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Interview with Ward Whaling

Whaling, Ward (2002) Interview with Ward Whaling. [Oral History]

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An interview in four sessions, in April and May 1999, with Ward Whaling, professor of physics, emeritus, in the Division of Physics, Mathematics, and Astronomy. He recalls growing up outside Dallas and later Houston, Texas. Entered Rice University in 1941 and joined Army Signal Corps. Graduated with a BS in physics in February '44, and spent three months in the Signal Corps Officer Candidate School, Fort Monmouth, NJ, where he studied advanced radar techniques. Recalls his stint with the U.S. occupation forces in Bremen. Discharged in September 1946, he returned to Rice for graduate work, where he became a teaching assistant for William V. Houston; PhD 1947, with Thomas W. Bonner, thesis on the reactions of lithium-6 with deuterium. He recalls work with early Van de Graaff accelerators. Dr. Whaling became a research fellow at Caltech in 1949 (he joined the faculty as an assistant professor in 1952). At Rice, he had been working on energy levels of beryllium-7, which was of interest to a group at Caltech's Kellogg Radiation Laboratory. He joined the Kellogg group and helped build a magnetic spectrometer. He recalls that work and his colleagues Alvin Tollestrup, William A. Fowler, Charles C. and Thomas Lauritsen, and later Fay Ajzenberg-Selove, Charles A. Barnes, Ralph Kavanagh, Robert King. Discusses Caltech's postwar military projects. Recalls Fred Hoyle's work on nucleogenesis at Caltech and Hoyle's interactions with Kellogg group and Caltech astronomers. Offers his recollections of social life at Caltech, and of Robert Bacher's tenure as division chairman [1948-1962]. Recalls the musical shows that J. Kent Clark [professor of English 1947-1986] and Elliot Davis put together, and the Apicians, a dining club at the Athenaeum. There is an extensive discussion of the early days of astrophysics and nucleosynthesis at Caltech. Describes his duties as secretary for the Faculty Board (a post he has held since 1984) and the work of the Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee. Discusses his unrewarding year as RA [resident associate] in Fleming House in the mid-1950s and the undergraduate culture at Caltech. Became emeritus in 1993. Reflects on how much he has enjoyed teaching at Caltech, especially the laboratories. He concludes the interview with a discussion of his work on the scanning interferometer for the McMath solar telescope at Kitt Peak to measure atomic branching ratios.

Item Type:Oral History
Keywords:Physics, astrophysics
Record Number:CaltechOH:OH_Whaling_W
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Whaling, Ward. Interview by Shelley Erwin. Pasadena, California, April-May, 1999. Oral History Project, California Institute of Technology Archives. Retrieved [supply date of retrieval] from the World Wide Web:
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
Subjects:Subjects > Physics
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Subjects > Astronomy
ID Code:122
Deposited By: Oral Histories Administrator
Deposited On:07 Sep 2006
Last Modified:22 Jan 2021 03:26

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