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Interview with Jerry Nelson

Nelson, Jerry (1999) Interview with Jerry Nelson. [Oral History]

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An interview in June 1992 with Jerry Nelson, project scientist for the W. M. Keck Observatory from 1985 through 2012 and principal designer of Keck I, the revolutionary 10-meter segmented-mirror telescope on Mauna Kea. He recalls his undergraduate years as a physics major (BS 1965) at Caltech, especially freshman and sophomore physics with Richard Feynman, and his work on 60-inch telescope at Mt. Wilson with Robert Leighton. Graduate work in physics at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory; membership on UC’s Future of Astronomy Committee. UC’s various plans for a big telescope; his segmented design vs. Joseph Wampler’s thin-meniscus design. Collaboration with Terry Mast and George Gabor; visits to Kitt Peak. Comments on support (or lack of it) for their design from UC astronomers and administration. Offer of funding from Hoffman Foundation and its collapse. UC/Caltech partnership. Recollections of his interactions with other colleagues: Harland Epps, George Abell, Rochus E. (Robbie) Vogt, Gerald M. Smith, Harold Ticho, William Frazer, Edward C. Stone. Formation of California Association for Research in Astronomy (CARA). Discusses Itek’s problem in manufacturing mirrors; success of the active-control system; his contributions with Steve Medwadoski to the telescope’s space frame. Comments on enthusiasm of Caltech astronomers for Keck compared with that of UC astronomers.

Item Type:Oral History
Keywords:Physics, astronomy, Keck Observatory
Record Number:CaltechOH:OH_Nelson_J
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Copyright has been assigned to the California Institute of Technology © 1999, 2018. All requests for permission to publish or quote from the transcript must be submitted in writing to the University Archivist and Head, Special Collections.
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
Subjects:Subjects > Keck
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Subjects > Physics
ID Code:276
Deposited By: Oral Histories Administrator
Deposited On:07 Sep 2018 18:18
Last Modified:04 Oct 2019 15:24

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