Interview with Gordon J. Stanley on 13 June 1974

Description

Gordon J. Stanley, 1921-2001. Interviewed 13 June 1974 at Owens Valley, length of interview: 80 minutes.

Creator

Papers of Woodruff T. Sullivan III

Rights

NRAO/AUI/NSF

Type

Oral History

Interviewer

Sullivan, Woodruff T., III

Interviewee

Stanley, Gordon J.

Location

California

Original Format of Digital Item

Audio cassette tape

Duration

80 minutes

Interview Date

1974-06-13

Interview Topics

Work with Bolton on radio sources at Dover Heights, 90 foot hole-in-the-ground dish, ≥1955 at Cal Tech, 30 foot Palomar dish, Owens Valley 90 foot pair, identification of radio sources and quasars; lots of comments on personalities of Pawsey, Bolton, Mills, Ryle, Bowen, etc. throughout; also relationships with optical astronomers.

Notes

The interview listed below was originally transcribed as part of Sullivan's research for his book, Cosmic Noise: A History of Early Radio Astronomy (Cambridge University Press, 2009). The original transcription was retyped to digitize in 2017, then reviewed, edited/corrected, and posted to the Web in 2020 by Ellen N. Bouton. Places where we are uncertain about what was said are indicated with parentheses and question mark (?).

We are grateful for the 2011 Herbert C. Pollock Award from Dudley Observatory which funded digitization of the original cassette tapes, and for a 2012 grant from American Institute of Physics, Center for the History of Physics, which funded the work of posting these interviews to the Web. Please bear in mind that: 1) This material is a transcript of the spoken word rather than a literary product; 2) An interview must be read with the awareness that different people's memories about an event will often differ, and that memories can change with time for many reasons including subsequent experiences, interactions with others, and one's feelings about an event.

Series

Working Files Series

Unit

Individuals Unit

Transcription

Originally transcribed as typescript only by Bonnie Jacobs (1977), retyped to digitize by Candice Waller (2017).

Begin Tape 33A

Sullivan

Gordon Stanley at Owens Valley on 13 June 1974. How did you get into radio astronomy, and when?

Stanley

You know, it’s almost indefinite in my mind what the exact year was when I got in. I had no professional interest in astronomy. My aim at that time was to complete college, and go into electrical engineering, heavy electrical engineering of all things, as a matter of fact, not electronics and things like that. The reason I even went to the Lab, Radiophysics Lab that is, was an accident. It so happened that just at the end of the War, after I’d come home, one of my parents was very ill, and it was sort of necessary for me to find a job close to home so that I could look after her. At that time, there were manpower controls in Sydney, and I was, more or less, directed to go to the Lab because of my background. I really didn’t choose to go. Mostly, I worked as a technician back in the early days I was at Parkes when I studied radio physics.

Sullivan

But you didn’t work on radio during the War, like Kerr and Pawsey, did I think?

Stanley

No. My background was – I was in training at that time, and in the War I was plain infantry. Then, I’m trying to think exactly how it started. It’s not quite clear, and I wasn’t in on the initial stages at the Lab, but Pawsey had received some reports. I don’t know, I have to guess here a little bit. There were a number of classified reports in the files at Radio Physics. There was a so-called Norfolk Island effect.

Sullivan

What was that?

Stanley

Well, I couldn’t date the report, but it was during the War years, but the Norfolk Island effect was also the same effect that had been observed on the channel radar sets where people actually saw the – they knew quite well that low flying planes came in, they got interference patterns. And the Norfolk Island effect actually observed interference patterns from the sun, and then there were similar reports from some of the English Channel radars, and also Bruce Slee, I believe, had written a letter to Pawsey describing the same thing.

Sullivan

I see, and this was a sea interferometer?

Stanley

Yes.

Sullivan

I’d never heard this. Oh, how interesting.

Stanley

Oh yes. This is the way I actually started, as a matter of fact, and then the first observations, this was actual fact, I don’t think anybody will dispute me on this – the first observations were taken at a radar station near Sydney, not Dover Heights, but Collaroy, fairly high elevation, I suppose 400 feet or so. I think actually, here I am indefinite, but I think the basis for the first publications, as the Pawsey, McCready, Payne-Scott paper, was based on measurements taken with the Collaroy.

Sullivan

Yes, I think that’s right.

Stanley

It was a mattress array. But then, for reasons I don’t know, the Collaroy station, or a number of the radar stations, were closing down, the War was coming to an end, and we moved to Dover Heights for convenience.

Sullivan

Let me go back to these wartime reports. I hope I can find them in the files at CSIRO.

Stanley

I forget what they were labeled, I saw some of them myself. I can’t remember the title – I think they were labeled just “secret” at that time.

Sullivan

But was it recognized that the Sun was the source and –

Stanley

I don’t think it was recognized that the Sun was the source. The statement was that in the direction of the Sun it was recognized, there was a connection between the Sun and whatever was happening. But I think the inevitable conclusion is (?) after. The basis of the Pawsey-McCready-Payne-Scott paper was that sunspots, of course, emitted radio emission, and the things were fairly small diameter source on the Sun. Actually, at the time, that paper – I don’t know if, you’ve almost certainly heard this story. Almost certainly, this is one of the slightly more scandalous ones, which I think you’d get some agreement on – the paper was sent to Nature, and when you get anything controversial in Nature, the policy has been to referee it. And the referee was Sir Edward Appleton. And so some weeks before the Pawsey, McCready, Payne-Scott paper was apparently delayed, and Appleton sent in a paper beforehand which, in effect, I can’t remember the whole gist of it, said that he had communications from amateurs back in 1930, or something like that.

Sullivan

Right, I know that little short communication.

Stanley

So that was a cause of some unhappiness, but not too much because Joe was a very generous man. (?) when Appleton visited Sydney, I think sometime soon after that, and he was quite well received.

Sullivan

There is a similar story that Hey retells in his recent book about Martyn’s paper on -

Stanley

Well, there were a lot of episodes like that in Nature, actually. When I first came here, as a matter of fact, I’d never had any personal experience with it, but I felt that we were starting an American observatory. The tradition was that if you had any short, quick publication, you sent something to Nature. And I said, “No, I’d send them to an American journal,” because I didn’t think that Nature’s policy was completely unbiased. It seemed to me they (?) these individual papers to referee, and you never knew quite what would happen.

Sullivan

As Australians, you felt somewhat discriminated against?

Stanley

Yeah. Well, I wasn’t directly involved at this time. I was somewhat on the lower echelon hearing rumors from above. The time scales get a little bit mixed here. I started to get involved out at Dover Heights. That was my first contact. Collaroy project they had finished. To my knowledge, I never really visited Collaroy. Dover Heights was my baby, mainly on a technical scale at first. There were a number of… well, some of these solar things definitely came last. I can’t clearly recall exactly what part of the solar project I was involved in at that tine. Where I distinctly recall the events were, of course, the Cygnus size discovery. And that of course Hey, Parsons, and Phillips paper was published, and caused some excitement, as I’m sure it did everywhere else. I think the person who sort of initiated any effort at the Lab was D. F. Martyn, who’s possibly not recognized. But D. F. Martyn had seen it, and said, “Well, why don’t you try and look at it and see if you can see anything with the sea interferometer.” Well, McCready and Yabsley set up some old receivers. We had a lot of these so-called old gun-laying radars which worked about 75 megahertz. McCready and Yabsley actually went out and spent a lot of time looking for interference patterns at Dover, and couldn’t find anything and gave up in disgust. I don’t know quite why it was written off. Whether they thought that Hey was wrong, or what it was, but they did give up.

Sullivan

That’s not in the published record anywhere, is it?

Stanley

No, not in the published record, but they did try. At that stage, I was left all on my lonesome out at Dover. I did not have any part of that McCready/Yabsley experiment, so I just decided to fool around by myself and start looking. I got the first interference patterns from Cygnus. Now it was immediately recognized that we were sort of onto something, something big. And it was decided to assign somebody else with me to sort of carry it through. And John Bolton, who was just out of the Navy, was assigned to come out to Dover Heights. It was a very close relationship between John and myself at that time. So, we nailed down the Cygnus thing – lots of little episodes, I think. Because, of course, in those days the equipment was very cranky, and you’d get interference patterns one day, and wouldn’t get them the next – equipment would fail. It’s sort of amazing to look back on it. The sea interferometer had quite a lot of nasty habits like you could get interference wiped out by refraction problems, and get sources rising 10 minutes of time late, and all this sort of crazy stuff.

Sullivan

You mean because of differential atmospheric conditions?

Stanley

Sure. The first four or five sources, Virgo, Centaurus, the Clouds, four sources, actually. There was a sort of friendly competition between John and myself, I think. John got the first patterns on Virgo. I got the first patterns on Taurus. And there was always friendly competition in the way that we’d say: “You didn’t, there’s nothing on your record, and there’s something on mine.”

Sullivan

It was just taking turns observing with the equipment basically?

Stanley

Sure. Well, before I lose track, I think that’s a good point to stop. You ought to sort of quiz me from here on rather than let me ramble on.

Sullivan

Well, I’d just as soon let you ramble on. I find this format more useful, in general. But let me specifically ask you, there was a paper of you and Bolton on Cygnus alone?

Stanley

Yes.

Sullivan

And then there was the paper with three identifications, was you, and Bolton, and Slee, I think, right?

Stanley

Yeah.

Sullivan

And then also there was a separate paper by Bolton alone in which he had several sources, I think half a dozen, though the positions were off quite a bit.

Stanley

Yes.

Sullivan

And I’ve seen references that that was just a matter of you had the refraction corrections wrong, somehow. But was that really just a blunder? It would seem like he understood all that.

Stanley

Oh, no. There was one amazing mistake which actually was corrected. There was no mistake in later papers, but there was a mistake in the Cygnus paper, which I don’t think was put in. You may have heard this story, after the fact. That is, we actually took the – we made the correction. It was actually picked up by the Arthur Higgs, who is a very sharp guy. Although Arthur’s name doesn’t appear on many papers, he was one of the most valuable men at Radiophysics. He had the art, I think, of reading a paper critically, intelligently. Too many people will read a paper and look for something to criticize one point without seeing the forest of the whole paper. The funny thing was – the Cygnus paper had been read by just about every prominent astronomer that we could find in Australia, you kno, and it was missed. The simple fact was that not knowing anything about astronomy, we had forgotten completely about precession.

Sullivan

I see. [laughter]

Stanley

At that time, we hadn’t precessed from 1900 coordinates to 1947. So it was quite a big error. The errors in the other paper were just bad measurements, and problems with the sea interferometer and things like that. There was no identifications coming out of things, I mean, to illustrate how hard it was to identify things, Taurus A was not identified until we went to New Zealand. Now, Taurus should be the easiest thing to identify, a thing which is roughly (?) arc minutes in diameter.

Sullivan

Which is a well known astronomical source.

Stanley

Sure. But we had to sort of get different baselines. The difficulty with the sea interferometer was being stuck with one baseline, and observing with one wavelength. And then the refraction correction, Tom (Piercy ?) had, there’d been a lot of work being done on super refraction at the Lab, it was a wartime project because of this waveguide effect in radars. And so we knew quite a lot about what to expect in the way of refraction, but it was very, very difficult to predict it from day to day. Plus the fact you had an ionospheric effects fouling the thing up as well. I forget the actual accuracies you could expect out of those early records, but it has to be in excess of 10 arc minutes. And that really was not enough to really identify anything. There was nothing really forgotten in the corrections we applied to the records. We got better records in New Zealand. We had less atmosphere, and we had a different baseline and thing like that in the Taurus. And I think also, well the Taurus identification clearly came out of New Zealand records. You see, even as late as the stage when we came to the United Stated in 1955, the identification game had not progressed very fast. In fact, I was just saying to somebody the other night when – with Bernie Burke, as a matter of fact – this interferometer here was designed before the synthesis ideas had been proposed. And we were still working on our basic concept of how to get some idea about the diameters. The earliest concept was, OK, you take baselines, and then you multiply them by integral numbers, and this gives you some idea about what the diameter of the source is – going to nothing more refined than that. And Bernie said, well, I was making too much of a point of this, that really it wasn’t a bad approximation to synthesis, and in truth, it’s not. But (?) concept from there to the full synthesis is quite a big step.

Sullivan

Yeah, in a way.

Stanley

Ryle’s was a giant step forward, of course. The other thing about it was that the literature at that time – here was John proposing for the Navy that we could get precision accuracies of half an arc minute whereas nothing was in the literature, in the technical literature, which said you could do very much better than 10 arc minutes. True, I think Cygnus had been measured at that time –

Sullivan

Well, Graham Smith had done –

Stanley

Right. But it was a very strong source, of course.

Sullivan

And Cas –

Stanley

But a lot of effort went in on a very strong source. But the really big breakthrough in radio astronomy you wanted a hundred sources like this, and there was nothing in the numbers which said you could easily do it.

Sullivan

Right.

Stanley

I mean, it was very easy to say: “Yes, I could do it on Cygnus and Cas, but not on the others.”

Sullivan

It wasn’t clear that it was just the sensitivity question? I mean, if you get –

Stanley

Well, there were other papers, not readily available, a lot of information theory papers of friends of mine. Bob Price, who worked with me on deuterium, had a lot of background in that, and he supplied me with papers which had looked at this numbers games, and what the sensitivity-angular accuracy relationship looked like. And it did look hopeful in those days, in terms of what receivers we had.

Sullivan

I see. So it wasn’t thought of as to being a fundamental problem, but just a matter of what was technically feasible?

Stanley

Yes.

Sullivan

Well, let’s go back. We’re skipping ahead too fast (?) First of all, the position you put in the Cygnus paper was precessed correctly, the published version?

Stanley

I think so.

Sullivan

I think it must have been OK or else I would have noticed that.

Stanley

I’m pretty darn certain it was. It was picked up before the thing was published. And the man who picked it up was Arthur Higgs. But it went a long way before it was picked up. That paper kicked around all over the place.

Sullivan

And, the Bolton positions, then, you’re saying, were not only a matter of not applying a correction properly, but just something wrong with the actual observations also.

Stanley

Yeah. I wouldn’t place too much stress on anything like that because you have to remember – put yourself back in the frame of 1947-48 – we had no knowledge of astronomy at all. I mean, you’ve got very little concept of how ignorant we were. There was nobody in the Lab whatsoever. One of the first jobs that John had, one of the big things, because the Sun was such a big deal at the Lab. I think several people, both John and Paul, had this job with translating Waldmeier from the German.

Sullivan

I see.

Stanley

[laughter] This was our first education in the Sun.

Sullivan

This was about what time?

Stanley

And Gamow’s book, too, was very popular with the birth and death of the sun, of course. And that’s largely our early education in astronomy.

Sullivan

When was this translation undertaken? That book didn’t come out until the late… well, when did that come out?

Stanley

I don’t know when the book came out, but I know when they were doing it because we had to be in 1946 or something like that.

Sullivan

Oh, it was just after the War?

Stanley

Yeah. ’47 maybe. No, it had to be ’46-’47, one of those two. It was never finished, the translation.

Sullivan

I’ve also heard that there was some contact, I can’t remember the fellow’s name, but Sydney Observatory or something like this -

Stanley

Harley Wood.

Sullivan

Right.

Stanley

Harley Wood was one of the people who read the Cygnus paper.

Sullivan

Who came over and (?) from the astronomical point of view.

Stanley

He didn’t have much contact, really. We did talk to Harley Wood, yes. But I was never very conscious that he was about. I would say D. F. Martyn was our closest link. We were largely a bunch of engineers, you know.

Sullivan

Is Martyn still alive?

Stanley

No, he’s dead. He died about two years ago, unfortunately. It was a suicide, as a matter of fact.

Sullivan

So he had this development of these first few years where you’re getting into more and more astronomy and more and more technical engineering, and beginning to identify a few of these radio sources, and so forth. I assume that there was a strong rivalry with the Cambridge group going on at this time?

Stanley

Oh yes. And I think there was quite a bit of rivalry, as a matter of fact. It sort of – the first part of the rivalry started between John and myself, then Martyn. Although it didn’t go on very far. The essence of the argument was Martyn is a great man and a beautiful person, but he’s slightly paranoidal, I’m afraid. I think his later history has shown that. As I remember it, the sort of argument was who discovered what first, sort of I discovered Cas. It was sort of nonsense. It was so trivial I really can’t remember the details. But it got Martyn very upset. The way we were doing things were the wrong way. He was doing things right. But the more serious argument occurred between he and Mills. Bernie had been on a project – Bernie didn’t come in until quite late – he came on the project to construct a linear accelerator. This was a by-product of our interests in waveguide techniques and things like that. Anyhow, he got very sick while he was on the project. He developed TB, and had to go off, I forget for how long, for a year or something like that. And when he came back, Pawsey – we were pretty well along by this time -

Sullivan

This is about what time now?

Stanley

We’re talking about ’47-’48. Things were pretty well along, and Dover was quite a big thing, it was an exciting thing. I’m digressing a little bit here, but it’s almost impossible. It’s the one thing I can never recapture in this game. I mean the excitement of the whole darn thing at that time, and yet it doesn’t seem that significant if you go back. But it was so unique. But it was so exciting to be in on it. So many things have gone on here, for example, which probably are more important and more sophisticated, require much greater depths of search and things like that. But never once have I recaptured anything like the excitement of those first few –

Sullivan

But it was starting a whole new science.

Stanley

That’s right. It was the start of a whole new science, and I didn’t think very profoundly about it. It was just simple exciting. It was simply great fun. It’s a wonderful feeling, and nice to be able to be in something, whatever it is, to be able to recapture that sort of thing. Anyhow, I’m digressing about Bernie. Bernie came back to the Lab in ’48, and Joe, at that time, suggested that he come out and work with us because Joe, of course, could see what was happening was very important. And Bernie was probably the most competent guy, technically, at that time in the Lab. And Bernie himself said, “Well, no.” He sort of preferred to do his own thing. And he started to think about east-west interferometers, simple interferometers. Well, you’d have to talk to Bernie to get all the time sequence on this. I’m lost a little bit, but I was going to talk about the relationship with Ryle, which I do know about. Bernie was a fair way along, and he was working with another guy, a Welshman, who later went back to England – whose name escapes me – his name is on some papers, I know that, some of the early papers with Mills – and they were having reasonable success, but things were sort of going slowly. Anyhow, a chemist came through – I think the guy was a chemist – from Cambridge. And at that time we used to have colloquia in the tower room at the National Standards Labs side of the CSIRO buildings in Sydney. And it wouldn’t matter what the subject was, it was a good excuse to take an afternoon off, and just about everybody in both Labs would go along, they were a little bit lazy. So, we went along, and I know Bernie was there. At the end of the lecture, Bernie asked him if he knew anything about what Martin was doing at Cambridge. And the man said, “Well, he really wasn’t privy.” Martin, even then, was still secretive like he is now. And he said, “But he had some idea they had some sort of phase switching arrangement.” I’m not sure those were his exact words, but I was there at the meeting. It was something like that he said. Well, Bernie went away with his other friend, and I figured out what was going on, the lobe switching technique. And so they built their own lobe switching array which was very successful. The upshot of that was a sort of unpleasant letter from Martin, which I did see parts of. I can’t vouch for the words, again you’d have to ask Bernie. But what right had Mills to use his idea, he had a patent on it. That was the tone of the letters, you couldn’t do that sort of thing. And that was the start of a rather bitter relationship between Martin and Bernie.

Sullivan

I see, this is long before the 2C controversy, and so forth.

Stanley

Yeah, that started –

Sullivan

This is late '40s?

Stanley

Yes, the late '40s still. So it’d certainly be the other controversy. I was privy to the whole of the other controversy because that started, well, it started to peak about 1958 in Paris. I was sitting there behind Martin while he was sort of trying to answer Bernie. And then, of course, in Berkeley, again it was interesting because they had their fight at the invited discourse, and that night my wife and I took Martin and his wife out to dinner immediately after where we’d (?)

Sullivan

Now if this is the late '40s, Mills didn’t publish his –

Stanley

My time scale is hazy here, but still –

Sullivan

But he didn’t publish his paper describing his Cross until ’52.

Stanley

This wasn’t the Cross. This was lobe switching, the business of getting rid of the sky. To my knowledge, I know there is something being said about the origin of the Cross, but I cant recall that there was any correspondence between Martin on it though. I think that was after the fact really. I think somebody suggested that the idea of the Cross is embedded in one of Martin’s papers.

Sullivan

I’ve hear that said.

Stanley

But that was not the start of the fight. By that time Martin was bitterly opposed to Bernie. It was over the lobe switching which he was opposed, not the Cross.

Sullivan

I see. We’re up to the point in ’48 or ’49 when a few sources had been identified. What was the next step after that point?

Stanley

Well, things actually dragged, you know. It really wasn’t, as I said, until we came here, that the identification game moved. And in the period between ’50 and ’55, which is when I came to the United States, there started a controversy about arrays and telescopes which was to tear the Lab apart, of course.

Sullivan

Single dishes?

Stanley

Right. I felt myself that the day of the sea interferometer was done. That sure, we can do a lot of things, but John wasn’t convinced. Thought there were two projects competing in the Lab at that time, John wanted to build a very large cylindrical parabola on the cliff edge just to get more and more collecting area, again to fight this numbers game that I was referring to earlier. And Bernie, at this time, was starting to propose the Mills Cross. We’re starting to get into the period ’51-’52, that sort of order. I told John that I really wasn’t behind him on this. The upshot of it was that the Mills Cross won out. Joe said, “Well, we’ll go with the Mills Cross.” Well, we started to look around for another idea, and Kevin Westfold was in the group at this time. And we came up with the 90-foot parabola dug in the ground. That was proceeded with. Well, John was searching around for another idea. I mean, he was, at last, convinced that the east-west or north-south interferometer was the way to go, and so he and I talked about the technical feasibility and things like that. And we decided on some combination of (?) configuration with cylindrical paraboloids, again moveable on tracks. The sort of thing we have here. So I started site searching for this. Because the Lab was made up, Joe was sort of a very gentle guy, and he didn’t sort of try and come down on people and say, “No, don’t do this, don’t do that.” With a lot of people going in different directions, there was a lot of duplication, a lot of very wasteful duplication for a place that size. So I went up and down the coast, and located the site. Now, where the blow-up occurred, I don’t know. At that time Paul was also looking for a site, Paul Wild, and I was helping Paul. This was how the Dapto site was originally picked. A trip that John Murray and myself, and Steve Smerd, and Paul. There’s some wonderful stories about that trip which don’t necessarily appear in a book like that, [laughter] but still. We went all the way down to a place called (?) and came back up the coast, and I picked on an area near Jervis Bay for building the interferometer. And Paul picked the Dapto site. Well, this was the second – John wanted –

End Tape 33A

Begin Tape 33B

Stanley

So many events and so many things going on, you know, it’s difficult. I’ll have to sit down sometime and try and sort this out, exactly what triggered this. There was a small Mills Cross built. The first clash was over the small Mills Cross.

Sullivan

This is a prototype, just to demonstrate that it could work?

Stanley

Yes. Well, the small Mills Cross at Potts Hill, and then the sea interferometer, that was the first decision. The second decision was the larger Mills Cross, the Fleurs instrument. And again this interferometer which John was proposing. Well, Joe was sort of vacillating because I think he’d made his decision.

Sullivan

What was the interferometer precisely? Was it a couple of cylindrical?

Stanley

A couple of cylindrical parabolas on - Sorry, right, cylindrical parabolas on rails the basic concept of this thing. Joe had been vacillating somewhat. He might not have been vacillating, he might have made his own decision in his own mind about what to do. But it was pretty clear to me that Pawsey was going to go ahead with the larger Mills Cross. And again, I felt that this was the right decision because as I mentioned a little way back in our conversation, when I came here I felt that we were attempting a technical problem which was not easily solved. So John came into my office (I had an office just on the lower ground floor), into Radiophysics one day, and said: “I’m going to force a showdown on this. I’m going up to see Joe.” So all I know, he only spent about 15 minutes. And I know he went into Joe’s office. I don’t know what words were used then. They both went into Taffy’s office, and John came down and said, “I’m out of radio astronomy.”

Sullivan

This was when?

Stanley

Now we’re getting up to the period of 1953-’54. And we’d been working together quite a long time. And my own relationship with John was not that good at that time. Because I must say that I’ve taken the opposite technical viewpoint on several of the developments there.

Sullivan

Yes, as you mentioned already.

Stanley

So, I went then, just by myself, and kept going with the 90-foot parabola, and worked with Dick McGee a little bit, and with Bob Price on deuterium. And Joe was sort of worried that I wasn’t making best use of my talents – not too long before I came here. And asked me, at that time there was the idea kicking around that large clusters should contain a large amount of neutral hydrogen, I think it resulted from a paper written by somebody at Berkeley. And it was the basis, you might remember, of Dave Heeschen’s thesis.

Sullivan

That’s right. He looked at it.

Stanley

And Joe asked me to check into that, and actually I did, and never published, and found that there was really nothing there as far as I could see. The reason I didn’t do anything about it was that I was already on one negative paper. Well, I was sort of vacillating about the deuterium because I got nothing, and then the Russian made it for me by publishing the positive results. So I could cheat them down on it, which is an argument for publishing every negative result.

Sullivan

Before you go on further, it seems like you skipped over a certain period of time as to what you were doing astronomically anyway. Did you work with the 90-foot hole in the ground?

Stanley

Yes.

Sullivan

And what did you do with it?

Stanley

Well, the deuterium was done with that. The other project done with that was not really very exciting. The idea was, of course, that the idea would be basically a good one now, and that’s surprising to me that the Australian don’t propose something like this. Here they have the galactic center sitting straight overhead. Why not get into microwave spectroscopy with an instrument of this sort which is the ideal – not the ideal – but it’s a damn good way of doing millimeter-wave astronomy. You get a very stable background. I got some very stable locations, and, well, that was the basic idea. The galactic center had not been mapped very well, and so there was sort of an unexciting, besides deuterium stuff, there was a rather unexciting map of the galactic center region, 400 MHz. Nothing terribly exciting. So there was a period of two years there, I think, which were sort of rather dull. That was bringing me up to about ’54, and that was when Joe suggested that I – I’d say it was more like a year, that’s the period between about ’53 and ’54 which sort of struggled along, and it was obvious that I had to make a decision myself to get out of Dover Heights. And I’ve always been a very independent person. I mean, being the Director of an organization is not the sort of job that ever appealed to me. I see what happens to directors, they get torn up too easily.

Sullivan

I get the impression from everyone I’ve talked to, including the people themselves, that almost everyone at the early CSIRO group is sort of an independent-minded person.

Stanley

Oh sure, that was one of the disasters, and I probably was the most independent minded of any of them.

Sullivan

Probably all of them have claimed that. [Laughter]

Stanley

Well, yeah, but I don’t mean scientifically. It’s just my nature.

Sullivan

But that’s what I mean.

Stanley

I never participated in sort of anything, myself. It’s somewhat the accepted Australian characteristic, I suppose. But as far as their research was concerned, a lot of them were a hell of a lot more independent that I was. It’s just my own personality.

Sullivan

Well, it must have taken a lot of skill by Pawsey to hold all these horses together.

Stanley

Well, that’s where it came apart finally. Because although Pawsey’s talent, I think, was in dealing with young people. And I’ve seen myself in, well I knew what I was getting into trying to run a good group like this. When the people are young, that sort of technique works very well. When they become adults in (?) scientific adults then it doesn’t work so well. Now you let people run loose. And the difficulty was that they got into each other’s hair. They started this, sort of, lots of little factional disputes; you’re doing my work, and things like that. And they never really came to the surface when the guys were weak enough it didn’t matter. But when the guys started (?) See, John and I – I suppose that was an interesting thing too – it wasn’t that we were paranoidal, but one of the things we felt was a great deal of jealousy on the other people in the group because we were quite long time there was a period of 4 or 5 years that we were the only ones who were getting anything, who had anything in this new game. The Sun had become rather dull, and so you published another paper on a polarized sunspot or something like that. It was very dull stuff. And the people who sort of had the background in physics, like Steve Smerd, was somewhat in disrepute. It wasn’t the accepted thing to do in the Lab which was essentially a practical place. And the talent of Paul Wild, who was probably the greatest of the radio astronomers of Radiophysics, wasn’t obvious until a little later.

Sullivan

You’re talking about the very late '40s now?

Stanley

Well, yes, the late 40s, early '50s. I’m going on a little bit. But I’d say the peak of our success at Radiophysics was about, I would say, up to ’51. And then after ’51, well, ’51 was just about Ewen-Purcell HI discovery. At that time, Frank Kerr was in Harvard working with both people. And then I was in on that. That was another thing which I’ve forgotten I’d done. Pawsey constructed this massive project, you know, which was to sort of look at HI in Sydney. Although I didn’t appear on that paper, I mean, a number of people contributed technical skills. The thing was built in bits, little building blocks. The paper was written Christiansen, who else, I forget.

Sullivan

Christiansen and Hindman?

Stanley

Yes, Christiansen and Hindman and a few other people. But it was sort of a big massive effort, the way things were done down there. And at that stage, the other people started to get into the act and other people started to build up their reputations.

Sullivan

Like Paul Wild?

Stanley

So some of the concentrated jealousy, which I think we felt in those days – I always feel scientists are like little boys, and I still work on that theory. But then you’ve got a lot of stronger individuals, Christiansen, ah – Bracewell came back rather late, of course. Ah, Frank Kerr and so on, Paul Wild. Then Pawsey became a little bit worse at handling things. I mean, Pawsey could never really doubt a man’s motives. He was such a beautiful guy himself. He wouldn’t – couldn’t see that somebody was stabbing him in the back. The reasons I came here were not anything really very significantly to do with Radiophysics. They were purely personal strangely. But one of the thing I didn’t like at that time, was that I think I could see, I know I could see, what was going to happen at Radiophysics. Taffy was a much, much stronger man than Joe Pawsey. There was no question about that. The thing I always found about Taffy, and I knew him well, I think I understood Taffy better than any other guy at the Lab, was that you would always underestimate how ruthless he was. He was the ideal hatchet man, the ideal administrator at the Lab.

Sullivan

Soft-spoken –

Stanley

Yeah. And when the bigger controversy started about the next step, the bigger Mills Cross and the array, there’s very little doubt in my mind that Taffy had decided that you eliminate people one by one. And in effect, in some cases, he was lucky, and in other cases – he planned it, but in effect, he eliminated. This happened after I got here, but finally I could see it coming. Each step of the way.

Sullivan

Just tell me for my information. I don’t know quite what did happen to John Bolton.

Stanley

He went into rain making.

Sullivan

After the mid-50s.

Stanley

He went into rain making about ’53, I think that was. That was that day I talked about, he came back, he said, “I’m out of radio astronomy. I’m in rain making,” in rain physics.

Sullivan

And he never did any more?

Stanley

He never did any more radio astronomy, and he didn’t do anything until… the way he came here was that Taffy had come to the Radiation Lab at MIT, during the War, on magnetron mission, and became a very close friend of Lee DuBridge. And so when Lee said there was some suggestion of setting up radio astronomy at Caltech could he recommend somebody. He recommended John.

Sullivan

I see.

Stanley

Because John, at that time, was then supporting Taffy in this big dish.

Sullivan

Ok, I guess that’s up to the point now of your going to the US in ’55.

Stanley

Yes, I think that’s a pretty rough coverage of what happened.

Sullivan

Now you just said how this got started at Caltech basically. And I supposed – so Bolton was invited to set it up or –

Stanley

I’ve got all the documents back there. You know people have asked me this question a number of times, so it’s – in this case, I’ve got documents, so I can almost tell you. And even with the documents, it’s not quite clear how it started. It is clear that a very large fraction of the prominent astronomers at Caltech were against setting up radio astronomy. I specifically wouldn’t want to name names, but it’s not that I want to withhold, but it’s very difficult for me to identify which ones. But I think the thing was really set up partly because of an excitement between Bob Barker, who was then the Chairman of the Physics Department, and Lee DuBridge. I’m pretty sure that Santa Barbara Street was against them because I know in talking to (?) he sort of didn’t want any part of radio astronomy, it was sort of an illegitimate science.

Sullivan

Well, this was just the general conservatism of all optical astronomers at that time.

Stanley

Sure. I can tell you some – going way back now to Australia, one of the things I did was to set up a mattress array at Palomar at one stage with C. W. Allen did a –

Sullivan

Stromlo.

Stanley

Mt. Stromlo, which C. W. Allen did his 200 MHz map of the Galaxy on. I remember going and spending time up there with – we saw a little bit of Woolley and D. F. Martyn, and Gottlieb, besides Allen. And I remember Woolley was sort of particularly disparaging about radio astronomy. That he was quite adamant that there was a sort of lot of nonsense that radio sources just didn’t exist at all – extragalactic radio sources, anyhow. He was prepared to accept free-free emission.

Sullivan

He actually did write a paper a little bit about free-free emission, you know, in ’48. In Monthly Notices.

Stanley

Yeah. He was quite happy about that part of it. But as far as the extragalactic sources, that was a lot of nonsense. He’d just say nothing at all.

Sullivan

Yeah.

Stanley

Martyn was somewhat more charitable. So the astronomers here were in quite good company. And Jesse Greenstein tells the story against himself of going to see one of Grote Reber’s early installations. He was sent as some committee of the AAS, I think, to report on whether Reber had anything. He came back and said there was nothing there, it was all cars passing the antenna, or something like that. Anyhow, it was not unexpected, but there was some opposition.

Sullivan

Along this same line, you did work, though, on the identification of these sources with Baade and/or Minkowsky, didn’t you? I mean, these were obviously two who did have a different point of view.

Stanley

Baade and Minkowsky – I didn’t say everyone, I said there other people who had a different point of view and Minkowksy was one of the people who was quite excited about it.

Sullivan

Can you say a little bit about what their relationship was? Was it just a matter of you just wrote them a letter and tried to get them interested, or how did that work?

Stanley

No, I think Minkowsky – of course, Minkowsky is still alive, and you can ask him.

Sullivan

Well, I just talked to him last week. I want to get your side of it.

Stanley

Yeah. I really couldn’t add much light on that, quite frankly. I think Minkowsky just became excited on his own, and I think actually it was more by talking to the English radio astronomers. I think people like Graham Smith would be my guess, rather than talking to us. Of course, once we got it here, that was a different matter.

Sullivan

Right, then you had obvious and better contact.

Stanley

Yeah. Baade, of course, was a very exciting guy. He was one of the kindest of people, too. But it seemed to me his interest was more general. It was Minkowsky who was the one who was always specifically interested in what was going on in radio astronomy.

Sullivan

Do you have any idea as to what it was in the personalities of these two great astronomers that enabled them to see the value of radio astronomy, whereas a lot of other great optical astronomers didn’t? I’ve been trying to get a handle on this, and I don’t seem to be able to as to what distinguishes them, and Bok is another –

Stanley

Well, I often think looking at Joe Pawsey, there’s a difference in personalities, which is the easiest way to go. Joe Pawsey, I said, had sort of a child-like simplicity about him, a child-like curiosity. He was sort of not as sophisticated a man in the least. And I find this as a talent which a lot of people who are truly great have in common, that the men who are not great tend to think more in terms of the status quo a lot of the time. If you can retain your feeling that science is not a business, I mentioned about the joy I got out of the early part of it, and the thing I always feel about fundamental research, what I try to stress, is that it’s not a business, it’s a game. I know many people who have said this. I’m not saying anything original. But if you’re not have a hell of a lot of fun doing it, get out of it, stop. And Minkowsky was sort of like that. There was something unsophisticated about Minkowsky, too, a rather child-like simplicity and willingness. If he was a businessman, you’d call him a “sucker” or something like that. [Laughter] And Joe, you would have called a “sucker” too. But I think that’s actually an important characteristic.

Sullivan

But this then gives an openness to –

Stanley

Gives an openness to their approach on ideas.

Sullivan

Ok, that’s interesting.

Stanley

Baade, though, was just as the exception that proves the rule because he was somewhat of a more sophisticated personality, I felt, anyhow, myself.

Sullivan

Ok, I disracted you. You were talking about someone named Parker or Barker –

Stanley

Bob Barker. Bob Barker was Chairman of the Division. He had already gotten a commitment from the Office of Naval Research that they would support an effort in radio astronomy, but the amount of commitment was sort of very low. I mean, he just made some general remarks. I think John had written him a letter about building a small parabola and sticking it out on the roof or something like that, or a small instrument. And the amount I mention, $40K, I think, or something like that – something less as a matter of fact – the Navy promised to commit. And Barker was actually the first principle investigator.

Sullivan

I see.

Stanley

He was on the contract as the principle investigator.

Sullivan

This is what time, what year is this?

Stanley

This was 1954. In fact, Barker remained the principle investigator until within about 6 months, I think, of when John left to go back to Australia. It was one of the bones of contention between me and John, I think. Barker was a very conservative man, and didn’t believe in letting things get too wild; he was a bit scared of these wild-eyed guys who might spend a couple million dollars (?)

Sullivan

But he never published anything? Barker didn’t?

Stanley

No, Barker was never – he was purely an administrator. And to my mind, one of the finest scientific administrators I’ve ever seen. I think I’ve learned a lot more from Barker than I have from any other man, as far as administration and research goes. Anyhow, when John came, he immediately brought up the two element interferometer. He’d spoken to me. In fact, as I said, our relationship wasn’t that good. I came almost purely for personal reasons. I said I’m independent, but independent in a different way. I mean, I built myself a house, I’d been married a few years – and built a house in a particularly lovely part of Sydney, as a matter of fact. I had plans of going into something else. And by some curious sort of thing, a big contractor built a house nearby us, and so disgusted me when he was done that when John came to me and said, “What about coming to the States for a year?” I said I was surprised to even see John, as a matter of fact, because our relationship was that deteriorated, and, as a matter of fact, at that time, it wasn’t the attraction of coming to the States, it was just the attraction of getting away, and thinking about something and then coming back and doing something else that made me go. So he talked to me at that time about the two element idea and said, “Well, what do you think of it?” And I said, “Yeah, it sounds a good idea.” And John is a man who lives on two levels. He can become very euphoric when he’s on top, I think John’s personality – I think a lot of people have noticed this with John – he can become a very arrogant sort of person when he’s on the top of the world. When he’s down, you know, he again is a very beautiful guy. He’s a very vulnerable sort of person. I know a lot of people that – it’s really the problem when I first knew John, I found him basically a very shy person. And he has, I think, the arrogance of a shy man. I don’t think a lot of people would see that in him now, but that’s where I think it came from. I think if you talk to Menzel you’d probably get this side of John here. I think he was always impressed by the fact that John was telling him to do things he had not right to tell him, that he was a very arrogant person. Anyhow, we talked about the interferometers, John was on top and said, “Well I can get millions of dollars.” And he really hadn’t talked to anybody. He had just this letter of commitment, it was a wonderful release from – he really wanted to get out of rain-making and back into radio astronomy.

Sullivan

So this was really the same idea he’d been trying to get going at CSIRO?

Stanley

Right, it was the same idea again. So when he got here he talked to Barker. This stuff was in the files. He wanted more than the $40K, he wanted $90K, see, and that was the basis. He was writing backwards and forwards to me at that time – various letters saying, “Well, what will do to get going?” So, OK, let’s build another 30-foot parabola. I built a little one. I didn’t tell you about that. We did quite a lot of work on that, 200 MHz. There was a lot of stuff in that old identification work, it’s almost out of memory now. And so I said I’d design another one of those myself when I get there, and that will be a good start. We had $90K for that. And then John started to hatch the part about the larger instrument, and of course, that really took them aback because it was starting to look like a million bucks and this was way beyond what anybody had thought was involved in the project.

Sullivan

So, he came in ’54, and you came in ’55.

Stanley

No, he came actually in ’55 and I came a few months later. A lot of this had been going on here with Barker in correspondence before. So I came in June of ’55, and he was here in January or February.

Sullivan

And so your first thing was to work on a 30-foot?

Stanley

Yes, that somewhat came out of that. That was the instrument which is out there now, as a matter of fact, sitting out in the pasture, and was erected at Palomar for a while.

Sullivan

Right, I’ve heard about this instrument. When did it actually go up at Palomar?

Stanley

I had that going – it was one of the quickest things ever – think I had it going early in 1956.

Sullivan

And what did it do up there?

Stanley

It just did a 21-cm survey. There were some papers published on it. There’s one published in, of all things, the ASP.

Sullivan

I see. By whom?

Stanley

Myself and John, a couple of collections of 21-cm profiles.

Sullivan

Huh! I haven’t seen that paper.

Stanley

I’m pretty sure it exists. And at that time, Tom Matthews had also come along and he was supposed – we’d done half of it – to do another half of it. There were a lot of things going on in parallel. Before I got here, the 90-foot was looking for an observatory site, and he found one down near Ojai. And just as I arrived, he received word from the Navy that they wanted this Ojai site for a classified purpose. Actually, it was one of the early Nike stations, and I believe it’s still going. And so we had to start over again on our search for a site. And he was about to go to overseas, and so I undertook the search myself with – well, I did some of it with John. We went south, actually. We’d sort of set a specification of 100-mile radius in Pasadena, and beyond that the operation of the observatory became very expensive. I’d gone south with John, we went down south to the Mexican border, and we never really found anything suitable down there. And he’d searched up the coastline, and so we knew that Santa Barbara was the limit of our 100-mile radius. And he looked at Ojai, and there was nothing there. So we started to go inland, and we covered most of the inland valleys, up from Saugus region, around there and didn’t get any luck. So he had to go at that time, so I started to go with a man called (Larraby?) who was an engineer both here and at Hat Creek, as a matter of fact. And we extended, well we went a bit beyond the 100-mile range actually. Oh, let’s see, it’s about 130 miles to Inyo Kern. There was a reasonably flat area there, and then we found there was a missile testing station there so that was impossible, and I was about to give up in disgust, and the man (Larraby?) said, “Well, I tell you what, we’ve got another 100 miles to go,” and he said, “a very beautiful place, I spent my honeymoon with my second wife up there, and I’d just like to go up there for kicks.” So we kept on driving and we stopped almost – there was no road out here and we rode along dirt and I had testing equipment. We said we might as well test here. I said, “This is almost perfect.” And that really was it. When John came back in September, he came up here and back in one day, and this is what started the whole thing.

Sullivan

What year was this?

Stanley

I’m talking ’55, that’s the first year again.

Sullivan

Still ’55, I see.

Stanley

Yeah, but we’d picked the site but we still didn’t have any money for the telescope. We were going ahead with the construction of the 30-foot at Palomar. It wasn’t clear that we would go ahead with this. One of the reasons for Palomar was that we thought, well maybe if we got an operating telescope, we might be able to get over some of the interference problems. And we were pretty disillusioned after operating for about a year up at Palomar. There was a (Haymouth?) valley down there and places like that which – well, if we could put up with a reasonable amount of interference, maybe we would work in there.

Sullivan

That didn’t work out.

Stanley

No.

Sullivan

So what was the next actual piece of equipment that got built? I assume it was one of the 90-foots.

Stanley

The first test - no. The first instrument – the next instrument built was an array, a 26 MHz array, which was built just out here in the field. And this was to be a test instrument. It had rather spectacular results. It was just that we were not interested in doing low frequency work. We didn’t go ahead with it. And there’s another paper in the ASP on that which is a measurement of the coronal diameter of the sun on 26 MHz, very pretty results. In fact, if I have to be a little bit upset about something, I think it’s something which has been lost in the literature because I think it was rediscovered by Bill Erickson some years later. John actually – there was one decision John made too… it’s funny talking about the ASP, he said, “Look here, let’s sort of have a tame journal and we’ll try and build up the reputation of a local journal (laughter) and publish in the ASP.” So the early publications were fairly low quality, but they were published. And there was also another paper on Centaurus, I think, was published at that time.

Sullivan

And this, you say, is a test array? That was just to sample the interference, you mean?

Stanley

I’m not quite clear why they built the damn thing. I thought, gee, I’d like to build one of those dipole arrays, long wavelength dipole arrays. It was partly to sample the interference, and I was quite surprised what clean records they got. Then we looked at a number of sources, but didn’t publish anything else except this solar diameter thing.

Sullivan

That’s interesting. I’ll have to look those up. What was the next step? Instrumentally or –

Stanley

By this time we had gotten the money. It’s a bit difficult here in telling exactly how things went together, but the money was coming through for the 90-foot. And so the design of the 90-foot had started. Although the design had started without a firm idea of how much the darn things were going to cost, that sort of came later when the project finally got up to about $800,000. And everybody was getting quite shocked at what was involved.

Sullivan

Why was it so much more? I mean the rail track, of course, added to the cost.

Stanley

Well, nobody had any real idea of what it cost to build a thing like this. These were fairly novel at that time.

Sullivan

Well, but there were –

[talking over each other]

Stanley

It was a measure of John’s brashness, I think, at that stage because I think it was a source of a little irritation between he and Fred Haddock. Fred was quite a power in the Lab and you can check this with Fred at that time because Fred was trying to buy one of the conventional dishes – what’s the name of it?

Sullivan

Kennedy?

Stanley

No.

Sullivan

Blaw-Knox?

Stanley

Yeah, the Blaw-Knox dishes at that time. And Haddock actually phoned Price because they knew quite well, and John was going around saying he could build one for about half the price. Now here was John coming into a new country and trying to get into things. And I suppose the reason for the discrepancy was in discussions between he and Bruce Rule. Bruce would dearly love to design a telescope, John would dearly love to build something and sell it as being novel. And so I think there was a little bit of euphoria there and it was just that they didn’t get into it solidly and when all the chips were down, it really cost just as much as the Blaw-Knox.

Sullivan

Right. So there was this period of development where there was not much scientific results coming?

Stanley

No, only this mattress array. Even up to the time that John left to go back to Australia, there had only been about half a dozen papers come out of the whole operation.

Sullivan

When was that?

Stanley

1960.

Sullivan

And why was that?

Stanley

Well, OK, there was a little friction between him and Barker. But I think the real thing… well, I told John he was a fool to go back. But the real thing was that Taffy offered him the job of the directorship of the 210. The 210 was well on. Taffy had eliminated all his enemies, and he was in the position he really didn’t have anybody against the scene. People who really wanted to take on the business of running it. Paul was the only man left un-slain amongst them, and Paul didn’t want to get involved in that because he had his own project and his group was very happy.

Sullivan

Right -

Stanley

And John, I think, went back because he felt – as I said to him, “You’re so foolish, you’ve got it made here if you want to say, you’ve got no particular tie to Australia. The whole thing can build up into something which is much bigger than what is going on at Parkes.” And he never said this to me, but I think it was just a question that he felt bitter still about Joe and here was the opportunity to be sort of one up on Joe by going back and taking over the directorship of the Parkes operation. So he went and it left us in a pretty tough position. As I say, I’ve always personally, I felt withdrawn. I mean, when I was 24 (I’m not going into personal reasons why I particularly wanted to keep out of things) but I never wanted to be part of them all, I wanted to feel I was independent, it was very important to me, and I didn’t particularly want to get involved in this. I can see what happens to directors. As I say, even Joe was – I felt that was a very tragic business when I saw Joe just before he died – he came and stayed at my home on his way across to Green Bank. And I thought that was a very tragic experience, because for the first time I heard him talk with any bitterness about the people who were involved and what happened in Australia. It was the very first time. And it came home to me that, very forcibly at that time, the terrific effort that he must have made to put on a front to appear as if it didn’t matter, to appear happy and give this appearance, as I said, with the child-like simplicity about the whole thing.

Sullivan

Right.

Stanley

So, John went though it was – I wasn’t going to go back to Australia because I said to John, “I don’t want to go back to that mess,” and I said if I come back too, I’ll be identified with whatever went on, and I said I’m in a much more vulnerable position than you are, so I’m going to stay. And we were in a hellish vulnerable position here, because I was not really identified with the research very much and all I had was a collection of students and only one of them had really made any significant progress on his thesis. There were five papers out, five or six papers out of the Observatory, and at least three of them weren’t really worth considering, I’d say like that 21-cm paper, it was nothing, it was quite passé.

Sullivan

And who was that one student?

Stanley

There was more than one student, but one was well along. I’d say the one was Alan Moffet. I think Alan is a person, of course, who would need no guidance. I mean, he’s that good, and he doesn’t need any guidance, would have risen to the top regardless of what the circumstances were. The others really hadn’t started a thesis and were still scouting around, looking around for ideas at that time. So it was a bit of a mess, and I became director.

Sullivan

When John left?

Stanley

When John left. It was held off for about six months, I suppose. We started to search around and ask big names. Hanbury Brown was worked on, people like that. And I sort of advised them on things like that. Well, it was pretty obvious that no man in his right mind would take over this. Somebody else’s idea, it was not working, there was the possibility that we technically out reached ourselves, and it would be very difficult to get somebody to come along without the promise of very substantial capital investment which was unlikely to be forthcoming until things operated.

Sullivan

Why wasn’t it working?

Stanley

We had only taken – the interferometer had been used to measure right ascensions. There was no north-south baseline. The only work that had come out of the interferometer -

Sullivan

Oh, hold it, I guess we skipped ahead.

Stanley

The 90-foot interferometer. You asked me when John left.

Sullivan

I see. Let’s go back to where the dishes came on site and so forth.

Stanley

Right. Well, the first dish was completed in 1958, I think. And the second one was completed in ’59. There was a big rush, it was early ’59, I think, the whole interferometer went on and then there was a big rush to sort of get something out. And there were some single dish papers. Again, there was another Centaurus paper, a better one actually, a very nice picture of Centaurus which was often reproduced, although it’s outdated now. Barry Clark and John did that. And that was done with the single 90-foot. There were a few other odd things done on the single 90-foot, too. I think that was probably the best piece of work though that come out. Then the interferometer came on, on an east-west baseline. And so John worked furiously with a couple of other people, and there were a lot of right ascensions produced. And that was the only work that was really done before John left. Out of that there were a few identifications, I forget the papers now, but you should be able to pick up the papers. The first of the identifications started coming out of that, and things started looking pretty good, and then we were getting, even at that time, a half arc minute.

Sullivan

These identifications were helped, aided, greatly by being closely associated with the optical people?

Stanley

Yes. Moffet – actually, no, I don’t think Moffet was that far along at that stage because there had been some diameter work done east-west, looking at things. Because I remember one of the last statements that John made, because we had some indication on sources. He said, “Well, it looks like all radio sources are long sticks.” Which was not a bad guess. You could see how the next step took place after that, but it was a long time. It was some time, a year, 18 months, after that that it was obvious that we had the double source story.

Sullivan

[interruption] So, what was the time with the optical astronomers? Who were the people that were helping with that?

Stanley

It wasn’t – maybe I shouldn’t say this, but seeing I probably will never write it down, I will. It wasn’t the happiest of relationships, quite frankly.

Sullivan

Did you want to?

Stanley

Yes, we wanted badly to collaborate, but the difficulty in the collaboration, I think, was competition amongst the optical astronomers. I mean, here was a hot subject. I think Guido Munch was one of the few wise ones, and he said to me one time, “Well, everybody is cutting each other’s throat. I’m getting out of this game.” It was sort of done like that – it reminded me of the French filthy postcard or something like this, you handed out positions one at a time [laughter]. The hottest, latest position, and the guy rushed up to the 200-inch telescope and took a photograph.

Sullivan

It sounds suspiciously like molecule line frequencies three or four years ago.

Stanley

Well, it was a sad business, really. It caused me a lot of trouble. There was some disruption in the group. I mean, a number of people were involved. As far as radio astronomers were concerned, I think most of them were pretty much above suspicion. It was the optical astronomers who were sort of scrambling around for the -

Sullivan

So in some way your nearness here almost worked against you, perhaps.

Stanley

Well, I think it worked in the identification it worked against us in one. We missed one vital identification, of course. The Matthews and Sandage paper, that was written as the identification of six stellar objects. And the key identification was 3C 273, which actually got us a slightly black eye. We were capable of measuring very precise position, but as I said, people had gotten into this habit of handing out positions one at a time. If the whole of the position I’d be putting pressure on – for God’s sake publish the things collectively, put it together, and put out the positions. The optical astronomers were probably more guilty than we were because they were encouraging this business of one at a time. And some of the people – well, they were looking to their reputations… (interruption) There was a mistake made which should have been a thing we would have measured easily, you know. The accuracy required wasn’t that great, and we were doing quite a lot better, it was one of the more exciting and interesting stories and we had a wrong position on it, and it didn’t get the identification. The identification was done down in Australia, I think, by the Parkes group. (?) with Maarten Schmidt, and then Maarten Schmidt worked on it and I remember the whole quasi-stellar business blew up, and I remember Sandage coming to me with the paper and saying, “Well, I’ve written a paper, it’s an honest paper. I don’t feel like altering a word in the paper, and therefore, what shall we do, want to add an addendum.” And I said, “Fine, that’s all right with me.” And then he added the word “quasi” [laughter]— left the title exactly the same. That’s how quasi-stellar came about.

Sullivan

I see. [laughter]

Stanley

So I sort of felt badly about 273. People said here you are boasting about the positions, the accuracy of positions, and you missed something like that. Or at least – maybe I was paranoidal, but that was what I felt.

Sullivan

Tom Matthews was here with the radio astronomers?

Stanley

That’s right.

Sullivan

But you say the Australians had sent the word to Schmidt.

Stanley

Well, Bolton had formed pretty close relationships with people here while he was here. So he kept up the communication. And positions have always been John’s game so it was the thing he did when – of course, he’s still in it now.

Sullivan

Yeah.

Stanley

So that was the first thing he got on to when he got back.

Sullivan

It seemed like this relationship between Matthews and Schmidt worked out for a while, anyway.

Stanley

Yeah, Matthews and Schmidt, and Matthews and Sandage. But it was still done a bit… what disturbed me, as I said, was there here we were, there was a number of people who had worked on these positions. By this time, of course, we had declinations as well. Reed had published this stuff. There was some very nice stuff there. I think Dave Morris’ part in this is underestimated. Dave was one of the quietest people, and probably the most competent research people that I’ve ever seen. Dave was one of these people who would disappear for quite a long time, and he’d come into my office very diffidently and say, “I think I might have something here, Gordon. Would you like to look at it?” And, of course, it was all sewn up at that stage. It was usually quite spectacular whatever came in. Anyhow, Dave was largely responsible for working out a lot of the problems in the interferometer, in working out the equations and things like this, and what we had to do. All the students had worked on it, too. And Tom really had the collection of all the positions, collectively. So he had a happy relationship with other astronomers in passing – and kept on saying, “Tom, for Pete’s sake, put them all out.” But he kept on hanging on to them and hanging on to them. And if we’d put it out – I regret, I suppose, it’s not very important now – but this sort of thing would not have happened. And actually after that, I turned Wyndham on to them. And Wyndham did a very fine job, as a matter of fact.

Sullivan

(?)

Stanley

Wyndham and Ed Olson, of course after that, Ed took the thing a step further and then started to get uninteresting and become obviously a plain technical problem, and people at other observatories at that stage started to get in on the act, and of course, everybody can do positions just as well as we can now. We have no special expertise in that area whatsoever. But Dave Morris deserves a lot of credit. John Wyndham, who inherited a very difficult position, and he still had this problem of very temperamental optical astronomers, a Frenchman Veron, and he sort of had a difficult problem. They were both difficult people, and there was a lot of discussion about who got priority for what.

Sullivan

Now during the early '60s, there were a number of students who later turned out to be quite excellent radio astronomers. What do you attribute this to, or do you have any ideas how this came about?

Stanley

Yes. I think so, in fact, I spoke to Jesse (who sort of button-holed me the other day). He said, “Well, the strength of the Observatory was in the students in the early days. Why don’t we get more students?” or something like that. I said when John left, I felt very much alone. There was myself, who had some background, but my background is largely engineering – concepts of instruments and things like this. And I didn’t particularly want to get deeply into the –

End Tape 33B

Click start to listen to the audio for tape 34A of the 1974 interview.

Flash version 10,1 or greater is required

You have no flash plugin installed

Click here to download latest version

Begin Tape 33B

Sullivan

Continuing with Gordon Stanley on 13 June 1974.

Stanley

Before John left, we had the problem of how do you start a radio astronomy group. It was difficult to get research fellows at that stage. There were not many being trained in the United States. It was obvious that most of them had to come from overseas. Jim Roberts was here when John left. Radhakrishnan was here, and Dave Morris, I think, came after. But this was not enough to run a major observing program. Jim Roberts, I think, in particular, was a tower of strength. Exceptionally solid astronomer. The recruiting of the students had been done in an unusual way. Maybe you’d better not publish this too pointedly [laughter], but there were no students at Caltech who had applied to do radio astronomy. And the ones who had applied to do astronomy, of course, were not interested in being turned into something like this. Barry Clark was the only one who had been turned back, and Jesse often makes remarks about this ruining a very good student.

Sullivan

I see, he was originally an optical astronomer.

Stanley

Yes, he was the one that they could turn from optical astronomy to radio astronomy. So we went to the physics department. Well, the Physics Department, if you’re not interested, or if Feynman, Gell-Mann, are not interested in you, you sort of started to be considered second rate. You start to look around somewhere else (laughter). So we recruited quite a large batch of people from the Physics Department. I think Alan Moffet actually did apply with some interest in radio astronomy, and then I talked to him, and then I remember he just vanished. We didn’t see him for about a year. He went over the physics. And then somewhere late in the piece, he came back again. But there were three exceptional students amongst them, I think that at that time it was very difficult for me to distinguish between Read, Wilson, and Moffet. They all sort of started about the same time. I don’t think there was any particular brilliant insight into how we picked the students. It was just that it seemed to me with John gone, the very low likelihood of being able to recruit really top-notch research staff, I had only one alternative, and that was to look to the students. And the students were the thing that made the place tick. It was one of the things that always struck me about the United States, my own background, I suppose, is partly responsible. Radiophysics was built on people with undergraduate degrees, and the thing was, to me, trained in the right way, they come out with an undergraduate degree they’re essentially mature people. And they’ve been reasonably trained, they are as good at that stage as they’ll be at any other stage. And I think it was simply that. We just simply had good guys, and here was the excitement, a new instrument which was capable of getting into a lot of research, and I think we just started to train them earlier than people would normally. You know, they were essentially independent because, again, with my background in astronomy, I had largely to turn the people loose and only act as a loose guide toward what they were doing and make sure that they were not going to foul things up or get into something which was completely stupid.

Sullivan

What happened to Read?

Stanley

He’s still in the group.

Sullivan

He is, I see.

Stanley

Well, that’s why it’s so hard to judge students. Read, in his personality, I’d say, on the exam results at Caltech or his performance as a graduate student, it would be very difficult to choose between he and Wilson and Moffet. But Read essentially wanted to do engineering, so he has become an engineer.

Sullivan

That’s why I haven’t heard of him. Well, I think that brings it up to the mid-60s where I’m cutting this off because everything blow up at that point. Can you think of anything else to say?

Stanley

No.

Sullivan

Well, it’s been a very good interview. Thank you very much. That ends the interview with Gordon Stanley on 13 June 1974 at Owens Valley Observatory.

End Tape 34A

Citation

Papers of Woodruff T. Sullivan III, “Interview with Gordon J. Stanley on 13 June 1974,” NRAO Archives, accessed October 15, 2021, https://www.nrao.edu/archives/items/show/15217.