quite sure his thinking was “OK, we’re on hold for a while, let’s make good use of the time.” And it was in ’69, that I recall, that we came up with Volume Three. And that was done, after George left.

Kellermann

Yeah, but after that, at some point, as I recall, he really stopped all work.

Wade

I don’t think it was a line-item project.

Kellermann

But people were spending a lot of time on it, at the expense of other things.

Wade

But the fact is that I don’t think we ever really quit. The fire was still smoldering under the leaves.

Kellermann

So you’re saying it wasn’t really on hold.

Wade

I know that I did not want to see it die. And I know others felt that way. Dave certainly didn’t. And as far as I’m concerned, the VLA is Dave’s memorial.

Kellermann

Well I think everyone appreciates that.

Wade

It’s got Jansky’s name on it, but I’m sorry they didn’t name it for Dave.

Kellermann

Well, he died, I mean it was named while Dave was still alive. Which is unfortunate.

Wade

Yeah, those who were involved know where the credit belongs.

Kellermann

I think people, a lot of people who weren’t involved know that too. It’s widely recognized. So after the site was picked, what did you do after that, what was your main…? I know you surveyed the site.

Wade

Well, we internally decided in ’71 it was done. We then had to start doing some engineering to sort through the sites. And that’s when we engaged Limbaugh Engineers out here. Also we were going to have to go on the land, so it forced us to go public.

Kellermann

Yeah but after that, after the site had been picked, and I know you did the surveying for the arms and everything -

Wade

I drove the stake. It’s not the center of the VLA. Before we went public, to mark the spot. But the rancher knew about it, knew everything on his ranch. He died recently. Fought us once but turned out to be a very good friend. And that was Mr. Bruton.

Kellermann

So what were you doing after the site had been laid out and everything?

Wade

After - I am trying to recall now, So let’s, we didn’t go public all at once, should we discuss that? That’s because there were developments in there.

Kellermann

Sure.

Wade

We knew within our own group, that ’71, that Plains of St. Augustin would be the choice. But no one - we were very closed mouthed about this, even with other astronomers. Because we didn’t want the politicians getting ahold of it. I’m trying to recall now - what happened next? Jack Lancaster was hired to run the thing. And sometime in ’72 - ’72 is a funny year because I learned in January that my oldest son was going to die. It was a crazy time. Jack wanted Forest Forrest Wells. Turned out they were a wonderful team for construction. I know that I had - it fell on me to come out with them. The Board of Trustees met out here about April, March or April, of ’72. I was there to present what we had done on the site to the Board. Which I did. And at that point it was becoming open now. We sort of laid it all out and I think Bremenkamp, if you remember him -

Kellermann

I certainly do.

Wade

He and I were tasked with going public with this and going out and approaching people and explaining what we were doing. Vic was there to give an AUI presentation. I was there to handle the technical part; why do we want to do it here, and blah blah blah. The two of us. We had a critical meeting, I think it was right after the meeting in Socorro with the AUI Board. The ranchers heard about it and began asking questions and the Governor’s Office, and this was our late Governor, King. He was in office I believe for his first or second term. And he wanted to know more about it, lots of questions. And he had appointed his nephew, who was just out of college, David King, to be his - I forget the title, it was something like “head of development projects in the state,” blah blah, this was it. Well David King was a real prick. Still is. They set up a meeting, boy the order of events, this was all in ’72. I believe before that I had actually met with Jack Bruton, whose land we hit the hardest, and that was another story, but, David King had a meeting, the only time I’ve been in the roundhouse, the state capitol. And of course, he’s young and knew how things were done.

So two men from the NSF were there, Jerry Anderson and Maury Phillips. They’re political types. Jerry actually had a degree in astronomy. But they were there to represent the Foundation because we needed the Foundation’s money. But Bremenkamp and I were there and anyhow - We stayed at the big hotel, the Hotel Lafonda, right before we were going to meet the great man at the state capitol. And so Jerry Anderson and Maury Phillips had breakfast with Vic and me and told us that it’s their meeting and they’d handle it. We would be basically,”I’ll handle the rubes.” Well, we get over to the capitol, and this was going to be one of the few times I can name where I really made a difference. I was never ego driven about this thing, but I honestly feel that it was important I was there in retrospect. David King first kept us cooling our heels, waiting to see him. He was too important to keep his own schedule. While we killed time in the picture gallery of state legislators, I remember one stuck in my mind, Jesus H. Christ [laughter]. Anyway, we were finally called in, and he had a bunch of the state people there, and I know the fish and game man was there, various state officials who might be interested. And it was - King took charge of that meeting immediately. He didn’t know what he was talking about, but he was in charge. And he had a lot of power because, well I guess he was the governor’s favorite nephew. And early 20s. I remember one man struck me immediately. I think it was the fish and game man, because he was obviously, absolutely drunk. Yet he turned out before it was over to be being our biggest help.

So King opened the meeting and said “Alright, so we know something about what you’re doing.” He did have some half-knowledge. “We have come up with a list of places we think you should consider.” I could see the whole thing collapsing. Right there. And I spoke up. It was not a pleasant moment. I said, “Look, we’ve put in a hell of a lot of work into picking a site, there’s one place that is really good. If that array is not built on the site we picked, it’s not going to be in New Mexico.” I was going way beyond my authority, but he didn’t know that. And, lo and behold, these other guys in the room, these state officers, say, “Hey, wait a minute,” and they ganged up on King! So we stayed on this topic. But what happened with Phillips and Anderson, they just collapsed. They had nothing to say. From there on, I carried the meeting. I didn’t go there for that purpose, but I had to! And what I had in my mind was, “If I blow this damn thing, we aren’t going to have the VLA.” And you can get a lot of courage out of that condition. And actually it made a difference. Well, we departed.

By that time I had decided if I was ever in a position to vote against David King I wouldn’t miss it, but they’re real bastards. You know all over the state he was hated. He was known as “The Man from Uncle.” The TV show at that time, you’ll recall. But this is relevant. It set the tone and the history. When the meeting was over I walked out. I was so angry I did not speak to either Anderson or Phillips at all, I couldn’t speak to them. Vic was on my side, but again, this was all revolving on technical points and it wasn’t his job to worry about technical points. That was a morning I can never forget, it was extremely unpleasant. But I think it was important.

[Interruption – unrelated conversation with others removed]

Wade

OK. So, this was followed up. When we got back to Charlottesville, I gave Dave Heeschen a complete oral report on everything that went on. And Dave accepted everything I said without any real cross examination. I guess he figured I was not a liar.

[Interruption – unrelated conversation with others removed]

Wade

OK so anyway, when I got home I talked to Heeschen. And I told him exactly, honestly and thoroughly as I could what had happened in the meeting with David King. And I don’t know what he did from there on, but it was very noticeable that no longer did we ever see Jerry Anderson or Maury Philips in any way involved in the project. So Dave I think accepted that I was telling the truth, and went to work on his buddies at the Foundation. He had very good contacts there. With them out, it became our show. That was important. The Foundation knew we had a good idea here, we didn’t have to keep convincing them. The details, a lot remained, but anyhow, alright. We have to go to the ranchers with all this. And they were right, yes. So everyone would really be affected by it and so we notified all the ranchers.

[Interruption – unrelated conversations with others removed]

Wade

But, anyway, so the meeting was set up by King. I didn’t set it up. To be held in the band room of the Magdalena high school.

Kellermann

With the ranchers?

Wade

With the ranchers. And David King was going to run the meeting. Again, takes a little time, but this will give you a better idea of the flavor of how things were going then. Ted Riffe went out with me, the two of us. It was an important thing to me, I didn’t want any critical meeting with anyone alone, I wanted somebody else to back my memory on things. Otherwise I’d get hammered down and I didn’t - really I was scared to death through all of this. That some stupid thing would come up and kill us and this great idea we had. So there we were. Now Ted and I had enough wit, and we were talking to ranchers, you wore jeans and work-type shirts. So we were dressed that way.

So here comes David King in a state car, driven by a state policeman, who was also his body guard, wearing a necktie, Manhattan-type clothes, shiny shoes. Stuff no rancher would be caught dead in. And he calls the meeting to order. And he was very much in charge of the meeting. And he told me, that I would have ten minutes to explain our position to the ranchers. OK. So he gets up, he calls the roll, and of course, one of the big names in New Mexico politics is Montoya. Well, he goes through all the ranchers, many of whom I had made a point of seeking out these people and talking to them, informally, beforehand. That’s very important. But here’s David, just went through all these names and gets up to “Montoya Cattle Company,” and a grizzled old guy says “That should be Montosa Cattle Company.” “Montosa Cattle Company, are you sure?” “Goddammit I’m sure, I worked for them 20 years!” And the whole room laughed. By then David King was so unpopular that hearing him being taken down a notch brought great joy.

And actually, looking back on it, when I heard those guys laughing, I knew we had a chance. And it was good. So, then he sort of motioned to me, he was in his early to mid-20s, I was in my early to mid-40s. And he was giving me orders to get up there. “Alright, you got 10 minutes.” So I just tried to give a reasonable thing in terms that were no going to confuse them about what we were doing, how long it would take, how it would impact them, all that. At 5 minutes he said, “OK, that’s long enough.” And I said “OK” and sat down and the room was very silent. So after that, David King rounded up his state policemen and they drove off again. Most of those ranch guys stayed around to talk to us. That turned out to be a great advantage. You had a conflict of cultures here. And David King didn’t know how to talk to his own people. But we had other adventures and misadventures, but nothing as solid. I think King intended this as a meeting where he could reassert control over the thing. He wasn’t going to get it, but the way he conducted himself and the way he came across, he made friends for us that we might have otherwise had a tough time doing. Have we gone on long enough for now or, how do we - this is your session.

Kellermann

Yeah, so there were a few things I wanted to touch on. After you moved out here and the site was laid out and everything, and antennas were built, had some electronics on them. What was your main activity during that latter period, of early operations?

Wade

Well of course, within the group, we stayed in touch and so on. My main activity once construction started was - well I think it started out just trying to stay aware of what was going on. I also was consulting in various parts of this, because so many people were coming in who didn’t know the history and all that. I was sort of an old hand in the project by then. The place I got to really doing something, physically, was checking out - there are lot of critical alignments in the VLA antenna - we wanted these things to work without heroics of calibration. So I got very involved in critical testing the first antenna, and then checking the results of that with the second one. I can’t remember if I had told Robyn about this one. I was up there with the theodolite, the first time we’re going to see if we can point antenna number one. Does that ring any bell with you? OK.

Bill Horne was absolutely at the center of all the good stuff, alignment that was done there. He was a marvelous engineer. To show how good he is, this story is really Bill Horne’s story, but it’s my job to make sure we were building these things the way he meant to have them built, and so Vic Herrero, I don’t know if you remember him, he and I came out, and it was my show, but Vic was right hand man, and very good right hand man, helping things. But at this point the antenna was out on what we called the alignment pad. It turned out being the place we were painting the antennas but outside the elephant house there. But antenna one, this was early in ’75. I did that in my living room there in Charlottesville. Actually out of town. But I designed all of this (?) did some very careful work with star positions, the stuff were you go get these big books of accurate astrometry, designed the measurements. We got out there and I knew that Bill had done a great job of trying to get all the readings out of the encoders on the shafts, right. And so the antenna was controlled by a trailer we had down below, we didn’t have any building to work out of out there. Vic worked all the switches. Everything was in binary so we had to do switches, it was quite the procedure. And Vic did that very well. We spent a good part of the afternoon out there with the mercury mirror at the center of the antenna. We had it pointed on the zenith, as well as we could, mounted a T-2 theodolite looking down into that, doing a process called auto-collimation. It’s what you do to get very accurate measurements out of the theodolite.

Went off to Datil, had a steak, came back and it was getting dark. Got up there. And so I got set up. Of course we couldn’t keep the mercury mirror on the moving antenna. But we had the antenna set up, locked, tripled checked, or the theodolite rather. And it got dark enough. And I was belted in safety harnesses there, because there wasn’t much to lean on up there. Rather uncomfortable physically. And I gave Vic a list of coordinates to go to and how to set it for time, blah blah, it was all alt-az, and it was all pre-computed. And so I said, “Alright, let’s go to the first one.” And we went over there and came to a stop. I looked into the theodolite and it had a field of not quite 20 degrees. I expected to see the star in there, and I didn’t see any goddamn thing. And it wasn’t a matter of a lens cap on. I was scratching my head about that. I could see the cross hairs by the brightness of the sky, but they were dark there, and there was no star in the field. And I thought, “My God, where have we gone wrong?” And then, the antenna - turns out it did not track well, it wasn’t tracking correctly, the star emerged from behind the intersection of those cross hairs. Those cross hairs were 4 seconds of arc wide. [Laughter]

You see why I call this Bill Horne’s memorial. I mean the guy was so good. And here I was thinking we’d blown it. Because I couldn’t see the star. But you know, that was one of the wonderful moments of my life. To see that happen. And to appreciate what a friend could do. It was great. We continued then, that almost told us the alignment problem was, wasn’t bad. We went ahead and did some other checks, and as it turned out we had more work to do than we expected to get the thing to track right. But you can see, that experience, I’ll carry to my grave. It was really wonderful. [Note added 2018 by Wade: Sadly Bill died of spinal cancer a few years later.]

Kellermann

I had a Bill Horne incident with the VLBA antennas. It was a clause in the contact, or there was a proposed clause. I guess there was a clause in the contract that they, the manufacturers, were supposed to set the surface to some accuracy and then we would work on it and improve it. And there was a clause there that we could, after they set it, initially, using some spec, we could buy the measuring equipment for $50,000. And Bill turned this down. I said, “Bill, that’s crazy! We’re going to have to measure it over and over and over again. $50,000, it’s a good deal. It’s going to cost us a lot more.” He said, “Look. They’re not going to meet their spec, and they’re going to have to give us that instrument.” And that’s exactly what happened. So here's Ken Kellermann trying to tell Bill Horne -

Wade

You see what I was really trying to do was make sure Bill’s control procedures in assembly were doing what they were supposed to do. What we wanted to do was get the thing out of the shop pretty well right, with only minor tweaking required. Because we had so many of them to make we wanted a good system from the start, and Bill came up with it. He delivered it. When I checked the second antenna it was just old history all over, and in fact I terminated it. Before we’d done the full series, because it’s quite obvious that we’re just singing the same song over.

Kellermann

So at some point didn’t you, after the array was finished or partly finished, you were in charge of the operations?

Wade

Well I, alright, the first person (?) the director, the operations director up there was - oh why do I go blank on names I know perfectly well - the Englishman. Probably retired now - he was in Charlottesville.

Kellermann

Dick Thompson?

[NOTE: Per Wade’s review and request in 2018, the portion that followed is embargoed during Dick Thompson’s lifetime.]

[NOTE: Per Wade’s review and request in 2018, the portion that followed is embargoed during Mort Roberts lifetime.]

[NOTE: Per Kellermann’s review and request in 2018, a side conversation has been removed.]

Kellermann

I want to ask you about something entirely different. Some people. Struve, Berkner, Rabi.

Wade

What do you want to ask about them?

Kellermann

You had contact with all of them?

Wade

I did.

Kellermann

Particularly Struve.

Wade

Struve, he had a reputation from his Chicago days of being a real bastard of a director.

Kellermann

But an effective one.

Wade

He was effective but he ran a tight ship. Remember, he’s from a minor nobility in Russia.

Kellermann

Yes, I understand.

Wade

He had mellowed a bit when he was at Green Bank and I thought he was very kind to me. He - I liked him, he was out of all familiar territory with radio astronomy. He didn’t - he wasn’t at home with it. But he was a gentleman, and I feel privileged to have known him. He was not healthy. He had internal problems that go back to starvation he suffered during the Russian Revolution, which eventually killed him, I think, shortly after he left Green Bank. But I found him a very gracious and rewarding person to know. His knowledge of astronomy in small details was just encyclopedic.

Kellermann

But I remember he was writing a monthly article in Sky and Telescope.

Wade

That was fun to watch.

Kellermann

But being - having the burdens of being the Director of NRAO and all the 140 foot problems - how could he do this?

Wade

I don’t know, because I was a slower writer. But I saw him write it. He would just sit there, write it out long hand, give it to his secretary, and she’d send it off, and the editor of Sky and Telescope would find the illustrations, and it was just like that. But he could do that sort of thing in four languages too. Russian obviously, English obviously, but also German and French. And I’ve seen his writings in German, and Russian, I mean, very good. He’s just an amazing man, but you saw a bit of what it must have been like to be in the minor nobility in Russia, pre-Revolutionary, they were a very cultured people.

Kellermann

This was the time of the 140 foot problems of course. As I understand it, when Heeschen became Director, he insisted on managing the project from Green Bank and not New York. And that’s what made the difference. And is this something - was Struve too weak in that respect?

Wade

Struve had nothing in his background which qualified him for that. He had supervised the construction of the 82 inch at Macdonald from a distance. But I think he depended on other people who reported to him.

Kellermann

Right, but this is the case in Green Bank too, you had people like Bill Horne and what’s-his-name from Brookhaven, Max Small.

Wade

I think I might be right on this. I suspect his deteriorating physical condition also robbed him of a lot of the sort of power he might have had otherwise.

Kellermann

Drive, right, drive.

Wade

I don’t want it to sound like I’m kicking him.

Kellermann

No. I understand what you’re saying, Cam.

Wade

I’m very happy I had the privilege of knowing him. There are other stories there, but -

Kellermann

I mean Dave Heeschen is very complimentary and respectful.

Wade

Oh yeah, he was a rewarding person to know, there’s no way around it.

Kellermann

Did you know Berkner at all?

Wade

Berkner I met, I saw him as a self-important, bombastic, so-and-so. Whether I was right, I don’t know.

Kellermann

Well from what I’ve read, that’s consistent.

Wade

OK. But I got off on the wrong foot with Berkner from the beginning. In fact I don’t think he spoke to me again after this. I had just come back from Australia, and went to Green Bank. Early on, I was working late in my office one night, and Frank Drake brought Berkner in to introduce and so Berkner says, “I’m Admiral Berkner!”.

Kellermann

Oh, Admiral.

Wade

Yeah he was an Admiral.

Kellermann

I realize.

Wade

I - on reflex I took his hand and said “Admiral, I’m Sergeant Wade!” And he, his hand dropped. And that was the end of it.

Kellermann

You were a sergeant in the military?

Wade

I was, I had been sergeant. Not too long before, a few years before, but still. It’s unthinking, but I think he saw it with his ego, and I think he had a huge ego. He saw it as making fun of him. Which maybe I was, but not intentionally.

Kellermann

When I’ve given talks on the early history of NRAO, and described all the things that Berkner did, including his being an admiral and everything, one thing I pointed out is that he was communications officer for Amelia Earhart, and it was one thing he didn’t do too well, I guess!

Wade

I didn’t realize that, I know he distinguished himself in Antarctica.

Kellermann

Yes that’s right. Did you know the most southerly island in the world is Berkner Island. It’s named after him.

Wade

Oh, OK, there’s a Mount Berkner down there, I think.

Kellermann

Anyway, people, over the age of 50, 55, as you just described a little while ago, all know where they were and what they were doing on November 14, 1963.

Wade

November 22, or whatever it was.

Kellermann

I think it was - well, you know where Lloyd Berkner was? He was in Dallas, TX, waiting to have lunch with the President.

Wade

Ooh, boy. No I remember that day very well. I was sitting in my office there in Green Bank and I was working on a notebook I had on galaxies, this is when we were doing stuff for the first program with the 300 foot. And it was (?) somebody stuck his head in the office and said hey, news says the President’s been shot. And I just made a marginal note, President shot. And went on with what I was doing. It didn’t get through my concentration.

Kellermann

I was on Bondi Beach, Australia. It was a Sunday morning and I was going to the beach, and I just stopped at a newsstand to get a newspaper to read on the beach.

End Part 2

Citation

Papers of Kenneth I. Kellermann, “Campbell M. Wade, interviewed by Kenneth I. Kellermann on 21 March 2015,” NRAO/AUI Archives, accessed May 25, 2024, https://www.nrao.edu/archives/items/show/13897.