Round-table Discussion - First Session
Introduction of Participants

Start of round-table discussion
DM Let me formally welcome you all to this workshop. I've been working fairly hard, and have been looking forward to this event. I think it's obvious from what's happened already by email that we are only going to scratch the surface of what people have to say today, and that this is a beginning rather than an ending. We are undoubtedly going to run out of time; there isn't going to be time for everyone to say all the things that come to mind.
RN In this first meeting!

In this first meeting, that's right. I expect there are going to be more meetings with various faces. There are obviously many other people it would be interesting to sit around the table and do this with.

And so with that, I would like to start by asking each of you around the table to identify yourselves, and say how you got into this business, in a couple of minutes each. There's no reason why we should exempt the moderators, so I'll start with Gordon.

Gordon Shepherd

GS Gordon ShepherdMy name is Gordon Shepherd and I arrived at the University of Saskatchewan as a first year engineering, undergraduate in 1948. Now we just heard that the radar arrived in Saskatchewan in 1948. I think the most obvious thing about the University of Saskatchewan and of the Physics Department was just how intense the activity was. Everybody there seemed to be hyperactive. There were just seven professors, Harrington, McKay, Haslam, Katz, Johns, Currie and Petrie, and they were running an Honors Physics Program, an Engineering Physics Program, a Graduate Physics Program, and doing all this research - just seven people. A modern day physics department would be really challenged. I think that it was evident to all the students in the university that the Physics Department was really a place where things were going on, which was why they attracted so many good students and led to such consequences. By the time I finished my undergraduate I realized that this might be a way to make a living and I stayed on to take a Masters degree. Then I was forced by Saskatchewan rules to leave for my PhD. I went to Toronto and came back to Saskatchewan as a faculty member. So I have known Saskatchewan as an undergraduate, a graduate, and a faculty member. Then I had a chance to start again with Ralph Nicholls at York University later, and that's my career in a nutshell.

Doris Jelly

DJ Doris JellyI'm Doris Jelly and I was first exposed to space research as a third year student from Queen's in 1953 when I was given a job at DRTE. The lab at Shirleys Bay was very new having been opened the previous fall. It was a great place with interesting work and enthusiastic staff. They offered me a job when I graduated with a bachelor's degree. So I returned and my first assignment was helping with the production of prediction tables using ionospheric data - predictions of radio frequencies for high latitude radio communications. John Chapman was spearheading the project and it was a major effort prior to the use of computers. Maximum radio frequencies are dependent on the sunspot cycle and one of my challenges was to predict the sunspot number. After that, I became involved in research using ionospheric and other data mainly for the study of polar cap blackouts and auroral absorption, both forms of radio wave absorption. Then I did a Masters degree at Carleton knowing that I had to have more background if I were going to do any serious research but at the same time I knew all these people through going to physics conferences and being aware of much of the work that was going on. At the time that I finished the Masters degree in 1969, DRTE became Communications Research Centre (CRC) with an emphasis on civil rather than military communications and so my work changed too - first to communications in the north in general and then to satellite communications. This continued until about 1985 when I was offered a transfer to the National Museum of Science and Technology to develop the story and collect the artefacts for a major exhibit on Canada in space. I readily accepted and spent 10 years as curator of space technology. It was interesting and satisfying work that I enjoyed very much. It meant that I had to revisit my earlier days of working in space science as well as communications. People like to tell their stories and to know that they are being preserved as well as the hardware that they developed. It was a pleasure to work with all those creative people to record the history and to present the stories to the public. Since retiring in 1994, I have been active with the Friends of CRC where I initiated the history of DRTE/CRC project that now has a web site.

Al McNamara [see also the written material prepared by Al McNamara.]

AM Allen McNamaraMy name is Al McNamara. I was a student at U of S. I graduated in 1947 in Engineering Physics. At that time there was great excitement around the university department because the university was getting its betatron which was a major nuclear advance for the university at that time. I did a thesis on the energy calibration of the betatron. Interestingly enough Peter Forsyth also helped me in that during my Master's degree. I was just completing my thesis on the betatron in the summer of 49 and we heard that Peter was getting echoes on this new radar system. I rushed out and Peter was kind enough to explain all the workings of radar echoes from the aurora, and I thought "Gosh, this is great stuff." Anyway, I left within a month or two of that to go to the University of Michigan to start my PhD. I spent two years there and qualified for all the course work but I couldn't find a good research topic, so I went to NRC and of course there I met Don McKinley and was introduced to his work with meteor radars. Also, while I was at the University of Michigan I met up with Cec Costain whom most of you know, he was a cohort of Peters, I believe, during early years at the university. Cec was at the University of Michigan there at the same time I was and also went to NRC about the same time when he left Michigan. One day Cec came up to me; he was very excited, he said that I've just heard that Peter is leaving the University of Saskatchewan and the radar project there, and Dr. Currie is anxious to find somebody who can follow up with this work. So I jumped at the chance and a few months later I was on my way to Saskatoon. I was very fortunate to participate in the auroral radar work there, and work with some of this very interesting new equipment to obtain Doppler spectra of the aurora. Although we're mainly talking here about the early days, I'd like to just mention that this tied in with my later interests too. Around 1961 or 62 NRC developed a new scheme to finance rocket research in Canada, providing facilities for all the university and government workers who wished to take advantage of this line of research, and I saw an immediate relationship there, that if I could fly experiments in rockets which could make direct measurements of the area from which we were getting radar reflections there was much to be learned. So in the years following that I spent a great deal of my effort both operating ground-based radars and flying rocket experiments with plasma probes to make direct measurements in the radio aurora.

Colin Hines

CH Colin HinesI'm Colin Hines. My association with the field started in 1947 when I was invited to be a summer student with the Defence Research Board at what was then called the Radio Propagation Lab. It was a good job in the sense that I had just got married and it was good thing to have some money in that state. So I went through the summer but not very happily, until at the end of the summer when I made contact with Jim Scott, and a whole new relationship between me and the Board started. After another year and a half, two years, one of them at the Radio Propagation Lab, I went to England for three years, getting a PhD there, not in Ratcliffe's group but in close association with Ratcliffe's group, so I had a good deal of exposure to ionospheric work. In 1954 I returned to Ottawa. By this time DRTE had been established and the Radio Propagation Lab. had been renamed the Radio Physics Lab as one of its labs. I was assigned first to Peter Forsyth's group, probably over his objections, because I don't think he thought very much of theorists at the time.
PF Never trust them! Never trust them!
CH When I went out to do some circuitry one weekend, to make an artificial circuit representing a meteor trail echo, he came out because he was sure that I would explode myself if he wasn't on hand.
PF [??]
CH I got the circuit made.
PF Oh yes, you got the circuit built . .
CH It went up and down. And then within a year or two the Radio Physics Lab was turned over to Peter as Superintendent of the Radio Physics Lab, during which time Janet (radio communication via meteor trails) was the focus of attention. Then Peter took off to Saskatoon and Scott made me the Superintendent of the Radio Physics Lab, which I continued as until 1960, which is sort of the cutoff of Don's talk. At that stage I am just leaving Radio Physics Lab. and consolidating in what was called the DRB Theoretical Studies Group.

Alister Vallance Jones [See also the written material provided by Alister Vallance Jones.]


Alister Vallance JonesMy name is Alister Vallance Jones. I did my PhD at Cambridge from 1947 to 1949, learning the techniques of infra-red spectroscopy which was sort of a new field at the time with Sir Gordon Sutherland, who was a man of fairly catholic interests in all sorts of things. One particular thing was the new types of infra-red detectors - lead sulphide, lead selenide, lead telluride - which made it possible to extend good spectroscopic observations further into the infra-red than had been done before. Then I was fortunate enough to get a post-doctoral fellowship in Canada working in Herzberg's group at NRC in Ottawa, and of course Herzberg was interested in many different things, including some astrophysical problems, and also the problem of the OH bands which had just been discovered by Meinel in the nightglow spectrum. I did various projects in Ottawa, but these were the ones which carried on into the future.

I was looking around for something to do - at that time it was difficult to find employment, strangely enough, in the 1951 period - and I was offered a research associateship with Dr. Petrie who had just been starting to do auroral research in Saskatoon. He was doing some pioneering work with surplus war equipment to get infra-red spectra without enormous success, but about that time the US Air Force with Nat Gerson also offered a contract to the University of Saskatchewan to do research on aurora and airglow, so they had some money to hire some research associates, myself and Don Hunten, who joined the group there. Don Hunten developed work on getting spectra of aurora with photomultipliers. This was a new technique rather than photographic plates, and produced all sorts of very interesting, important results over time. I was given the job of finding how to get infra-red spectra of the nightglow and aurora, and we were able to develop that with the help of Herb Gush, who was a graduate student, a contemporary of Gordon Shepherd's. He built a spectrometer which was developed by other graduate students and we finally succeeded in getting good spectra of the aurora and of the nightglow with these techniques. That led in time to the discovery of the infra-red atmospheric bands which was just a mysterious band that cropped up in the spectrum. It turned to be from excited oxygen produced in the dissociation of ozone by solar radiation. This led to the beginning of an ambition to do balloon experiments to measure the diurnal emission of this, because it is largely absorbed in the lower atmosphere, and also to determine height profiles with rockets. Hunten and Wayne Evans and various other people who I can't mention right off hand did some very valuable work in starting this, which in a sense you might say was the beginning of the actual space program to make these observations from balloons and rockets rather than from the ground. And that's probably enough.

Ralph Nicholls [See also the written material provided by Ralph Nicholls.]


Ralph NichollsMy name is Ralph Nicholls, and I came into this in a very characteristically devious way. I got my bachelor's degree at Imperial College (by the way this is written up, and it is in the things that I've handed to all of you) in 1945, and Sir George Thomson, GP, in August of 45 summoned those of in a class of 60 who (I was 19 at the time, by the way) got first class honors degrees to come and see him. He shook us warmly by the hand, and he said, "Well, I want you people to teach," because he hadn't got very many staff, this was just at the end of the war. So he said, "Nicholls, you will be teaching Geophysics. Go down and talk to Bruckshaw, he'll show you the book." Of course, I had never had any geophysics, but "you can always read it and stay a couple of lectures ahead of the class." This was to a class of 60 veterans. I also ran the spectroscopy lab and demonstrated second year. The second thing GP said was "and you can look after your own PhDs," and the third thing he said was "there is room in my nuclear accelerator lab, but I only want the best. Nicholls, you go down and see Pearse," because I had made the mistake of coming third, rather than first or second. Actually, the first chap lasted for six months and collapsed. The second chap, Don Perkins, and crossed off the list anything that involved electronics and vacuum systems and ended up by putting nuclear emulsions on the Jungfrau, Switzerland, developed them, and was the first person to photograph the reaction between a meson and a silver nucleus, and the way ahead was great; he was the only one of us who made an F.R.S., and also went on and is now professor emeritus of particle physics at Oxford. So, Imperial College isn't a bad place.

I went down to see Pearse, Dr. Pearse, the identification of molecular spectra, a very kind person. GP looked down on spectroscopy and spectroscopists. One really was self-supervised. He suggested that I go and look for the photo-ionization continuum of negative ions, having just read Massey's book on the subject, which was a completely hopeless PhD project, because there was no equipment, nothing. I said, well I had better find my own problem. The tribal customs of spectroscopy were, and are, to concentrate on wavelengths rather than intensities. In fact, one gets looked down on if one worries too much about intensities. Precision measurement of line positions were important. Now it struck me that really one should pay attention to both intensities and line positions, and one should also pay attention to the mechanisms by which states get excited, so you could use the spectra as a diagnostic tool. So I, with the grudging agreement of Pearse got a little discharge tube, a DC discharge tube, running in nitrogen. I stuck eight Langmuir probes - I had to learn probery - into it - thank God we'd got a glassblower - focus that on the slit of a spectrograph, so the spectra that one got indicated the relative intensity of each of the nitrogen bands (as it was) across the inter-electrode distance, and then by suitably fiddling around with the probe analysis one could infer electron temperatures and electron densities, and one then had to develop a theory of the exitation kinetics which led one into Frank-Condon factor calculations and so on and so on and so forth. It all went very well, there was no money, there was a big room that was full of war-surplus equipment, and one went in and raided it. Pearse said, "Nicholls, if you spent more time photographing spectra and less time fiddling around with oscilloscopes, you would get a lot further ahead." But it was going very well.

As it happened, in 1947 the Gassiot committee of the Royal Society of London had an international conference - I just photographed one page, and you have that in your file here - on the Emission Spectra of the Night Sky and the Aurorae, with very notable people like Bates and Blackett and Nicolet and Massey and so on, and as a very young student I sat there, listened, and again they confirmed how there were all these wonderful lights in the sky and no one had thought to ask too many searching questions about how their spectra could be used to give one diagnostic information. So that confirmed that the lab experiments that I was doing had some auroral connection, and that was my first connection. That was 1947. In 1948, GP came and said "Well, Nicholls, you've been here for three years. There won't be a job here for you next year," which was sort of pleasant.

Fortunately, in July 1948 Dr. Ed Hall, the then new president of this university (he had come from Toronto, was Dean of Medicine for some years, was president of Western) was at the Commonwealth Universities conference in Oxford, and also was looking around for new staff members for this department and a number of others. One of the lecturers who knew what GP had done to me put Hall and me together. I had a very nice interview, and Hall hired me. And so in August of that year I was on the Empress of France in a first-class cabin - paid for by this university, by the way - coming to Canada.

All I can say is that this department was extremely kind. It was great. The older people who carried the department were wonderful. I put my equipment together, did some more experiments. By 1950 I had enough to give a paper over at the Optical Society of America meetings in Cleveland on this work. At that meeting was the well-known, well-talked-about, Nat Gerson of the U.S. Air Force. He phoned me on the next Monday saying "We'd like to give you a contract for $67,000 to do lab work on the aurorae." It all went extremely well. It helped this department a great deal. Dr. Misener was very shrewd, and we were able to spread the money around. So we got into space research, space optical spectroscopy. We launched the contract in July 1951 by holding the International Conference on Auroral Physics, July 23-26, 1951. I had my University of London PhD oral in my office during the Conference in a lunch break. Bates and Pearse were the examiners! Then in 1965 I went to York and set up physics and CRESS. The current title of my NSERC grant is "Space spectroscopy, HiRES photodissociation and molecular reference spectra." Thank you.

Ian McDiarmid

IM Ian McDiarmidMy name is Ian McDiarmid. My first research project was at Queen's University, and it was very similar to Al's, it was measuring the spectrum of the 70 Mev synchrotron; I hadn't realized that Al had done it for the betatron. If fact, we were competing on photo-nuclear cross sections for a couple of years, which I hadn't known. Anyway, I got into the space business rather slowly and rather late. In fact, I was more or less pushed into it by Don Rose, who was doing cosmic ray research at NRC. Don arrived there in 1948 and I joined him as a PDF in 1954. Walter Heikkila at DRTE knew Don was interested in cosmic rays, and he was planning a couple of Aerobee rockets to be flown from Fort Churchill. In 1958 he came and talked to Don and myself and he offered us some space in the nosecones, to do some cosmic ray work. Don was really keen, because he was interested in rockets and of course he was interested in cosmic rays, he'd like to measure them above the atmosphere. I was doing high-energy particle physics at the time; I wasn't interested in cosmic rays, except that they were a useful source for high energy particles. Eventually he persuaded me by suggesting we might be able to detect the Van Allen radiation belt as well as some cosmic ray variations. So we did it. We had no idea how to produce a rocket package, absolutely none, and the fact that it worked was just pure luck, I am sure. But it did work, and we got good data. Well, a similar sort of thing happened in 1961 with Alouettte when it came along. John Chapman came and said would you like to put some particle detectors on Alouette. Again, Don was really keen, but I was much less so. But again, he persuaded me, so we did. We went on from there, and by about the mid 60s I was entirely into the space business and I had given up high energy particle physics - Don had convinced me I wast wasting my time in high energy particles, because we'd never have a high energy particle accelerator in Canada, but we might be able to get money for space research, so I switched.

Peter Forsyth


Peter ForsythMy name is Peter Forsyth, and you've heard most of this story several times. I got into the field by accident, as almost everybody did. You have already heard that the field of medicine was just saved from having me in it. Many of you may not know that the field of spectroscopy was also just saved from having me in it. When Cec Costain and I went back to Saskatchewan Herzberg was just leaving. One of the last things that happened was that Herzberg was giving a little course and in it he mentioned that there was a footnote in one of his books which said that there should be a line - and now I have forgotten which molecule, but I think it was the hydrogen molecule - at about this wavelength, and low and behold the wavelength was at 3 cm. Both Cec and I had lots and lots of experience so we both leapt into it. We jointly did our master's degrees - we both had separate theses, of course, but we did our research together. We had two supervisors, and the two supervisors after the first two or three months weren't speaking to each other, so we spoke individually to them. The one important thing that I will remember from that research was that one day we ran into a very peculiar effect. We didn't find the line at 3 cm. We did go and look at some of the finer details of the ammonia spectrum which by then had been found elsewhere, and nobody had done it at high resolution so we did it at high resolution. But we ran into the fact that the line saturated. For some of the lines, as you increased the power, the power absorbed didn't keep going up. So we went along to one of our supervisors, and I'd be happy to give the name privately, but I won't say it here, and he said, "That is ridiculous! Do you realize if that is true you have discovered a population inversion in the ammonia spectrum, and that can't happen." Of course now we know it can happen. At the time he said, "The equations show it doesn't happen, so don't put it in your thesis." Well, I didn't but Cec did. That meant we couldn't publish the results, that was made clear. That was about the end of my participation in spectroscopy, but Cec, of course, went on and did microwave spectroscopy for many years.

You said that I escaped from medicine; you sort of imply that I made the decision in favour of upper atmospheric physics, but in fact I have to admit that part of the influence was the fact that I had taken two courses in anatomy and I had a great big book called Gray's Anatomy, which I was slowly working my way through. And one day I looked at that big book and said "There must be more interesting things to do in the world than that." That's when I made my peace with Balfour Currie. You know most of the story, there have been all sorts of little things which have happened along the way. One of the things that I should mention as a little side issue, when I was at DRTE and I was just getting ready to move back to Saskatchewan - it must have been 57, I guess, that would be it [DM - I think it was 58 when you moved] Oh, yeah, but it was the fall of 57 when I was getting ready - and we had that wonderful incident at DRTE when Colin Hines and Clare Collins and a number of other people all participated in the search for the orbit of Sputnik, and we were so happy because we got it. It was a great time, we had a lot of fun. Colin was the one who taught us how to relearn the orbital mechanics which we should have known about from undergraduate days, and we had a lot of fun.

CH The first determination of its position at latest pass was 50 km. under the St. Lawrence. [laughter, indecipherable comments]. It's called research.
PF I think that's about all I want to say. As you know, I went from Saskatchewan to DRTE, and from DRTE to Saskatchewan again, and then from Saskatchewan to here. I guess out of all those places, Western was the only one which was prepared to keep me for any length of time.
GS Thanks, Peter. We'll get back to you. Don?

Don Moorcroft

DM Don MoorcroftMy name is Don Moorcroft. I was an Engineering Physics student at the University of Toronto in the 50s. In my second year I had a summer job with the Defence Research Board at Fort Churchill, at the Defence Research Northern Laboratory. I took the 4 day train trip from Toronto to Churchill, and spent the summer working with Ray Montalbetti building a celostat, to project the image of the sun into a darkened room, a big camera obscura, to look at sunspots. I really enjoyed the auroral displays in Churchill in August, once the nights got dark. But I never thought beyond tomorrow, so the idea that I might actually do anything that had anything to do with all of this was the furthest thing from my mind. The next summer I worked at CARDE, and I hated the job so much I swore that I would never work for the Defence Research Board again. So when the time for interviews came around the next spring I did not sign up. And then I received a phone call at home saying "Would you at least come in and talk to me." So I came and talked to this person, and he said "If you come to Ottawa you can work for me, and I guarantee you'll have an interesting job." That person was Colin Hines. It was a very interesting job; it was so interesting that instead of going back to the University of Toronto and doing something to do with the spectroscopy of liquid or solid hydrogen, I ended up working at DRTE for 15 months, and was also there when Sputnik went up, and was part of the excitement of those times. It was also interesting that when Peter moved to Saskatchewan I followed him and did my graduate work there. So I guess the world has Colin to blame for me being here.

GS Thank you.