Fred Lawrence Whipple (1906-2004), an astronomer at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO), was noted for his research and methodological innovations in studying the moon, meteors, and comets. The University of California, Los Angeles awarded him the B.A. in 1927 and the University of California, Berkeley the Ph.D. in 1931. After teaching at Stanford University in 1929, he joined the Harvard College Observatory staff in 1931. In 1955 he was appointed Director of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts. During his tenure, he established the Satellite Tracking Program (STP) which pioneered optical tracking systems utilized in geodesy and geophysics; oversaw SAO's research program in stellar interiors, upper atmosphere, meteorite, celestial mechanics, and geodesy studies; and its participation in Project Celescope. Whipple selected and developed an astronomical facility at Mount Hopkins, Arizona, named the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory in 1981. The facility houses the Multiple-Mirror Telescope (MMT), an innovative, low cost telescope planned by Whipple and two colleagues. After his retirement in 1973, he continued comet and meteor studies as Senior Scientist at SAO.
(1) Description in control file; (2) name index to transcript.
Forms part of the Smithsonian Institution Oral History Collection.
These interviews of Whipple by Pamela M. Henson cover his education; research interests; service during World War II; tenure as Director of SAO, especially development of the STP, Project Celescope, the Whipple Observatory, and MMT; and reminiscences of colleagues.
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Capital Gallery, Suite 3000, MRC 507; 600 Maryland Avenue, SW; Washington, DC 20024-2520