Interview with John W. Findlay

Title

Interview with John W. Findlay

Description

John W. Findlay, 1915-1994. Interviewed 14 August and 18 August 1981 at the URSI Meeting in Washington D.C., length of interview: 105 minutes.

Creator

Papers of Woodruff T. Sullivan III

Rights

NRAO/AUI/NSF

Type

Oral history interview

Interviewer

Sullivan, Woodruff T., III

Interviewee

Findlay, John W.

Location

Washington, D.C.

Original Format

Audio cassette tape

Duration

105 minutes

Interview Date

1981-08-14
1981-08-18

Interview Topics

1937-53 in Ratcliffe's ionosphere group at Cavendish; views on Ratcliffe's role in radio astronomy and on all members of Ryle's group and how it was run and financed; 1957+ with NRAO at Green Bank - adminstrative and scientific beginnings of NRAO; 85 foot, 140 foot, 300 foot dishes; WARC (1959, Geneva); his Cas A horn; views in science.

Notes

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.

Series

Working Files Series

Unit

Individuals Unit

Transcription

Transcribed by Sierra Smith.

Sullivan

Ok, this is 14 August 1981, talking with John Findlay at the URSI [International Union of Radio Science]Meeting in Washington D.C. Well could I start off by asking what was your training in university? I know that you didn’t begin working in radio astronomy but it would be very interesting to learn about your first contact with radio astronomy and how you observed the development of [Martin] Ryle’s group at Cambridge.

Findlay

Yes, well that is a question that covers an awful lot of time but since you might just as well have the beginnings of my academic life, so to speak, I am proud of the fact that I was an undergraduate in physics in Cambridge University quite a bit prior to World War II. The dates you can get. I finished up with a degree in Part Two of the Natural Science Tripos in physics and then in 1937 July was accepted by Lord Rutherford as a Ph.D. student. He died two or three months later- there was no connection- so I am one of the three or four final Rutherford students; however, I started my research work with [John "Jack" A.] Ratcliffe doing ionospheric research and that lasted for only two years because, of course, for us the war started in 1939. Then just before the outbreak of the war, I got in just a week or two before the outbreak of war, I went back to Cambridge and there for the first time met Martin Ryle who had just arrived as a young research student. Ratcliffe had got him from Oxford. Ryle had had a very distinguished undergraduate career at Oxford with [Frederick Alexander?] Lindemann was the professor, I believe. Yes, I believe they were. And the method of teaching, you are certain you won’t put all this in, but I’m going to tell you what comes to my mind. The method of teaching at Oxford that Ryle described to me was so different from Cambridge where our school of physics, even in the part two, was thirty, forty, fifty people, they tended to concentrate on the good ones and Ryle, I think, for at least a year in his undergraduate work was, so to speak, almost getting personal tuition. He was being allowed to think and to bring up ideas. I think that’s interesting.

Sullivan

I’ve never heard that comment.

Findlay

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

Sullivan

And radiometry?

Findlay

And radiometry.

Sullivan

Now what were you working on briefly?

Findlay

My war career was radar and particularly making it work, the usefulness of it. I was still associated with Ratcliffe. At TRE, Ratcliffe was head of a group of people who worked with Bomber Command, Fighter Command, with the Air Force helping to make radar work. This sounds silly but radar didn’t work, with due respect of [A. C. Bernard] Lovell who built some of it, it didn’t work basically and it needed scientists at the working level to make sure that it did work. We called it Post Design Service, of all the silly names.

Sullivan

So what you are saying is that in principle it could work in the lab but when you got out into the field it didn’t work?

Findlay

That’s right and you couldn’t set up a really good training program. You trained Air Force officers and people to maintain it and so on but there were simply things that you hadn’t trained for. Well, my war was spent doing that kind of work. First in what I call the Middle East, you called it North Africa, over that part of the continent and then for the final years of the war doing the same thing in what we called Southeast Asia which was essentially India, Salaam, as much of Burma as the Japanese hadn’t got.

Sullivan

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

Findlay

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

Sullivan

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

Findlay

No, they were built by a company. I was more in the grand radar end where the systems were built by a number of people, that is the transmitter came from so and so and a receiver part came from so and so and, in fact, in India we put the pieces together. That is they were shipped to us and we assembled them and made them work and then sent them out. Well, I don’t think my World War career is of much interest.

Sullivan

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

Findlay

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

Sullivan

Just about that time.

Findlay

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

Sullivan

And [Derek D.] Vonberg.

Findlay

And he and Vonberg started putting together- I didn’t know Vonberg before that- putting together the first instrumentation.

Sullivan

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

Findlay

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

Sullivan

Well, Martin Ryle never got around to writing.

Findlay

Jack Ratcliffe never did. Many people never troubled and the sense of the correct thing to do there if you were staying and Ryle should have done it and I don’t know whether he did, is just take a ScD [Doctor of Science]. You just wrap them up with a red ribbon around them, pay in those days 10 guineas- I suppose that’s several hundred now- and pick up your ScD. Tommy [Thomas] Gold has just done this. Tommy never wrote a thesis.

Sullivan

Is that right?

Findlay

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

Sullivan

So you mean he’s only recently became Dr. Gold?

Findlay

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

Sullivan

I don’t think so.

Findlay

They should have.

Sullivan

Not that I know of.

Findlay

Cambridge won’t you see probably.

Sullivan

No, Cambridge won’t.

Findlay

No they won’t because he belongs there but Oxford should. You should speak to somebody from Oxford. No to say that is bad because he is a very distinguished...

Sullivan

Well anyway.

Findlay

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

Sullivan

What was the set up?

Findlay

The group belonged to Ratcliffe. It was his old ionospheric group of many years standing. So there was an ionospheric contingent, Kenneth Weeks, who was mentioned in that group, and myself, Roy Piggott, with the beard, was [Edward] Appleton’s assistant and about that time Appleton came back to Cambridge. And I can’t remember the year of that, he was there after the war.

Sullivan

I don’t remember when he came, he left in ’48. That’s went he went to Edinburgh.

Findlay

That’s right, ’45-’48. He came back to the second chair of physics at Cambridge, I can’t remember the name of it but we can get it, and for three years he was there and Piggott was his assistant and the only other person associated with him was [Bynan?].

Sullivan

But Appleton would be above Ratcliffe?

Findlay

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

Sullivan

Appleton was more involved in administration?

Findlay

Well he had the, what did we call it? I’ve forgotten the name of the professorship. It was a freewheeling professorship. He didn’t have to run anything and he did concentrate on research and I don’t know what else he did. But the ionospheric group was quite a strong group. Well, [Ronald N.] Bracewell was in the ionospheric group. Bond was there. I think, he was the only one who went into radio astronomy. [Sid Bowheel?] was there at that time. Ratcliffe had a strong group and, in parallel, Ryle, was starting as though he were a research student, built up a strong radio astronomy group. You’ve got most of their names.

Sullivan

Oh yes, sure. Now I’d be interested if you can remember at that time Ratcliffe’s degree of enthusiasm or support about radio astronomy?

Findlay

I can answer that in two ways. First of all, as you know you’ve met Ratcliffe, you can’t judge his enthusiasm. He is the most controlled man I’ve ever met. He could never understand me for example.

Sullivan

Or Ryle, I suppose.

Findlay

And I was his student except, of course, I was also an assistant professor. You see, you can’t describe the student relationship in those terms. When I’m teaching in the Cavendish, I am, in fact, essentially his equal.

Sullivan

As a demonstrator?

Findlay

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

Sullivan

And people like you participated in this?

Findlay

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

Sullivan

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

Findlay

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

Sullivan

The Cavendish professor, Bragg.

Findlay

Yes, all my time [?]. I’m sure it was Ratcliffe. Ratcliffe saw to it that Ryle was never loaded with any teaching at all and to earn one’s keep, he wouldn’t have been to begin with because he had a source of money...

Sullivan

A separate research fellowship?

Findlay

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

Sullivan

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

Findlay

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

Sullivan

Well, he had a considerable reputation also.

Findlay

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

Sullivan

Yeah, that’s right because he did a lot of teaching. We haven’t talked about that yet.

Findlay

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

Sullivan

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

Findlay

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

Sullivan

And all the surplus equipment.

Findlay

Yes and all the surplus equipment was there. Equipment as you know was quite simple and [when shops were good?] and if you’ve been in the Cavendish you’ve seen his early phase switch. It’s there. That was made in the shops at Cavendish. My guess would be a £1000 a year would keep Ryle happy and I believe he didn’t have to ask for it. I’m sure as candy because after all my ionospheric research was supported in the same way. I never asked for any money for anybody for the seven years I was there.

Sullivan

Right, Ratcliffe took care of it all.

Findlay

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

Sullivan

His group.

Findlay

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

Sullivan

Now, does this hold true right until the late ‘50s, I mean, when Ryle became a professor or are you only talking about the early years now?

Findlay

I have to stop, you see, at 1952.

Sullivan

That’s when you left?

Findlay

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

Sullivan

The 4C Aerial?

Findlay

Yeah, that’s right.

Sullivan

Now Lord’s Bridge didn’t come along till ’55, ’56.

Findlay

That’s right so that’s a good marker to put on it. I’m speaking of the days before Lord’s Bridge.

Sullivan

The Grange Road site.

Findlay

That’s right, the Grange Road operation. [?] and you can check with any of the others but I don’t think you had to ask for money. I think that was nice, isn’t it? Now that he must have done afterwards. He must have been the fundraiser, the fund requester.

Sullivan

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

Findlay

I think he just let Ryle run with it. I would be sure that he understood and followed every work that was being done but I really believe he left Ryle very free. I was going to suggest spend ten or fifteen minutes with Henry Booker if you haven’t done so.

Sullivan

No, I haven’t.

Findlay

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

Sullivan

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

Findlay

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

End of Tape 151A

Sullivan Tape 151B

Sullivan

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

Findlay

I realized how bad Ratcliffe was because of his ability to overcome for the student almost all the difficulties of the subject. But the famous course of lectures-it wasn’t a course-it went on, it must have gone on for a whole term, 13 weeks or so. It may have gone on for longer than that and it was an organization that Ratcliffe set up but once a week his group, I think other graduate student could come, but we all sat there once a week for one hour and he gave thirteen lectures, I think it was in the course and in the course of that in my opinion, he covered the basic principles essentially of aperture synthesis. As I said early, I’ve never read Born’s Optics- there’s an admission- but I believe he had, of course, and a lot of antenna theory came out of that. Henry Booker, of course, sat there too. Bracewell sat there. Everyone sat there. And Ratcliffe in his perfect way set it all out. I’ve forgotten everything practically. I don’t think I troubled even to take notes. It was so good, I just sat there.

Sullivan

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

Findlay

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

Sullivan

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

Findlay

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

Sullivan

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

Findlay

Yes, that’s it. Of course, you can talk to him too but I don’t know whether you really want to but he is there and I understand that he must be over 80 by now.

Sullivan

Is he really that old?

Findlay

Well, I can tell you he graduated in either 1923 or 1924. He doesn’t have to be 80.

Sullivan

Well, that would make him almost 80.

Findlay

Almost 80, yeah.

Sullivan

Ok, let’s go back to the radio astronomy group as you saw it developing in the late ‘40s now. Now, you were continuing to do ionospheric research?

Findlay

Yeah.

Sullivan

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

Findlay

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

Sullivan

What kind of frequencies?

Findlay

2 MHz. Real nice low frequencies. 2 MHz.

Sullivan

And this is what became your thesis?

Findlay

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

Sullivan

That was 1950?

Findlay

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

Sullivan

I saw it in the collection there from the past year. Now like you said, you left in ’52 but I’d be interested in your comments on how you saw the radio group developing in the late ‘40s and early ‘50s when it was becoming much larger in size and more known around the world?

Findlay

Again you will have to check on my history. I think by the time I left, ’53, when was it that Ratcliffe went to Slough [Radio and Space Research Station at Slough], you see he left Cambridge.

Sullivan

About that time but I don’t know exactly.

Findlay

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

Sullivan

Well, there are still people there.

Findlay

Are there?

Sullivan

Budden?

Findlay

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

Sullivan

Not experimental?

Findlay

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

Sullivan

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

Findlay

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

Sullivan

That happened before you left?

Findlay

I don’t think so but I don’t remember.

Sullivan

Well, I can easily find out when Ratcliffe left.

Findlay

It obviously happened when Ratcliffe went to [?], that is by that time Martin was taking over but don’t quote me on dates on that because, you know, I’ve been back so many times afterwards.

Sullivan

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

Findlay

No, I don’t think so but that is an absolutely personal opinion. I know Ratcliffe to have been a very patriotic, you know what I mean. If the job at [?] needed doing, [?] was on the decline, he was by far the top ionospheric physicist in the country. They needed somebody like that and I think he nobly went and did it. Perhaps I better just interpolate, you’ll get it, I don’t think anybody knew Ratcliffe. We used to play tennis together with Kenneth Weekes but he never talked directly.

Sullivan

Personally?

Findlay

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

Sullivan

He just stayed to himself.

Findlay

Yeah.

Sullivan

Well, what about Ryle’s group in the late ‘40s, early ‘50s as you were doing your research? Were you still helping with odd things or was it being to be more separate?

Findlay

No, it didn’t separate much while I was there but I was only helping in a purely administrative fashion but I watched, of course, particularly the early experiments when Ryle was basically after solar physics or what was happening on the Sun. That ended up lasting for two or three or four years.

Sullivan

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

Findlay

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

Sullivan

Well, 1C.

Findlay

Yeah, I know but I’ve forgotten.

Sullivan

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

Findlay

Yes, I’d have to go back and look that up. Yeah. I wasn’t following the operation of his group by ’49, ’50, ’51.

Sullivan

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

Findlay

Yes, yes.

Sullivan

In which case, everyone would be sharing.

Findlay

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

Sullivan

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

Findlay

Yes, and it’s a trick I’ve often wondered that more people don’t do. You’ve got a research staff there. You allocate certain journals and say next week tell us what is in your journal.

Sullivan

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

Findlay

Yes.

Sullivan

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

Findlay

No, my memory is coming back. There were two kinds here; the kind I’ve described to you was when it was essentially the Ratcliffe group including Ryle. No, you are quite right. I didn’t attend those. There was just a straight forward what are you going to do session and I didn’t attend those because I wasn’t doing [?].

Sullivan

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

Findlay

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

Sullivan

Yes, that’s true.

Findlay

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

Sullivan

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

Findlay

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

Sullivan

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

Findlay

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

Sullivan

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

Findlay

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

Sullivan

So in 1952 you went where?

Findlay

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

Sullivan

R and D?

Findlay

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

Sullivan

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

Findlay

Yes. I wouldn’t.

Sullivan

You wouldn’t, right. Well ok, so there were these three years but then you had an opportunity in America?

Findlay

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

Sullivan

So you spent...?

Findlay

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

Sullivan

What was Lloyd Berkner’s position at that time?

Findlay

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

Sullivan

And where had he come before that?

Findlay

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

Sullivan

And he’s American?

Findlay

He’s completely American, oh yes. No, he’s before your time. You can look him up. He’s in reference books.

Sullivan

And what was his field of research? Ionospheric?

Findlay

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

Sullivan

Continuing with John Findlay on 14 August 1971. So Berkner had just gotten the contract to study the feasibility of a national radio observatory.

Findlay

So since you like funny stories, let me put in before then because I had known him and he had been in England something like a year before and he was interested in radio telescopes for this reason. He and Doc [Harold "Doc" Irving] Ewen, would you believe it, to visit Lovell’s telescope which was then being built. Because I knew Bernard so I was their host and I drove them up to Jodrell Bank, stayed in a hotel in [Over the Edge?] the night before and that night we were to go to Lovell’s house to meet Lovell. So I’ll waste a tape on this one. Do you know Doc Ewen?

Sullivan

Well, I have interviewed him.

Findlay

He has occasionally been known to drink beer and I remember taking him into the bar called at [Over the Edge?] and I don’t think he’d been in England before because he said, "I’ll have a beer," and they said, "What kind of beer?." He said, "How many do you have?" They said something like 23, you see, and Doc said, "I think I’ll try one of each." Now, he didn’t but that explains what happened because after dinner we set out for Lovell and I’d been giving instructions on what to do. And we got lost so Findlay stops the car naturally at a pub and goes inside and I say to the man there, you know I can’t do the dialect, I told him where we are trying to get to. He said, "Well, what have you done?" I said, "We left [Over the Edge?] and I turned right and I turned left and I went four and I turned right." And he said, "Oh you shouldn’t have done that. If you’d done that you would have come here." It really did fix me and of course, I accepted Lloyd’s offer which meant that I got here before anything had been done except site selection.

Sullivan

Where did you go to work?

Findlay

NRAO, New York 72nd floor Empire State Building.

Sullivan

And what was your task?

Findlay

Build the observatory. There were three of us. If I must say so, the sloppy way people put things together. The letter that Lloyd said, "I have Dick Emberson, I shall have you, and I’ve just got Dave [David S.] Heeschen who has recently graduated from Harvard. You three will work together to build the observatory." And Lloyd appointed himself director, that’s right he appointed himself acting director of the non-existing observatory and set up into work. In effect, Emberson being his right hand man was leading the project at that time.

Sullivan

And so what was your approach to setting up an observatory?

Findlay

Well, listen to Lloyd to start with. There was a good feasibility study. It was laid out there. The site was chosen.

Sullivan

That had been done?

Findlay

That had been done. That’s right. That’s a good point.

Sullivan

You arrived when?

Findlay

End of ’56.

Sullivan

Oh, that late, I see. End of ’56.

Findlay

I would check that.

Sullivan

I was thinking that was later when the site had been chosen and all.

Findlay

No, the site had been chosen in the feasibility study of which you should have a copy but they are very hard to get.

Sullivan

Well, I do have an awful lot of this kind of material because, in fact, Merle Tuve’s archives are at the Library of Congress and I’ve gone through them and gotten a lot of material, all board minutes of these AUI meetings.

Findlay

Well, the feasibility is a blue book and it was done by a study committee obviously appointed by AUI but with a number of distinguished people on it and they studied not all of the United States, [???], chose about eight sites, made noise measurements at them. They did a good job and concluded that Green Bank was the site.

Sullivan

But it had to be within 500 miles of Washington?

Findlay

Yes, there were some [anti-Eastern resistance?]. Well, all this is written up in Emberson’s Science article, the description...

Sullivan

Well, in an official history sort of fashion, yeah. But in any case, if I can’t find that I’ll check with you.

Findlay

Yeah, come back to me. And also the telescope had been chosen.

Sullivan

The 85 foot?

Findlay

No, the 140 foot design. They had been through the design phases with the steering committee and I remember the first meeting I attended at the Empire State Building. There was Ned Ashton’s 140 foot design not final but they had been through designs from Kennedy and who were the other guys?

Sullivan

This guy Feld?

Findlay

Yes, I would say Jacob Feld, lost his name. D.S. Kennedy.

Sullivan

[Grote] Reber had a...

Findlay

Reber had a shot. I not sure they took any notice of it. Reber had a shot at it but they let contacts to these other people and they were well into 140 design.

Sullivan

Was the AUI office in the Empire State Building?

Findlay

Yes, the 72nd Floor.

Sullivan

I see.

Findlay

And then a few years later it moved to Columbus Circle and then to Washington. But my working life started in New York except, I think, it was within three months we had acquisition of some land and Dave Heeschen and I looked each other in the eye and said, "Let’s move to Green Bank," and I found one of the little houses there and we moved. Wouldn’t you?

Sullivan

Out of Manhattan, yes.

Findlay

Get your feet on the ground in Green Bank. So we started, Dave and I.

Sullivan

So you were there in ’57?

Findlay

I’ve got to check the dates. I didn’t think that I would be doing this. I think ’57 is right. I could get to it. That doesn’t sound right.

Sullivan

Well, you said you came to Manhattan in late ’56.

Findlay

Yes but that date may be wrong. When was Sputnik?

Sullivan

Sputnik was October of ’57.

Findlay

Oh, that’s right because I had observed Sputnik.

Sullivan

From Green Bank?

Findlay

I was trying to do a little Cas A interferometer because we had to have something working at Green Bank to make the Quiet Zone work. That only came into existence in the West Virginia Zoning Act when observations started so we plotted out a simple interferometer at the back of this little house and I remember setting it around and then when Sputnik came I realized I needed to turn the knob of the receiver and I had a good enough thing to listen to the beeps so that’s why. I was placing it as ’59 so that’s right.

Sullivan

Did you ever publish any of this Sputnik stuff?

Findlay

No, there is nothing. It’s in my notebooks.

Sullivan

There is a very interesting Sputnik story from the Cambridge Observatory where they really jumped on it for a week or two.

Findlay

Yes but they were instrumented to do it and they very quickly made orbit predictions. I mean orbit [?].

Sullivan

Yeah, I’ve gotten that story from many people but back to going to Green Bank. So it was you and Dave Heeschen who first moved out there. You set up this simple interferometer so that you could then complain about anybody who was in the Quiet Zone.

Findlay

Well, that was a very minor thing. In fact, in my notebooks I still have the sketch I made of the little house. There was an empty house there so I told the Corp of Engineers, "Acquire that piece of land first." They were buying the land, you see, and so I got them to buy that land first and in this house we set up our offices, hired a driver or two or three, an accountants who is still with us [???], turned the little building in the back into an electronics lab where I started building the electronics division so to speak and Dave was, between us-we were trying to get a telescope going and that’s how the 85 foot came into existence. That was Dave and I as soon as we met, before we went to Green Bank, we looked at each other and said, "We want a telescope and we’re not going to have one where we are going."

Sullivan

The 140 foot is going to be a long...

Findlay

We could see it [???].

Sullivan

Are you saying from the beginning you had doubts about the design?

Findlay

Yes, I mustn’t go into this too far because this is something I would like to write about. Yes, right from the beginning. You see, after all I had been doing antennas all through the war for radar. They were fairly simple and in my three later years, I had been working at the Ministry of Supply and I had been in high grade radar antennas. I knew a lot about...

Sullivan

Dishes.

Findlay

Yes, usually the shaped reflector kind you would for radar and I had been watching Lovell with his problems and just prior to coming here of course, I did the sensible thing. I went to Dwingeloo and went through in detail with good old Ben [G.] Hooghoudt, the first time I met him, and collected all his ways of doing things. And I went up to Stockert and did the same thing. And those were all the telescopes there were at that time.

Sullivan

That was the only 25 meter class in your...

Findlay

Dwingeloo was the biggest antenna in the world for some time.

Sullivan

Well, then you must have gone and visited the 50 foot at NRL?

Findlay

Yes, and I visited that too. And of course, that was the same designer, Ned Ashton, who was supposed to be 140 foot.

Sullivan

Oh, did he design?

Findlay

Ned Ashton, that’s why he was chosen. Ned Ashton did the 50 foot.

Sullivan

I see.

Findlay

And that’s with some manufacturing company but that’s why he was chosen for the 140 foot. He had experience.

Sullivan

But the 50 foot was alt-az.

Findlay

I know but...

Sullivan

Didn’t he like the idea of the….

Findlay

Never mind. I mean all that story I won’t get into because Max Small wrote a fairly good thing when he came and picked it up off the ground. Nobody has written this early stage of the 140 foot.

Sullivan

Small wrote the Sky and Tel. [Sky & Telescope] article?

Findlay

Yes. I believe Max has written a true story, I think.

Sullivan

You are referring to the Sky & Telescope article?

Findlay

Yes, I think he has written a more truthful one. That one is a success story but Max only came in when it was on the ground. It had been on the ground as you know for about three years and I saw it put on the ground and I helped put in on the ground, you can say if you like, but my part of the telescope was the driving and control system and I’m not being proud when I say that was alright. It was the first one we put in and it worked. The engineering problems [???]. Again myself, Emberson, and Heeschen, we all regarded these things as our problems so I was worrying about everything to do with that telescope and not getting my points over obviously. Well, you couldn’t, the design was settled.[???] Well, right from the beginning, Heeschen and I looked at each other and I said, "Look, this isn’t going to go. We want a quick telescope. Kennedy and Blaw Knox are building are building them and can’t we just buy one?"

Sullivan

Right, Harvard had one. Michigan was getting one.

Findlay

That’s right. I mean, that’s it.

Sullivan

NRL was getting one.

Findlay

That’s right and Dave knew about the Harvard Kennedy thing and both Kennedy and Blaw Knox but I met Fred Haddock. You had to meet Fred Haddock as soon as you came into America at that time and he was contracting for Michigan. And so Dave and I said to each other, "We can buy one." And Lloyd Berkner, again a great man, in one month said yes. We met up in Jerry [?] place, Jerry was on the advising committee and I was thinking, "What will they say?" and Lloyd came out and said, "Go and buy it." And thank goodness, he did. We had a telescope. I don’t know whether I want to do all this today.

Sullivan

No, well I don’t want to go into tremendous detail on this.

Findlay

Then later when the 140 foot was obviously really in trouble then we were just essentially protecting ourselves against the year or two, we thought, before the 140 foot would be there and why not have a telescope.

Sullivan

It turned out to be far more essential.

Findlay

I’ve forgotten how many years. So that’s where I see the 300 foot.

Sullivan

Right, well I want to come to that but, first of all, let me ask about Emberson. Where does he fit into this?

Findlay

Emberson was Lloyd’s right hand man, senior sort of administrative assistant, had been in, which was in during WWII, Radiation Lab, I’m pretty sure but never highly technically nor highly scientific but a good man and a particularly good man for Lloyd Berkner.

Sullivan

A good science administrator?

Findlay

He picked up all the things that Lloyd dropped [but a bad man for this job, you see, not the right man?].

Sullivan

For which job?

Findlay

For the job of... well, he was. Lloyd appointed himself acting director of observatory and Emberson acting deputy director. So Emberson in principle was our top man when we come to Emberson, Heeschen, and Findlay which was all we had.

Sullivan

Was Emberson at Green Bank?

Findlay

No.

Sullivan

No, you are just saying that Berkner had many things going so Emberson in practice…?

Findlay

Berkner used to visit us once a month and we would fight like mad.

Sullivan

But Emberson was more often than once a month, you are saying?

Findlay

Well, yes he was but in our New York office and yes, that’s right, we hired an engineer or two into the New York office once we were letting contracts [???] but still Heeschen and I were running the things as if we were a committee. We were a committee without a leader because Lloyd could have been the leader but Lloyd was at that time either president of [URSI?] or [?]. He was working on the International Geophysical Year which he had been working on for years. He had got twenty external international jobs at one point.

Sullivan

And Brookhaven was far bigger.

Findlay

That’s right. He was president of AUI. He was supposed to be looking after Brookhaven, you know. So it was a difficult time in the beginnings of Green Bank.

Sullivan

Well, tell me about who else came after you and Dave Heeschen.

Findlay

Scientifically [Frank D.] Drake, of course, was our next scientist and quite soon after Heeschen got Drake. They had been together.

Sullivan

Well, I’ve talked Frank.

Findlay

You’ve talked to Drake so you’ll have got that. Quite soon after. Then we were living on visitors. I used the international contact I got, particularly on the technical side, my old friend Olef Rydbeck. I said to Olef, "You’ve got to lend me people" Because I knew how very good they were. One trained by Rydbeck is either good or dead. He really is terrific. Hein [Hvatum] told you. Hvatum was one of his.

Sullivan

He is the one person that I still haven’t interviewed. I just haven’t crossed paths with him.

Findlay

You won’t. He won’t listen to any of your questions.

Sullivan

Well, he never comes to any meetings and I haven’t been to Charlottesville. He is in Charlottesville right?

Findlay

No, Rydbeck is in...

Sullivan

No, no, Hvatum.

Findlay

Oh, yes, Hvatum. You should interview Hvatum.

Sullivan

I haven’t been to Charlottesville for a long time. Rydbeck I did interview.

Findlay

Good, you had a good time, I’m sure.

Sullivan

In any case, that’s how Hvatum came to Green Bank?

Findlay

Yes. I got a number of good people. In fact, they’ve all left me but they’re all over.

Sullivan

But who else?

Findlay

Let me just some names from those early days. I ought to go back and look. From Sweden, a man called [?] who went back. I was trying to get good engineers. I wasn’t even worried about the scientific staff, that kind of thing. I’m trying to think what we had on the scientific staff other than Drake. We had [?]. We had [Burt Hansen?] also from Rydbeck’s school and we had Hvatum who came as a visitor then went back and then came back again. So those were the three Swedes. From France, I got a man who almost killed himself because he was diabetic. His name will come back to me. [?] went to the French group in the same way as [???]. From England, good old Ross Meadows came out for a year. He was the man who subsequently built the Joe Bolton antenna. I borrowed him because I wanted to learn about 85 foot antennas. We were just building ours so he came for a year and worked for me in electronics. What other countries? We didn’t have any Australians. You couldn’t get them, you see. They weren’t going to come and help us. Americans...

Sullivan

I can’t think of any other scientific staff.

Findlay

Until we got Sandy [Sander Weinreb]-and I tried to get him early and I failed- until we got Sandy Weinreb, we found it very hard to build an electronics division.

Sullivan

But that’s ’63. That’s much later?

Findlay

Yes, we were struggling in those early days for good electronics. I was head of it among other things and it was Bill Waltman, that right. We were sort of using home grown. Bill Waltman was a graduate student and he was working in electronics with old [Hoog?] to built our first receivers.

Sullivan

Now what about Otto Struve? When did he come?

Findlay

Otto was appointed by Lloyd Berkner. It must have been within a year or year and half of our arriving in Green Bank.

Sullivan

So that would be ’58 then?

Findlay

Yes, and when did he quit?

Sullivan

’61?

Findlay

’61 or ’62, yeah.

Sullivan

[Joseph L.] Pawsey became ill in ’62, early ’62 or late ’61, I believe.

Findlay

Yes, well then it was very close after that. I remember Lloyd announcing it one day. I was driving a car somewhere and I remember him saying, "I’ve found you a good director." We said, "Fine, who is he?" He said, "It’s Otto Struve." And of course, we were glad enough because Otto was a famous man and not a radio astronomer but we wanted a director. All we’ve got was Lloyd Berkner, you know.

Sullivan

You had been pressing for a director?

Findlay

Well, we...

Sullivan

As much as one can?

Findlay

Well, as much as one can with somebody like Berkner, you know. He knew it was a problem. He knew that he had failed. I remember to go back when Lloyd hired me, I was working in London after this exchange of letters. I said," Well, of course I’ll take the job but let’s meet, you can tell me about it." He said, "Well, I’ll be in Paris five days from now." So I said, "That’s fine." So I flew to Paris and we met and at that time, Lloyd described the observatory to me, all about it, and said, "I’ve got the director." I said, "Oh, that’s fine Lloyd. Who have you got?" He said, "Leo Goldberg." He had apparently but I don’t know if you’ve ever checked that one. Leo essentially agreed but that was just the time he was moving from Michigan to Harvard. I think he possibly had the choice. I’ve never asked Leo. I know Leo but I’ve never asked him but Lloyd me that, "I’ve got the director."

Sullivan

But it’s not till three or four years later that he, in fact, got someone else?

Findlay

Two or three years.

Sullivan

But now this is always seemed a bit strange to me, being a fledging radio observatory going and then hiring certainly a very distinguished but nevertheless an optical astronomer, not particularly a technically minded optical astronomer even. What was the rationale and how did that work out?

Findlay

I can only give personal opinions again, Woody. My personal opinion is that they couldn’t get one. I know one other name that was being mentioned before we got Otto was John Hagen.

Sullivan

Right, that kind of person would seem like a far more logical...

Findlay

Well, a number of us somewhat younger ones didn’t think that John was the right man for it but I know what you mean.

Sullivan

Well, anyway, someone who had radio experience.

Findlay

But then you come down to the Fred Haddocks and I think both Dave and myself would have been happy with Fred but he was not an established radio astronomer. Ed [A. Edward] Lilley was the same generation as Heeschen.

Sullivan

By ’58, was not Haddock an established radio astronomer?

Findlay

Yes he would have been a good choice in my opinion but, you know, I’m sure they didn’t offer it to Fred. In his early days, Fred was somewhat an outspoken character. But there weren’t many and Bernie Burke [Bernard Burke] was not yet that into it.

Sullivan

He wasn’t that senior at that time.

Findlay

No, he wasn’t as established as Fred Haddock. Well, old [Edward F.] McClain from the Naval Observatory, Ed McClain, was a possibility but not particularly...

Sullivan

He had big things going on at that time. The 600 foot.

Findlay

Yes, that’s right. That’s the best answer I can give.

Sullivan

Now following up on that, what influence did Struve have on the development of the lab?

Findlay

Very little. The main task at that time was simply the 140 foot and it was not going. So the straight forward, day to day operations of hiring more people. One of Dave Heeschen’s things there was getting a telescope operations division going. We invented that. Well, not quite. Jodrell had that but they didn’t do it as well as we did.

Sullivan

The idea of operators and?

Findlay

Yes, operators and we developed it to the point where the operator owns the telescope. If you observe, you can’t tell him to do something if he says no. You can do your program, you can ask him to do anything you want but you can’t tell him to do something because it’s his telescope. And they were very good. We invented that and, you know, that was done by Heeschen. He found people and I was trying to build up electronics in the same sort of way.

Sullivan

So Struve was only sort of the grand old man?

Findlay

He was writing his Sky & Telescope articles every week still I think, Every month. He had [B.T. Lynds?]. Roger [Roger Lynds] must be one of our earliest scientific appointments. Am I right? The man who talked on the planets?

Sullivan

[Gilman/Norman?]

Findlay

[Gilman/Norman?]

Sullivan

Not that I know of. Maybe he was a summer student or something.

Findlay

[Roger Lynds?] was one early astronomers.

Sullivan

That’s right. They were there for a short time.

Findlay

And so [B.T?] worked for Otto and I’m forgetting Cam [Campbell M.] Wade. Cam Wade was our earliest ones and Cam Wade’s wife who died. She and [B.T Lynds?] were Otto’s two scribes. I watched him write his articles. He was very good. They both told me how he did it. He called them in and they didn’t know any star system you like. He would say, "Go away and read the following references," and give me the exact references and say to one of them, "From these references, summarize for me the following things." He knew exactly what he was going to put down. He knew exactly where it was and he was going to put it all together it an Otto Struve article and they were good.

Sullivan

Oh, yes. I read many of them. In fact, he wrote, in 1948, one of the first popular articles on radio astronomy, a two part series; very interesting. But anyway, back to Green Bank.

Findlay

Well, you’ve asked the question and I haven’t answered it- what did Struve do? I can only say not very much except be a director which we needed.

Sullivan

He gave the place some more legitimacy to the astronomical [?].

Findlay

Oh yes, well he did to us because, you know, it was a sort of lonely feeling. We knew what we were trying to do, although I was 40 by this time, still I’m a new comer to America and Dave was a young man in experience and you feel a little lost without somebody and Struve was good. We talked to him. He understood what we were trying to do but he was not strong enough with our Board of Trustees and he was not strong enough with the Science Foundation [National Science Foundation, NSF]. In those years, the Science Foundation was good and that’s an aspect that again you really ought to cover a little if you can.

Sullivan

They were good in what sense?

Findlay

They were just plain good. There were some people in there, in my opinion, who were good; not good scientifically so much...

Sullivan

Putting the money where...

Findlay

Well, willing literally to take the risks and I can’t do them now, I mean who they were but...

Sullivan

What would be the examples? I mean, Harvard, of course, had a lot of NSF money. What other examples would you be thinking of in radio astronomy?

Findlay

Well, my own case the 300 foot. You asked me about Cambridge. You realize that we had no budget problem at Green Bank. I didn’t even think about a budget for two years.

Sullivan

Why was this?

Findlay

Because Lloyd Berkner presumably was making a request to NSF and they were meeting it without any details at all. I invented our famous other observing equipment. I remember sitting one day saying, I don’t know what I’m going to do in electronics exactly. I know I need money so I thought I have other observing equipment. Put a line item of observing equipment. We still have it and for years, we didn’t have to say what that was. I remember writing an early statement, I forgot what it was. It was to develop equipment to be used fairly soon, fairly quickly for observations in radio astronomy. It would be mainly electronic equipment but not entirely. It may be computing but that’s as far as I’m going to go and I said, "We shall keep you informed as we proposed to spend this money on various projects." and they bought it. Now we do spell it out for them but they don’t approve it.

Sullivan

And that was a substantial sum in the early days?

Findlay

Yeah, I mean our total spending there except for the 140 foot can only have been about $1 million a year or something like that.

Sullivan

And how much was this other, roughly?

Findlay

Well, I remember we asked them for 300 foot money. I said, "We could build something like this." They gave us $300,000 and I built it out that plus other observing equipment so it must have been the same order because it cost another couple hundred thousand. And I could look up the people at the NSF at the sort of associate director level who just said yes, you know.

Sullivan

Well, before we get to the 300 foot, there is another question that I would like to ask and that is the early visitors to Green Bank, of which I know several and I’ve talked to them about what they did, but I would be interested in your opinion of interesting scientific results pre- 300 foot that came out of Green Bank?

Findlay

That’s hard on my memory. It’s only the ones that, so to speak, that I specifically remember. I shall never forget Gart Westerhout for example. He didn’t get any science but never mind. I remember his project- map the galactic plane at 3 cm. I believe I mentioned this to you and I remember him because it was my radiometer that he was using. The one we bought. It was actually Drake brought it from Ewen but it was a traveling wave tube radiometer and Gart said, "The radiometer is unstable;" every time he used it, it was unstable.

Sullivan

I actually have a copy of the report he wrote up. That was ’58.

Findlay

I think he must have been in the Netherlands at that time.

Sullivan

Oh, yes. He did an around the world tour after he got his degree.

Findlay

You’ve got that and that was a part of that. So I remember him and old George Field- young George Field I should call him- I remember him because he tried to do the very difficult Cygnus experiment which I’ve always liked as an experiment. In fact, I thought of trying to get at the same problem some other way so I remember George Field using an 85 foot telescope and fiddling around to do that exposure that is very much an impossible experiment especially for George who I never thought of as an experimenter, you know. Who else was there?

Sullivan

Well of course, Drake did Project Ozma which is a whole separate thing.

Findlay

Yes, yes, and you’ve talked to him about all of that and I’ve no contributions to make there except if he didn’t tell what I regard as the truth, I’ll saying it on one aspect of Ozma. I do remember Drake suggesting after the Morrison Cocconi paper but saying, I think it was in his mind before that, "Let’s do this." I remember sitting around in the control building of the unfinished 85 foot telescope, Drake and myself and Heeschen and I’m pretty sure Struve or it might have been Berkner but it was a sufficiently good group. We asked ourselves the question, "How shall we cope with this publically?" And we agreed, I thought, that he would do the experiment as well as we could, the results should almost certainly be negative but that we should not say anything about the fact that we are doing the experiment until we had the results and at that stage it should be written up by Frank and presented and that isn’t the way it came out.

Sullivan

You mean...

Findlay

Otto gave it away in his famous course of lectures at MIT. For some reason, as I said his mind was not as it should have been. He felt that he wanted something to say about NRAO and so he told the world about what we were doing. Then of course, the sky fell in, as you know, and Drake would have told you everything, what happened after that and it didn’t make all that much difference but we could have got on very well without any of that nonsense. And we also discussed what right have we to do it. What would we do if we got a positive answer?

Sullivan

Well of course, these questions are still debated today.

Findlay

That’s right. [Findlay: Well, I’m still being faced with the real possibility that the Cambridge group did the same thing?] Our answer was take a deep breath and for two or three or four days or however long it’s necessary to do it, don’t say a word to anybody and check and check and check and I was delighted to see the Cambridge group doing the same thing.

Sullivan

With the pulsar.

Findlay

With the pulsar and then all we could say was call up the science advisor and tell him we have important piece of scientific information which he and the president should have and after that we are going to leave it to you.

Sullivan

So you decided that in 1958 that would be your course of action?

Findlay

As far as one can decide anything. Of course, we probably wouldn’t have held.

Sullivan

Was that ever written down?

Findlay

No, I don’t think so but it was clear that didn’t matter but Otto giving it away- Otto shouldn’t have done that. We had agreed that we wouldn’t.

Sullivan

The observations were in progress at that time?

Findlay

I think his course of lectures can be dated. It was the one with the name to it at MIT; about four or five lectures which were subsequently published.

Sullivan

I know the one you mean.

Findlay

I think the observations were going on and I assume, if you want it, you realize we do have- I went through them and again only a year or two- but we do have the observing logs of Ozma.

Sullivan

In fact, I’ve made copies of them several years ago at Green Bank.

Findlay

So you know what was observed and not a great deal of observing time was spent but an adequate. Drake did a satisfactory job and I went back because I wanted to check on that point, do we have the telescope operator observing logs, and we do.

Sullivan

Yeah, I copied them about four years ago. What other people do you remember?

Findlay

Early scientists with the exception of Grote Reber, well there is nothing much to remember about him.

Sullivan

Well, he came and assembled his dish, you mean.

Findlay

Yeah, well he was there for a year. He tried to start his own wave experiments in the valley, you know this I think. Don’t you?

Sullivan

Well, I’ve forgotten but he must have told me because I’ve interviewed him at tremendous lengths.

Findlay

Yes. He went into a valley just over the Greenbrier, in the way he went over there you know, and scanned around and said I’d like to build an antenna over there. Well, it meant cutting down I supposed 1000 acres of trees that didn’t belong to us and Otto handled him. Otto invited him for a year to do as he liked and he built some equipment. I remember him making some equipment for measuring impedances at those very low frequencies. He supervised the building of his own antenna but that was a fairly minor task. We had collected all the bits and it was fairly straight forward but it was a nice job. Well, he grew beans. He published a paper on beans, you must have that one. I can’t remember what else he did except just be Grote Reber.

Sullivan

He must have told me but the plan must have been he was going to do a low frequency experiment at the next solar minimum in 1965.

Findlay

He did say the minimum but he had the idea then of essentially looking...

Sullivan

He did it in Tasmania again.

Findlay

Yes, that’s right and I think his idea was the same one. I didn’t take it very seriously because there was no way we were going to go over there only ten miles away into a virgin valley and build a telescope for him and he did ask Otto if he could stay and Otto quite rightly said, "No, Grote we’d rather you didn’t." He was no responsibilities of ours. It was nice to have him around but my opinion is that he would have been quite a nuisance to the National Observatory if he stayed there. He is a nuisance. An attractive nuisance is a good way of putting it; delightful nuisance, but we were busy. Who else did we have in those early days as scientists? Rad [Venkataraman Radhakrishnan] knows this story. I refused to have Radhakrishnan, this is one of my real successes so you can have this one. A friend of Lloyd’s who was in Sweden wrote a note to Lloyd saying there is an Indian at Rydbeck’s observatory who is absolutely first class and I knew this friend of Lloyd. And Lloyd passed this information on to me and said, "You should get in touch with him." And I’d worked in India for four years and I remember saying to Lloyd, "My experience is Indians come in two kinds: very good Indians and very bad Indians." I’m not going to follow this one up. I told Rad this and he roared with laughter and said, "I wouldn’t have come anyway." He very soon went straight to Caltech. But I felt that was a good enough story, I guess myself, to tell Rad; either they’re good or they’re bad. And of course, he was one of the good ones.

Sullivan

Good British colonial attitude there.

Findlay

Oh yes, I mean he was very happy with that story.

Sullivan

Ok well, let’s get into the 300 foot. What was the motivation to build this dish, first of all?

Findlay

Simply the desire for a big telescope and 21 cm. The only requirements were big collecting area and 21 cm operation. There was no specific science we were going for. Lovell was operating but not at 21 cm. We were a national observatory by that time spending quite a lot money per year in operating with one 85 foot telescope and we could see clearly enough, Mr. McNamara was Secretary of Defense. I forget whether he had cancelled Sugar Grove at the time that I started.

Sullivan

That was ’61 or so.

Findlay

Yes, I think it was right when we started or just after we started but the signals were in the air that, these were the younger men talking, in our opinion we could be Xed over night. He only had to look over the valley; 30 miles away.

Sullivan

But how would McNamara X out an NSF?

Findlay

Yeah but you know what Washington like, don’t you? And it would be perfectly possible.

Sullivan

Hold on, maybe I’m misunderstanding, because it would be in conflict with these?

Findlay

No, no, just because if people are going to kill one dish...

Sullivan

Then why not kill the other one.

Findlay

Well, the 140 foot is the one he would kill, you see. I mean it had been one the ground for three years with $7 million down the drain and not he but anyone, the NSF, could have taken their line from him. They weren’t happy. We got an 85 foot dish and a 140 foot face down not being built; literally not being built.

Sullivan

Well, speaking of unhappiness, I mean, there is, of course, this intrinsic conflict almost which continues till this day between universities and NRAO in divvying up the NSF pie, were they...?

Findlay

Were the universities supportive of NRAO?

Sullivan

Yes.

Findlay

Verbally, yes but behind those words, who knows.

Sullivan

I mean for instance in the 140 foot, were people saying cut it?

Findlay

Well, yes. Not quite as bluntly as that but people were saying, "Even if it works, you are building a monster which will impinge on our university research funds," and they have proved to be right.

Sullivan

It does impinge on university funds.

Findlay

Well, some universities lost their radio astronomy whether that is NRAO’s fault; it is up for discussion.

Sullivan

That is a trend that has continued.

Findlay

I don’t say we were running that scared, Woody, because I quite definitely believed in this, I was saying, "We can have a large telescope at 21 cm for not much money, we can have it quickly if we are prepared just to go and built it without going into a lot of argument about how good it’s got to be."

Sullivan

And to give up the full steerability.

Findlay

My first shot was going to be an Arecibo, a hole in the ground. Arecibo- Bill [William E.] Gordon had it half-planned. I went to Cornell and looked into it all and found a hole the ground at Green Bank, not a hole but nice valley where you could built it. I was only going for about 300 feet. I just wanted it to be level, you know; to have a dish as big as his. So 400 or 500 feet; a hole in the ground would have done a good job for us.

Sullivan

With a traveling feed?

Findlay

Yeah, but Marshall Cohen, among others up there, put me off. I asked him about the feed and it was clear that you can’t do the feed. The feed problem is insolvable.

Sullivan

And of course, it was insolvable for several years at Arecibo.

Findlay

So I remember, we came back and I said, "Well the obvious thing, Reber did it, build a transit telescope. It’s going to be good enough for a lot of work. It won’t do hydrogen line, well we had not foreseen Mort Roberts and hydrogen in other galaxies in any detail at that time so mapping hydrogen as Westerhout did, Heeschen particularly, and [Ivan I. K.] Pauliny-Toth was also an early visitor- Ivan was there [???], I forget his name but they were very interesting in checking frequencies"

Sullivan

: [?]

Findlay

[?], [?], that’s right. And they were very interesting in checking the 3C catalog particularly for Dave Heeschen’s interest in extra-galactic objects, radio galaxies, and lots and lots of...

Sullivan

The Wade and Heeschen survey?

Findlay

Yeah, that’s right. And so when I said to them, "Why don’t we do this?" Everybody said, yeah that’s fine, that will do our job for us. So that’s the way it came about and the rest was basically simple. You can now put it into your record. I’m very proud of it. There was no single design line on a piece of paper and 23 months later there was a hydrogen line observation and I wish we could do that now too.

Sullivan

So it was very straight forward in the building?

Findlay

Very straight forward. There was no problem because we kept it fairly quiet. We didn’t make a great performance about what we were trying to do. We could get enough money so to use our own, so to speak, internal resources we just went ahead and had it designed, and let the contracts and watched it go up and measured the steel, put the steel surface on and turned it on.

Sullivan

Right, that went into operation in ’62?

Findlay

I would have to look it up again. Yes because someone was asking me just now. They wanted to celebrate the 20th anniversary and they wanted to do it this year. He looked it up and I’m pretty sure it was ’62.

Sullivan

Next year is the appropriate year.

Findlay

And it was only supposed to work for ten years.

Sullivan

Well, it’s incredible how long it’s lasted.

Findlay

We rebuilt it, of course. Don’t forget. What you see now is far better than the one I built. We spent much more.

Sullivan

Still, much less expense than it would have been to build it from scratch. I mean the same with the 250 foot.

Findlay

Oh yes but, like you were saying with Otto, it gave us legitimacy. We had a big collecting area. Even Merle Tuve came down and put his hydrogen line receiver on it; things of that kind. Observers came and we became to be a real radio observatory.

Sullivan

And therefore made it more feasible to put some more money into the 140 foot?

Findlay

Well, I’ve forgotten when the 140 foot restarted. I think after the 300 foot was working.

Sullivan

I’m not sure about that.

Findlay

At the beginning of Max Small- well this doesn’t matter to the story, it’s beyond it- but the Trustees appointed Max and between them they went back to the NSF and made a good cost estimate and said, it’s going to cost you another $12 million or whatever was the number. And presented with that number, the NSF said yes and Max Small after that did as good of job- that is he didn’t spend any more money than that. It wasn’t 12 but it was a lot.

Sullivan

But why did they have confidence in him given the past experience?

Findlay

That was the AUI Trustees; there were two or three men there whose names I would have to go back to, who believed that Max Small could do it. He was the engineering manager of the Cosmotron. That’s in his record and he had done a very good job at [BNL [Brookhaven National Laboratory]?] on that and this was purely a building job. You didn’t have to be a radio astronomer.

Sullivan

So based on that success?

Findlay

Based on that. The Trustees, so to speak, picked up the job first of all. Ted Reynolds was the man. He got Stone Webster from Boston, a big company, and they worked at it looking to see what could be done and having got a reasonable plan, they then brought Max in and said, ok, we’ll get you the money and that’s another good man in the NSF. I remember going to that meeting when they finally said yes.

End of Tape 151B

Sullivan Tape 152A

Sullivan

Ok, this is continuing with John Findlay on 14 August 1981. What I was going to say in closing can you just describe in a couple minutes what the basic design fault was in the 140 foot from your point of view? Or was it a management thing, not a design thing?

Findlay

No, that is quite correct clear. There were basically many things that one would never do again in the 140 foot that would not have prevented it from working, like making polar-mounted. You can write a lot about that or say a lot about that. It was a silly decision but not all that silly and not impossible. But the basic thing was just simply how to support the weight of that telescope in an engineerly satisfactory manner and the design was for it to rest all its 2000 tons, as it does now, on a steel sphere supported by a bearing of the oil pad, as we called it, the hydraulic bearing [?]. Well, an oil pad bearing must be precise. The oil thickness must remain good. The sphere was designed to be too small. Sorry, I got that wrong way round. The sphere was designed to be too big, just as a shell, and under the weight of the telescope the sphere would deflect and that would hurt the performance of the bearing. But a secondary thing was the method of manufacturing the sphere was beyond the limit of any machine tool in the world and it was going to be finally machine-turned there in Green Bank on a specially built lathe. You might call it [?] the bearings. And that plus the fact that it was deflecting then forced them to design a supporting egg box structure inside the sphere and at that point, the Bliss Company decided we cannot build this sphere. They were building it.

Sullivan

They had started?

Findlay

They had started and they were trying to weld the egg box structure inside the sphere and every time they welded they got the tri-axial stresses built up, of course, because the egg box was doing this inside and when they cooled, of course, the tri-axial stresses were cracking the welds that were already made and the project ended. I mean I am simplifying this but essentially with a letter from Bliss to AUI saying that, "We simply cannot build the sphere as it is designed."

Sullivan

So it was a very specific design fault, you are saying?

Findlay

Let’s just say, I prefer to call it a design stupidity because I’m quite sure nobody looked forward to the attempt to machine that thing to, I think, it was .002 inch. I mean one could do it but at Green Bank seemed idiot. And the only thing basically thing that was changed with the design was to make the sphere smaller, to make it solid. Make it small for two reasons: it would go through the tunnels in its machined form and we surveyed all the tunnels into Green Bank.

Sullivan

Those would be the railroad tunnels?

Findlay

That’s right. We measured those. It would go through the tunnels and it was small enough to be machined finally- I think it was Westinghouse but the photograph is in the book- on an existing thing and after that the rest of the telescope is extremely close to Ned Ashton’s original design.

Sullivan

In terms of the weight supporting and these tremendously thick walls and so forth?

Findlay

All that is basically as it was. I think that is all written up by Max Small.

Sullivan

Well, I was just interested in your opinion also but the decision to have the equatorial mount is always puzzling to me in the sense that America had always been the leader in computers and transistor technology and you would have thought that would have been made but maybe the person who was doing the designing was not really into electronics, is that the reason?

Findlay

No, that was the committee, the committee that was supervising the project. I sat in the meeting, if it wasn’t the final decision on that, no the decision had essentially had been taken but the committee was still saying why and the why was that nobody wished to risk the performance of a large astronomical telescope on the performance of a computer. And that is fantastic, isn’t it, but don’t forget it must have been 1955 when Kennedy had given them an alt-az design. Jacob Feld had given them an alt-az design and Ashton had given them a polar design.

Sullivan

But there still must have been nobody on the committee who was really knowledgeable about computers?

Findlay

They did have a study made by MIT which I think was favorable.

Sullivan

Now, of course, the whole approach is to have some kind of axis converter which in this very same era was being designed at Parkes.

Findlay

No, that wouldn’t do. No, that I knew and [Hooghoudt?] had done it and Parkes had done it and they had both used the [coordinate?] converter and both had achieved the same accuracy but it was between 1 and 2 arc minutes and the pointing requirement engraved, you know like Mary Queen of Scots, on my heart, was 10 arc seconds.

Sullivan

Why so small?

Findlay

These numbers were fixed, absolutely unchangeable.

Sullivan

Well, what was the shortest operating wavelength?

Findlay

It was all fitted. It was 3 cm.

Sullivan

It was 3 cm?

Findlay

3 cm and the beam width at 3 cm, we do this, is 3 arc minutes and we were going perhaps to 10 arc second a bit heavy but 20 would have done.

Sullivan

But that is the fundamental reason?

Findlay

Yes, that was it. No, I could have been in on that one. Once I saw 10 arc seconds and this is one of the things I’ve been with [Hooghoudt?] and with the Australians without having gone there with Taffy Bowen [E. G. "Taffy" Bowen] because I’d met him was that nobody will make a mechanical [coordinate?] converter to this accuracy so that was it. I wasn’t a computer expert at that time. In any case, the decision had been taken. That’s it. Those words are the truth; facts as best as I know them.

Sullivan

Ok. That about finishes what I wanted. Do you have any other comments up to this stage?

Findlay

No, I hope you can manage with all of that.

Sullivan

Thank you very much. You’ve been very helpful. Ok, that ends the interview with John Findlay on 14 August 1981.

Sullivan

This is continuing with John Findlay on 18 August 1981 at URSI in Washington. Well, two topics that we missed a couple of days ago. The first was your horn antenna [Calibration Horn Antenna, also known as Little Big Horn] that you built at Green Bank. Could you tell me what was motivation for it and how you built it and what results came out of it in the early years?

Findlay

Yes, at that time, there was really not very good knowledge of the spectra of many radio sources and so it was necessary to measure in absolute terms the flux of a few sources at quite a number of frequencies and it was Fred Haddock who said to me, "Why don’t you measure Cas A and measure it with a horn antenna, standard [gain?] horn." So I built the horn. I actually started it by planning to build it pointing south which was silly. It should point north and have a slope of the right value, 30°, build a horn on it and from that time on I had regularly measured the flux of Cas A. Whether the results were any great value- I’ve only done it on two frequencies, 1440 and 1810 MHz.

Sullivan

This horn is roughly how large? Do you know?

Findlay

About 125 feet long, in my recollection, is the end dimensions. The big end is 17.5 feet by about 12 feet.

Sullivan

Right and in those first three or four years did you make regular measurements?

Findlay

Fairly regular. As a matter of fact, it’s a transit telescope, of course. It’s just pointing up a slope as such an azimuth that Cas A goes through the beam and I generally have always made nighttime measures and that conveniently is summer. The transit is midnight at just about at the middle of the summer which is a nice time to observe at Green Bank.

Sullivan

Right, now did you have any idea in your mind about possibility of varying with time, a long time variation?

Findlay

No, we just checked back on that and when I built it, I think you’re right in saying that the variability had not been found and, of course, that’s not a very serious disadvantage for the source. The disadvantages are that it is too large a diameter really to be used for present day telescopes but that spectrum has been the transfer spectrum generally.

Sullivan

Even today.

Findlay

Yes and it is still used very greatly by the practical people, you know, by the people doing ground based satellite.

Sullivan

Antenna [gain?] calibration and that sort of thing.

Findlay

Yeah, that’s right.

Sullivan

Now, when [Kurt, Bowman, Shakeshaft?] said, "I think we’ve got evidence of Cas A varying," did you go back to your two or three years by that time? Could you see it?

Findlay

Yes. In fact, the first paper I published did show a variation. Of course, it was a clumsy and very difficult way to see a variation when you are measuring in absolute terms. The easy way there, what they did, is to look...

Sullivan

The ratio with Cygnus.

Findlay

And we had such an experiment at Green Bank. Heeschen ran a simple transit telescope source comparison which showed the variation too.

Sullivan

I see. After the discovery, he was motivated to do that?

Findlay

Yes.

Sullivan

Well, the other subject that we didn’t talk about was the 1959 WARC Conference [World Administrative Conference] and, even more specifically, the attitude of the radio astronomy community towards interference and protection, can you tell me a little bit about what think?

Findlay

Yes, I would like to do that. And I’ll go all the way back and say, as I just said to you, it was as early as 1950 and maybe even before, there were movements in URSI to develop the desire for protection of radio frequency bands and in some way those never came to anything and so it was not until the fact Sputnik went up that really alerted people to the fact that radio astronomy was really at risk. You know, when things fly around the sky it’s a risk.

Sullivan

In fact, you said that URSI actually in some early stage, around 1950 perhaps, refused to or that they made a resolution and withdrew it at a later...?

Findlay

I think if you like that, I will look it up and try to remember to send you a notice to what happened because my memory is no good now as to exactly who did what.

Sullivan

But they were hardly strongly in favor in any case of protection?

Findlay

No, they were not. They were not and the thing came to a head again in preparation for the 1959 WARC when it was pretty clear that internationally we didn’t have a good, strong position and I was appointed in the URSI 1957 meeting in Boulder to lead a sub-commission, an international group to get a good, strong position for radio astronomers written into the CCIR papers [Comite Consultatif International des Radiocommunications] so that you could get to WARC that way but also generated in some countries so that the radio astronomy position would put on the table by some countries. A long story short, I did do that. I talked with the science advisor in Washington, [George B.] Kistiakowsky.

Sullivan

Well, that was a good story.

Findlay

That was an amusing one because it so happened that I didn’t realize old Otto Struve knew him.

Sullivan

Because they were both Russian immigrants.

Findlay

Yes, they were both Russian immigrants, white Russians. I think Calvary officers. And so Otto and I went to call on Kistiakowsky. We didn’t realize until I read Kistiakowsky’s book [A Scientist at the White House] that he had only just been sworn in that morning. We were his first official visitors and I’m in his book as John W. Findlay of the New York Times but Otto was there alright and the conversation is directly recorded. I explained the position and he said, "You’ve got to go international." The position being, you see, that the United States had made a position on radio astronomy which was not good enough and Kistiakowsky said quite rightly, "Go and see [Wallace ?] in the State Department and see whether he can help you."

Sullivan

So to be a broader base to support to have any chance?

Findlay

That’s right. He said, "Go international." [Wallace Grove?] was a... you can delete that bit. So I did and Oort, of course, was the man who helped. Ryle didn’t help much. Lovell helped. Oort was a great help. When I went to see Oort, he just said, ‘Well, it’s quite easy." We had already developed a CCIR position for the hydrogen line, the only line we knew at that time, and these optic bands all the way through the spectrum with adequate bandwidth. I explained this is Jan Oort, he just said, "Easy. That will be the Netherlands position at the conference," and so it was.

Sullivan

Were there any international allocations for radio astronomy before the ’59 WARC?

Findlay

No, none at all. In fact, we didn’t win as much as we should have done at the WARC.

Sullivan

But some individual countries, I suppose, had some, probably in Holland?

Findlay

No, there was not. We were just doing that thing, you see. What I did in ionospheric research, really turn on a transmitter. You don’t tell anybody and the radio astronomers turned on their receivers and not worried.

Sullivan

Yeah but there were regulations. You were supposed to report transmitters weren’t you?

Findlay

Not ionospheric transmitters, not [???].

Sullivan

Really?

Findlay

They’re not sending intelligence. There is something like that. The sweep frequency transmitter... How are you doing?

Sullivan

We have about five minutes.

Findlay

Let me do this little one about the war itself.

Sullivan

Well, I would like to ask about the general situation of interference in radio astronomy observations. You didn’t do that many yourself in the ‘50s but you were probably cognizant of the situation. I mean was it a problem?

Findlay

No. The problems I can recollect from Ryle’s group were the florescent lamps in the neighboring buildings and, of course, the automobile traffic that was up the road. No, no. Those frequencies bands were remarkably open.

Sullivan

The spectrum was open.

Findlay

Yes, yes. What did he start on? 81 MHz, do you remember?

Sullivan

Yeah, roughly.

Findlay

That was his lower, then 160 MHz and on up except for the well-known military radar experiment with the old 200 MHz radars were there, there wasn’t much.

Sullivan

So it was really looking to the future?

Findlay

Yes, like I said, I think it was the Sputnik threat, the satellite threat, that woke everybody up.

Sullivan

So what were you going to say?

Findlay

The conference itself was from the United State’s point of view almost either a tragedy or a joke. Oort came in, the Netherlands came in and the United States was opposing the Netherlands and astronomy and, it wasn’t Sullivan, the other one, the New York Times man, anyhow, ran the headline. I’ve got the headline, "United States Opposed to Radio Astronomy and Science" and that brought the house down. Actually five members of the delegation were flown back from Geneva to meet with us in the National Academy to redo the American position halfway through. You can imagine how popular we were. It was a shocking piece of work on our part.

Sullivan

So you mean that one New York Times article really swung it?

Findlay

That swung it. Well, people triggered that. Struve triggered that. So did Leo Goldberg.

Sullivan

Well, the article didn’t happen accidently.

Findlay

No, it didn’t happen accidently at all and they were ok. But we got a pretty good position from the United States at the end of the conference and then at subsequent conferences, we won a lot. At smaller conferences which were devoted to space and we joined on with space. Space and radio astronomy were considered twice at conferences, whose dates I’ve forgotten, before this latest 1979 WARC.

Sullivan

Right, in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

Findlay

Yeah, yeah.

Sullivan

What was the U.S. wanting to do with, for instance, the 1420 MHz band? Do you happen to remember? Military?

Findlay

No, they were prepared to clear that. What we have now 1400-1427 that was in the United States’ position for radio astronomy. It was the only thing that was and the rest was local arrangements.

Sullivan

I see.

Findlay

Of course, we didn’t have OH at that time.

Sullivan

There were no other lines that were proposed by the radio astronomers?

Findlay

No, no, or did we write down deuterium on a prediction? I believe we might have done but nobody took any notice of it.

Sullivan

Yeah. There had been a couple papers, by Townes was one, talking about the OH line but, of course, their frequencies weren’t that accurate.

Findlay

Yes and we all felt that we aren’t going to argue for anything until we observe it.

Sullivan

It was unlikely it was going to be important on anybody’s case. Ok.

Findlay

That will do it.

Sullivan

Thank you very much.

Findlay

Very good.

Sullivan

And that ends the little disjointed part of the interview with John Findlay on 18 August ’81. The first parts of the interview are on tapes 148, 151, 152 and this is the end of the tape. No need to listen any further.

Citation

Papers of Woodruff T. Sullivan III, “Interview with John W. Findlay,” NRAO Archives, accessed January 17, 2021, https://www.nrao.edu/archives/items/show/14884.