HISTORY OF OPTICAL EXPERIENCES June 9, 1999
Born December 17, 1917 in Chicago Illinois of immigrant European parents, graduated from University of Chicago with graduate work in physics, I left the University Manhattan Project in 1945 for the Naval Ordnance Test Station in California. I made my home in California until I retired in 1998 from EOI Inc., in Santa Barbara, California. My daughter and son by first marriage are graduates of the University of California. Between them I have five grandchildren. My current wife, Barbara, and I have been married 24 years.
My father died when I was a little child. English was not a common language spoken at home. It was necessary I learn English without public school special language classes. My mother's family relatives in Europe were teachers in the gymnasium, and a civil engineer. She repeated her dream for me as long as I can remember that I would graduate from a University. Until she re-married several years later, my life was spent in public school, at a Catholic child care operated by nuns, and at a neighbors when she came home late.
My stepfather had respect primarily for people who could earn a living using their hands. He raised two sons on that principle. I had inherited her dream which was inspired further by a fifth grade school teacher, in my first exposure to science.
Ms. De Celle, was an attractive blonde. I was seated near the front in all classes. I remember clearly her legs crossed at the ankles as she set on her desk facing the class, while she waved her arms and discussed the sciences. One day she spoke about the future possibility of atomic power...."if all the energy contained in a handful of coal were made available, it would power an ocean liner across the Atlantic"! I was impressed. Much later people told me it was a Freudian experience.
I attended Lane Tech HS about 1 1/2 years. During that period I joined an after school Astronomy club. Our big project was to grind and polish our own parabola. Because of the depression, I stopped school and was put to work at the same plant as my step-father and his two sons. Wages...10 cents / hr. My early dream led me to attend an evening high school program at a local YMCA. It cost $5 per semester. It was discontinued for lack of students. The instructor directed me to the private Evening College and High School program at the downtown YMCA. I got a raise to 25 cents an hour then to equivalent of $6 a day so was able to pay my way. At the age of 22, I graduated with savings for one year tuition at the University of Chicago where my interest was in atomic physics. Then events interfered.
In addition to scholarships, I needed to earn money to continue at the University. By some good fortune I was hired by The Building and Grounds Department....10-12 pm. During one summer I worked at Gaertner, polishing roof prisms for Karl Lambrecht who was in charge of the optical shop. The University Optical Shop needed help as the military needs became evident. Since I was the only student applicant that ever handled glass grinding and polishing, I was hired. Fred Pearson was the skilled and well re-known optician who operated the optical shop. There were three major responsibilities before the shop was placed under the jurisdiction of the Manhattan Project: (1) provide any optical aids needed by the graduate students, (2) provide 8 to 10 inch diameter reflecting diffraction gratings to the world of research, (3) complete the optical fabrication of a 48" Schmidt camera for McDonald Observatory. As the war threat became serious, task (4) was to teach people in optical shop grinding and polishing under a government sponsored program because such skills were rare. Of the above, (2) required mastery of operating the original A.A. Michelsons' ruling engine. Correction to the driving screw to avoid ghosts images and changes in lines/inch required filing portions at the periphery of a cam attached to the screw at one end. The machine was enclosed in approximately a10 X 10 foot room with hollow walls constructed like a Dewar but filled with oil for temperature control. The interior copper walls had a line of tungsten light bulbs around the periphery individually thermostatically controlled. It was odd to watch the lights flickering as the temperature of the room was automatically adjusted to a fixed preset value. Often gratings had to be re-done when a storm in Lake Michigan would develop with waves pounding the shores affecting the lines in process of being ruled. (3) task, the Schmidt primary had been completed leaving the corrector plate to be shaped when I joined. There was a lot to learn. Imagine with no coherent Laser sources, it took the utmost patience and skill to continue correcting the system.
When the Manhattan Project operation began, activities (2) and (3) and (4)were halted. Other more dangerous and challenging tasks were tackled and schedules became a vital part of the operation.
Dr. George Monk directed the optics department and Dr. Neil Beardsley was assigned to supervise the optical shop. Because he had no knowledge or familiarity with the operation of an optical shop I remained responsible and Dr. Beardsley observed and became fascinated with the work.
There are four tasks worth mentioning. (1) was to produce four quartz washers about one inch diameter that were of equal thickness to 1/2 wave of visible light.I accomplished this by using a retainer then grinding and polishing both surfaces simultaneously. They were to be used to maintain two cylinders of great length co-axial as parallel as the mechanical tubes could be manufactured. (2) called for optical polishing two 4 inch square bare beryllium pieces to 1/4 wave or less for Columbia University. The danger of grinding and handling beryllium was apparently unknown. Some 20 odd years later Columbia University people were looking for me to re-polish the surfaces. An interferometric photo sent me revealed the surface retained the original flatness. I refused. I was beyond that stage. (3) required the fabrication of a pair of precision glass Dove prisms about 6" along the hypotenuse to be used in a "hot" area as part of a periscope. I believed it was designed by Walter Wallin with Dr. George Monk for use at Los Alamos. A few weeks after delivery I was called to the conference room to meet with the various scientists from Los Alamos and Columbia because of an unexpected emergency. I was shown the Dove prisms black as coal from the radiation exposure in the "hot" chamber. It could no longer transmit visible radiation. This was a first.
Having worked various unusual materials without being warned of any danger from radiation, I was grinding away when Marshall walked in and ordered me to stop immediately and get a medical examination. Yes, I had a blood count reversal typical of radiation exposure and were to draw a bone marrow sample from the sternum. They hoped to puncture my sternum to further examine a sample of my blood marrow. In reviewing some Medical Journals I found a number of deaths due to bleeding when the sternum was pierced through and punctured the aorta in the process. To me that was too risky, I refused to be a guinea pig. I left the University with the intention of continuing my graduate work at Berkely with Glenn Seaborg. But my experience required I continue work in a military establishment if I were allowed to leave.
I joined the Naval Ordnance Test Station at China Lake, California. I began feeling fatigued and a loss of drive which discouraged me from continuing my education. There were several emergency projects which I was given to rescue. Many test firings were worthless because the pilots wandered out of camera range in azimuth. I developed a simple tri-colored projector labeled "Triptychrome". The projected colors were red, amber, and green in azimuth which were visible to the pilot over 12 miles. Because the center of target was rarely struck I placed the projector at the center. All the remaining missiles available for the test were measured.
In another case spin rockets (missiles) were fired from launcher mounted on a slide which was rocket driven along precision rails to simulate aircraft velocities. The accuracy at impact was lost on many firings because it was assumed the launcher followed a straight line in it's travel along the rails. The data was meaningless. The proposed solutions ran the project beyond the budget. I was assigned to find a solution. It was the "Non-repetitive Test chart System". It consisted of a flat mirror mounted on top of the launching tube, boresighted to the axis of the launching tube; a 6 x 4 foot non-repetitive target made of an asymmetrical array of letters of the alphabet fixed on one side of the track; an Eyemo camera with a wide angle lens in an orange crate weighted with rocks on the opposite side. The center of the rails was the bisector of the angle between the chart, mirror, and camera; the distances along the side of the rails were marked , and it was ready. The camera always had a frame of the reflected image of the chart through the mirror at the exact moment the spinning missile left the launching tube with the marked distances along the side of the rails. The project was completed successfully. This same test target system was extended to test the effect of machine gun firing from a flying aircraft.
My most memorable project was to work with Dr. John Strong, of Johns Hopkins University under ONR, to obtain atmospheric transmission at various altitudes with the sun as source using the IR spectroradiometer on loan from Mount Palomar Observatory mounted in a B-29 bomb-bay. What was truly memorable was not the technical work, but the fire aboard the B-29 while in flight to Andrews Air Force Base. Our equipment was in the aft compartment. Without any instructions beforehand about the use of parachutes we were ordered to bailout. The two with flight experience bailed out with back packs leaving a professor and myself, to fend for ourselves. I could only find chest packs. With no pre-flight instruction and old parachutes, we managed to put them on. He insisted I go first, he would watch and follow. The professor was killed. His chute did not open. I survived even though my chute failed to open upon pulling the rip cord with little time to figure it out. That was not all. After stabilizing myself while lying in an orchard, I hiked and came to a highway to thumb a ride. I heard a siren. A red pickup came tearing down the highway, screeched to a halt and two men jumped out with pick-axe handles, cursing me and with the handles forcing me to get aboard. Shortly following a State Patrol car with siren wailing came behind, screeched to a stop, and two officers with pistols at ready demanded I be let go. Well, it turned out when some parachutes were seen coming down in Georgia just East of Alabama border, the word got out that spies were being dropped in the area. The officers thought it was humorous. Their claim was I might have survived the jump but I might not have survived a hanging had they not arrived in time.
I left NOTS for the Visibility Laboratory at Scripps Institute of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego with Dr. Quimby Duntley , Director, hoping to return to the University. A few weeks into the project at the first engineering meeting, I reported my analysis indicating the project could not achieve the proposed goal.
The following is a list of places of employment with brief statements of accomplishments.
General Manager, Photo-Research Corp., Los Angeles, California.
Design Specialist and Head of IR Group I was assigned to assemble at Convair, San Diego. We built at Convair, IR horizon scanning systems for aboard the Atlas rocket;. spin radiometers which were fired from Atlas rockets to measure boost plume IR characteristics for the boost intercept systems, and IR system of Beryllium to compete with Lockheed 'Midas'.
FMA, Inc., later AIL Information Systems which went out of `business.
Developed an image rotating projection lens within the original space confines of the non-rotating image projection system which did not meet the work statement. Patented.
Developed a microfiche code reader which read only the top microfiche of a stack of stored fiche in an information retrieval system. Patented.
Swedlow Inc. a plastic firm hired me to solve the problem of fabricating a 5 X 5 array of Fresnel lenses they had contracted to do for RCA solar-photovoltaic system with only a few months remaining to delivery. The focii of the 25 lenses had to be accurately positioned on 25 sensors within a few thousandths. You can now find them in Edmund Scientific catalogue.
Electro-Optical Industries, Santa Barbara, California.
Engaged in design and manufacture of infra-red target simulators, and projectors. 1978 to retirement 1998.
4,058,723 Illumination and Detection System for Microfiche Identification Codes
3,453,043 Image Rotating Lens System
American Physical Society
Optical Society of America
and Southern California chapter (OSSC)
16 including NAVORD reports
Chairman: session on Image tubes, Optics, and Standards; 7th Nationa IRIS, San Diego, 1962
11 papers presented at SPIE, American Physical Society , IRIS, Illumination Engineering Society, IRE.
Folk dancer with Desert Dancers at NOTS, exhibited up and down Southern California.
Acting: as Constantine in "Game of Chess"
Photography for exhibitions
Vice President of San Diego Hall of Science Committee, created the "Meet the Junior Scientist" symposiums for high school students.
Director of Arts Festival in Santa Monica, California.
Reading for the Blind recording participant.
Great Books Group Leader
HAM Radio operator, call letters, KI6CI
As retired: Have initiated and coordinating High School Student photographic annual exhibitions in Santa Barbara
Poetry and political activist "Letter writer".