Smithsonian Institution Archives

Fred L. Whipple Oral History Interviews, 1976

2 results in SIA.FARU9520 for "Meteors"
Discusses Whipple's research and tenure as director of the SAO, 1955-1976, especially: the Prairie Network, established to photograph meteorites and fireballs in order to calculate their orbits; comparisons of photographic and radio data on flare stars to identify radio noise from stars; development of stellar atmosphere models in the 1960s; automated data processing at SAO for research and to publish large data sets, such as the Star Catalog; importance of rapid publication of data, such as the standard earths; refinement of observational techniques used in the STP, Prairie Network, Radio Meteor Project, Orbiting Solar Observatory, and Orbiting Astronomical Observatories; his involvement in the lunar program; a national program for astrophysics in relation to NSF and NASA; SAO's minimal involvement with the Division of Radiation; SAO research projects on Greenland micrometeorite studies, neutrino searches, and atomic clock tests of the theory of relativity; development of an observatory on Mt. Hopkins, Arizona, with "pin money"; construction of the MMT on Mt. Hopkins in 1971; decrease in national funding for astrophysics in late 1960s and effects on SAO; transfer of the central bureaus to SAO, including the International Astronomical Union telegraph service and the Center for Short-Lived Phenomena; SAO research in the sixties, including support for the space telescope project, Edward L. Fireman's high energy research on meteorites, and the radio meteor program; reminiscences of colleagues, including Craig M. Merrihue, Imre G. Izsak, and Carlton W. Tillinghast; his role in the Apollo program and reminiscences of the first lunar landing in 1969; formation of the Center for Astrophysics after Whipple's retirement in 1973; his research strategy to encourage innovative work in meteoritics, geodetics, x-ray and radio astronomy; his current research on comet theory and tektites.
Covers Whipple's education and early career, c. 1924-1960, including: his early career at Harvard, focusing on double station meteor work in the 1930s and development of Super-Schmidt cameras in the 1940s; satellite work, beginning in 1946 with studies of meteor hazards to spacecraft and the meteor bumper, the Rocket and Satellite Research Panel, International Geophysical Year, use of Super-Schmidts to track satellites, and establishment of the STP; his appointment as director of SAO in 1955 and its transfer to Cambridge, Massachusetts; his educational background at University of California; early research projects on the flux of material into interplanetary medium and development of the Icy Comet Model; his involvement in rocket research, beginning with upper atmosphere meteor research; popular articles on conquest of the moon and space frontier, written with Cornelius J. Ryan, Wernher von Braun, and others in 1953-54; involvement with government organizations, such as the Upper Atmosphere Rocket Research Panel, the Scientific Advisory Board to the U. S. Air Force, National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics, and National Aeronautics and Space Administration; his role in World War II, especially his work at the U. S. Army Radiation Laboratory developing radar countermeasures; his views concerning defense department sponsorship of basic research at the Office of Scientific Research and Development and the Naval Research Laboratory, and the later establishment of the National Science Foundation; his views on funding of basic research in the national interest; his role in the development of the field of meteoritics; relations with scientists in Iron Curtain countries during the McCarthy era; establishment of the STP after 1957; the research program at SAO, including unsuccessful attempts to pursue x-ray and radio astronomy, development of meteor and interplanetary materials research, and development of the MMT at Mt. Hopkins, Arizona; administration of SAO, including funding, staffing, and administrative support of research; relationship of SAO to the larger astronomical community; development of the Moonwatch optical tracking program in 1957, its role in tracking Sputnik, and the role of amateurs in astronomy.