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Interview with Gerry Neugebauer

Neugebauer, Gerry (1994) Interview with Gerry Neugebauer. [Oral History]

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An interview in two sessions, July 1991, with Gerry Neugebauer, Robert Andrews Millikan Professor of Physics in the Division of Physics, Mathematics, and Astronomy (PMA). Received his PhD in physics from Caltech (1960) and joined the faculty in 1962 as assistant professor. Lead scientist on IRAS (Infrared Astronomical Satellite), launched in 1983; director of Palomar Observatory 1980-1984; PMA division chair 1988-1993. Discusses his role in construction of Keck I, the first of W. M. Keck Observatory’s two 10-meter telescopes on Mauna Kea. Recalls his early interest in astronomy; switch to physics at Cornell; Army career working on Mariner program at Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Discusses his stint as Palomar director and its light problems; involvement, beginning in 1983, in planning for a 10-meter telescope with his former student Jerry Nelson and PMA division chair Edward C. Stone. Competing designs. Caltech’s decision to go with University of California, then expecting $36 million from Hoffman Foundation, as “junior partner.” Involvement of Keck Foundation; early notions of building a Keck telescope and a Hoffman telescope. Caltech becomes equal partner. Establishment of CARA (California Association for Research in Astronomy) to run the observatory. Comments on Mauna Kea site, conflict with UC over siting the headquarters: Waimea or Hilo. Selection of Waimea; Smart Trust. Discusses design and manufacture of the 36 mirror segments. Comments on difficulty working at telescope’s altitude; on partnership between UC, Caltech, and University of Hawaii. Continual drive in astronomy community for larger telescopes; adaptive optics. Itek’s problems with polishing the mirrors. Status of work on Keck II.

Item Type:Oral History
Keywords:Physics, astronomy, Palomar Observatory, Keck Observatory
Record Number:CaltechOH:OH_Neugebauer_G
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Neugebauer, Gerry. Interview by Timothy D. Moy. Pasadena, California, July 15 and 16, 1991. 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 > Keck
Subjects > Astronomy
All Records
Subjects > Physics
ID Code:277
Deposited By: Oral Histories Administrator
Deposited On:07 Sep 2018 18:18
Last Modified:04 Oct 2019 15:24

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