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Interview with Gerald M. Smith

Smith, Gerald M. (1994) Interview with Gerald M. Smith. [Oral History]

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An interview in October 1992 with Gerald M. Smith, project manager for the W. M. Keck Observatory’s two 10-meter telescopes on Mauna Kea until his retirement in 1996. He recalls his early interest in electrical engineering and his work, after graduating from USC (1963), at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory on vidicon cameras for the Ranger, Mariner, Viking, and Voyager missions. In 1976, he is recruited by Robert Kraemer to help build NASA’s 3.1-meter telescope on Mauna Kea. Later becomes deputy project manager for IRAS (Infrared Astronomical Satellite) back at JPL, working under Kane Casani. After its successful launch (1983), he is recruited by Harold Ticho as project manager for the 10-meter telescope the University of California hoped to build on Mauna Kea. He recalls later involvement of Caltech and the Keck Foundation in funding the project. Discusses telescope’s design; Caltech/UC partnership; leadership of then Caltech provost Rochus E. Vogt and physics division chair Edward C. Stone; his conflicts with project scientist Jerry Nelson. Difficulties with Itek, the manufacturer of the segmented mirrors. Comments on current delays in instrument building. He concludes the interview with recollections of his family’s stay in Hawaii in 1941, at the time of Pearl Harbor.

Item Type:Oral History
Keywords:Electrical engineering, JPL, Keck Observatory
Record Number:CaltechOH:OH_Smith_G
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Smith, Gerald M. Interview by Judith R. Goodstein. Pasadena, California, October 10, 1992. 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 > Engineering
Subjects > Jet Propulsion Laboratory
All Records
ID Code:281
Deposited By: Oral Histories Administrator
Deposited On:07 Sep 2018 18:19
Last Modified:04 Oct 2019 15:24

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