I have been very lucky in life and have benefited much from accident and from the kindness of others.
In August 2015, my brother Carl gave me my baby book, which he had found when cleaning out our parents house. Here is the information my mother recorded in it:
I was born on Thursday, Dec. 2, 1943, at two oclock p.m. at Stambaugh General Hospital.
My mother was Helen Holm and father was Carl Gustav Holm.
I was named Albert Victor Holm after my grandfathers Albert "Sam" Nault and Victor Em. Holm.
I weighed 7 lbs. 6 1/4 oz. and was about 19 inches long. My eyes were dark blue.
My hair was dark brown with brown brows and black lashes.
I sat up alone at about 6 1/2 or 7 months. I crept at 8 1/2 months and stood alone at 9 months. I walked at 10 1/2 months and climbed at 11 1/2 months.
On my first birthday I was given a knit cotton suit and a corduroy overall by Aunt Aurora Holm.
In the center of the baby book is a family tree for the Carl Gustav Holm Family, which includes me, my parents and grandparents. A copy is in this folder.
Dad got a 4F classification and was not drafted for World War Two because he had had rheumatic fever and had poor vision. When I was a toddler, my parents moved to Saginaw, Michigan, where Dad worked in a defense factory for little more than a year. I can remember only three things from that time. One was waiting by a street that near where we lived for the ice cream truck to pass. The other must have been at Christmas. A neighbor boy received a toy which had some sort of a tower and a conveyor belt going up to it. When you wound a crank, pieces of gum would be carried to the top of the tower. A third thing that I remember was the loud noise produced by gasoline-powered model planes some people were flying.
One event that I do not remember from the time in Saginaw, but was told about, was an incident at the city zoo. In the zoo was a bear in one of the old-style cages. I had peanuts to give to the bear, but instead of throwing them into the cage, I went up to the cage and stuck my arm into the bear㥤s mouth. Luckily the bear did not bite!
After the war ended, my parents saw a publication called the Upper Peninsula Travelogue, filled with photos of the many wonders and tourist attractions in the U.P. They became homesick and soon moved back to Iron County. When they arrived, at first they may have stayed in Grandpa Victors house, but later they moved into a converted chicken coup across the field from the house.
I was introverted, studious, and not sports oriented as a child. That still describes me.
Soon after my brother Carl was born, my parents bought 10 acres of woodland across Passamani Road from my Grandpas and closer to US-2. Dad cleared a lot and built a small house there. The first winter the bathroom was not finished so we used an outhouse behind the the house. I remember taking a bath at Grandpas house. When the house was finished, it had a long room with a kitchen on one end and a dining area on the other. A short hall from the kitchen led to the bathroom, which had a shower, and one bedroom. Another small bedroom was alongside the dining area. There was an attic that could be reached via a ladder and a door on the outside wall.
Later Dad and his friends built an addition to the side of the house. The addition had a basement and was one large room with a fireplace.
Here are a couple memories I have of Christmas.
The first is while we were still living in the first part of our house. One day, some time before Christmas, I looked under my parents bed and saw boxes of toys. It made sense to me that Santa Claus might have hidden them there in advance of Christmas. He couldnt possibly fit all the toys for all the children in the world into his sleigh on Christmas Eve. Therefore, he probably hid the gifts in peoples houses earlier in the month and, then, on Christmas Eve, just went around and popped them under the Christmas trees. I told my mother about this. She said that was wrong. The next time I looked, there were no boxes under the bed.
The second memory I have is that one year, the gifts that my parents ordered from the Wards catalog did not arrive on the day before Christmas. So late that afternoon, we went to town to the Newberrys Five and Dime store, where my parents bought things to put under the Christmas tree. Of course, days later the shipped packages arrived so we had a second "Christmas". Many decades later, I mentioned this memory to my mother but she denied that it had happened.
The fall when I was eight and my brother, Carl, four, he was diagnosed with rheumatic fever. He had to stay in St. Marys Hospital in Marquette, MI. I remember that he was miserable when we left him there. It seems to me that we could hear his cries as we drove away from the hospital.
The next summer I was sent to Bay Cliff Health Camp for a six-week session. Apparently I had been identified as sickly, and sent to camp to improve.
At Bay Cliff Health Camp, they wanted children to attend church so they asked each child their religion. Now, my mother had been brought up as a Catholic and my dad had been baptized Lutheran, but they did not practice any religion. I do not remember ever attending church as a child. When asked my religion, I did not have a clue, but I remembered that Moms parents were Catholic so I said I was Catholic. I attended the Sunday morning Mass in the Barn for two weeks. Then I was taken aside and told that I was not Catholic and did not belong in Mass. For the rest of the summer I attended the Protestant service.
I dont remember a lot about my stay at Bay Cliff. I do remember that I often wet my bed and had to carry my wet sheets to the laundry room in the Barn in the morning. The campers lived in little cabins with a counselor. I think that the cabin I was in was called the "Busy Beavers".
My mothers adoptive father, Sam Nault, died February 25, 1949. I dont remember much about him. In the same year, Rose Nault married Frank Pashlik. They sold the Nault house on Lay Avenue in the Riverside Location of Iron River. and moved out to Takoma, Washington.
The mining companies owned all the mineral rights under land in Iron County. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, they were searching for new iron deposits. Airplanes towing magnetometers flew overhead. The rocks underground were explored by diamond drilling. In diamond drilling, a pipe would be attached to a drill bit with hard industrial diamonds on the cutting edge. As the machinery twisted the drill deeper into the ground, a core of rock would be preserved inside the pipe. The mining geologists would then inspect the cores to determine whether there might be mineable ore at that location. Two diamond drill sites were used on my families property, one about 150 feet north of our house and one about 150 south. I think they existed sequentially. The engines powering the drill ran most of the time.
There were two drilling sites on Grandpa Victors land too, in the woods between the fields and 28 Lake. There was a terrible accident at one of these sites on July 15, 1949, where a dynamite explosion killed three workers.
For breakfast, I generally ate cereals. Sometimes, I would eat a hot cereal, such as Cream of Wheat, Cream of Rice, and Oatmeal. Sometimes, I would eat a cold cereal, such as Sugar Pops or Shredded Wheat biscuits. The Shredded Wheat biscuits came in a box with several layers, and the layers were separated by Straight Arrow cards that on which was printed information about camping, Indian craft, and wildlife. I loved and collected those cards.
In third grade, our teacher, Mrs. Charron, was teaching about beavers. She asked the class how beavers were able to cause the trees they cut down to land in the streams. I raised my hand and said that the beavers would chew a larger cut on the side of the tree closest the stream. I proudly announced I had learned this from Straight Arrow cards. This prompted a lot of laughter from my classmates and I was embarrassed. After that time, I was much more shy about volunteering in public.
What did I do for fun? Of course, it varied over time. Here are some things I remember.
In winter, I sledded on Passamanis hill, sometimes with the dog running alongside and tearing at the sleeve of my winter coat. Mom wasnt pleased by that. I built tunnels and snow forts in the snow banks around our driveway. Jumping from the roof of the shed into the surrounding snow. Indoors, I worked jigsaw puzzles, I played Monopoly. I drew pictures of battles. In summer, when I was pretty young, I played with plastic molded soldiers and knights in the sand pile at the end of our drive way.
I wandered in the woods, all the way down to 28 Lake when I grew older.
I built forts in the woods by digging into hollows and stacking dead branches around them. I climbed trees, once falling on my back and knocking the wind out of me when playing Tarzan. Dad had stacks of lumber in the back yard, and wed put them on saw horses to make imaginary vehicles. Id also saw up some of the boards and nail them on large trees to make a permanent ladder. In spring, when water flooded across the back yard, I would saw a pointed end on a small board and nail a smaller one on the top as a battleship. The ships always overturned. When I little older, I bought and assembled plastic models of war ships and airplanes.
And always I read books from the school library, magazines like Popular Mechanics and Argosy, and lots and lots of comic books. When we got together with friends, wed bring a box of the comics wed read and they hadnt to trade for the ones theyd read.
Other favorite reading materials included the catalogs filled with toys that Sears, Wards, and maybe Pennys sent to our home in the fall. Dream books.
In 1952, Colliers magazine published a sequence of articles featuring ideas from Werner Von Braun and illustrations by Chesley Bonestell (http://www.bonestell.org/). I was fascinated and decided I wanted to be a spaceman, piloting a spaceship. The word astronaut had not been invented yet. I was quite near-sighted and eventually I learned that the qualifications for pilots included perfect eyesight. Another career down the drain! I opted for becoming an astronomer as second best. For a while in college, when I was not sure that I would make the grade as an astronomer, I entertained the idea of becoming a mathematician.
When I was in seventh and eighth grade, I delivered the Iron Mountain News newspaper. I shared the paper route with Ron Nickolson. I delivered papers in Rogers Location, along the Reiman Road, and east along US2. Ron delivered papers west along US2. We would wait after school and during summer afternoons at Forsbergs Store on the northwest corner of US2 and the Reiman road. During spring, summer, and fall, I would deliver the papers riding my bike. I had a heavy canvas bag with a cover that protected the papers from the weather. During winter, I would begin delivering papers while walking, and then my Mom would pick me up with the car after Dad got home from work and she would drive me the rest of the way. A subscription to the paper cost 40 cents/week. I would try to collect from the customers every Friday, but some were seldom home when I came by. Others were very generous with tips.
Despite my interest in becoming an astronomer, I was very unsure about starting high school. I had attended the Rogers School in Bates from kindergarten through eighth grade. To go to high school, I had to get onto the bus that took students into Iron River. It was scary because I did not know what I was supposed to do on the first day of classes after I got off the bus. Despite my anxiety, I did get on the bus that first day, and when we arrived at the high school, we were directed into the auditorium for an orientation that removed my fears.
When I entered high school, I decided I wanted to learn how to play the violin. So I bought one from Sears catalog. Then I learned that the music teacher did not teach violin in school. I could get private lessons but I would have to pay for them. I exchanged the violin for a slide projector from Sears. To this day, I am much better at taking photos than at making music.
One summer, my Dad arranged that Carl and I would work for a building contractor. I think his name was Mr. Schneider [or Schindler]. His wife gave guitar lessons that Carl took. Our job was to clean the mortar off used bricks. The used bricks were in a pile in a field just off the road that ran around Sunset Lake. We used brick hammers to strike the mortar to knock if from the bricks. Then we tossed the cleaned bricks into another pile. I assume we were paid by the brick, but I dont remember how much.
I worked for Mr. Schneider again several years later. He was building a cabin near Watersmeet for his cousin. My job was to do odd jobs around the construction site as needed. After I was on the job a week or two, the cousin showed up, looked around, and asked why I was working here. After that day, I wasnt working there.
My brother Carl and I shared a bedroom until I left for college. I remember that we had bunk beds during the time period when he was kept in the hospital in Marquette. Later on, we had twin beds along opposite walls. When I was in high school, there was a radio in our bedroom. At night I would listen to the local AM radio station, WIKB. In the evenings, they had a classical music program, which featured popular classics, like Beethovens 5th Symphony, and show music, like Rogers and Hammersteins South Pacific and Sigmund Rombergs The Desert Song. Also, at night when conditions were right, we could get a signal from WLS in Chicago, where disk jockey Dick Biondi played the latest rock hits. Both of these sources had a strong influence on my taste in music.
During my junior year in high school, I took a Michigan-wide test in mathematics and scored 16th in the state. As a result, I got invited to attend the Third High School Honors Science Institute in the summer between my junior and senior years. This institute was held at Michigan State University in East Lansing, and gave 100 teenagers, mostly from Michigan but some from as far away as New York and California, a chance to participate in six weeks of enrichment courses taught by MSU professors. It was very exciting to be among a bunch of students who also were interested in science and to be taking a class that was not the routine high school stuff. I was in a math course, and prepared a presentation on continuous fractions for my project. One of the highlights of the summer was an introduction to the Michigan State Integral Computer, MISTIC, a room-sized, vacuum-tube powered computer. MISTICs programs were punched into paper tapes. I tried to write one, but my tape must have been missing something because MISTIC spat it out with the message that it could not find a program. In addition to the classes, we went on field trips, once to the Oldsmobile factory in Flint, once to the ag campus where we were introduced to a cow with a port in her stomach so that the researchers could sample the chemistry of her digestion. At the Oldsmobile factory, I remember watching from a gallery near the end of the assembly line as a white hood came off a side assembling line and was mated with a car of the wrong color.
One afternoon I was walking around MSUs campus and heard some exciting classical music coming from one of the practice halls. I sat and listened, but did not know what it was. Years later, I discovered it was the Trumpet Concerto by Joseph Haydn, still one of my favorite compositions. In another genre, one day in the lounge of our dorm I heard other students playing Dave Brubecks Take Five album. Another influence on my taste in music.
Although I did well academically and wanted to be an astronomer, I was concerned that I would not measure up and not be able to get a degree and job as an astronomer. So I thought about what fall back could I pursue. The logical thing would be to think about teaching physics or math as my fallback. Instead I thought that maybe I would become a commercial artist. I decided to take a commercial artist correspondence course run by The Famous Artists School. A salesman came to our home and my parents signed the contract. I think it was very expensive. I started doing the exercises, but gave up after the first lesson. What a waste!
My mother and sister later did the exercises, but the time for submitting the lessons to the school had long past. They both helped paint a mural of Paul Bunyan and Babe, the blue ox, inside the Iron County Museum. Later Mom would watch a painting show on TV and she painted many landscapes. I have some of these still.
I was shy, especially around girls. In my senior year, I would go to the Friday night dances that were held in the auditorium of the Iron River City Hall. There was a jukebox and elderly women chaperones. Students from Iron River and Stambaugh would attend. Sometimes I would even screw up my nerve and ask a girl to dance with me. One Friday winter night, my ride home fell through. I dont recall why. Anyway, wearing just my sports coat over my clothes, I decided to walk home. I started heading east on US-2. I passed the root beer stand, closed for the season. I passed the Seven Day Adventist Church. And I was getting very, very cold. Then someone in a car stopped and gave me a ride the rest of the way home. At home, my parents covered me and gave me hot chocolate to drink.
In the fall of my senior year in high school, my dad got me a job at Melstroms Walgreens Drugstore on main street in Iron River. My job was to keep the shelves stocked with products. That year, I was also the photographer for the Iron River High School yearbook. One weekday evening, some of my classmates were hosting a party for our exchange student from Chile. I left work early to get photos of the event, but I did not tell my boss that I was leaving. That was the last day I worked there.
When the time came to apply to colleges, I did not know much about what aspects of astronomy each college specialized in. But I knew that Caltech operated the 200-inch telescope at Palomar Observatory, then the largest in the world, and thought that I would be able to get a good education there. So I applied to Caltech, to Princeton, and to Michigan Tech in Houghton. I was accepted at all three. Fortunately during those years, the U.S. government was interested in promoting science so I received scholarships and was able to attend Caltech.
To get me to California for my freshman year, my parents found a man who was driving to Los Angeles from Norway, Michigan, who was willing to take passengers for a fee. We arrived at Caltech about a week before classes started, but the Office of Student Housing was willing to put me in a room in Blacker House ahead of time. Some other students were also there, upperclass men and a fellow freshman, Phil Coleman. One of the juniors, Rick Green, said Phil and I could used his electric frying pan to cook our meal. Phil and I cooked a fish in the frying pan. Rick was very upset that there was a fish odor left in his pan.
The Holm and Baker families had always gathered at Grandpa Victors for a Christmas Eve celebration. This gathering was a high point of my year. Aunt Aurora would visit from Duluth. Jenny cooked old world foods including flat bread, Swedish meat balls, whole fresh baked ham or roast turkey with decorated drumsticks, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, lute fish, and salt cod. Greta and her husband Murray would bring venison and tossed salad. The adults ate at the dining room table and the grandchildren ate in the alcove in the kitchen. After dinner was over and the dishes cleaned, the French doors to the living room were opened, and everyone would exchange gifts around the Christmas tree. Finally there would be pie and coffee.
When I went to college, I could no longer come home for the holidays. It was too far and too expensive to travel.
Caltech shut down during the Christmas vacation. I did not have money to travel back home. Fortunately, I could stay in my dorm room, but, of course, the school was not providing meals. I barely had enough money to feed myself. This being my first Christmas Eve away from my family, I celebrated alone by treating myself to a bowl of chili at the Bobs Big Boy Restaurant near Pasadena City College. While I was sitting at the counter eating, a man came up to me and asked for money. I didnt give him any. Later I felt guilty, that I should have given him something in the spirit of the season.
My roommate during my freshman year was George Williams. At the beginning of 1963, his parents moved to Brazil for work and they left the family car in his care. I remember a couple of adventures we had that were enabled by that car.
Two upperclassmen that we associated with were Rick Green and Joe Bocklage. One night, the four freshmen in my alley - George, John Eastment, Jerry Austin, and me - together with Rick and Joe decided to go for a ride up Mount Wilson. I think Rick drove Georges car. Partway up the mountain, the engine began to hesitate. Rick said the car was out of gas and pulled onto the shoulder. Rick and Joe decided to hike up the road to find a phone to call for roadside assistance. After they left, the freshmen began talking and remembering that the upperclassmen had a habit of playing pranks on us. Maybe they faked the gas problem and had someone waiting above to pick them up while leaving us on the mountain. George tried the starter and the engine ran right away. He turned around, started down hill, and ran out of gas. Rick and Joe were not happy with us when they and the tow truck finally found us.
The second adventure was during spring break. One night, George, John, Jerry, and I decided to visit the Grand Canyon. Taking turns driving, we arrived in Williams, Arizona, the next morning. It was colder there than in Pasadena so we stopped at a general store and bought some extra clothes. Then we drove into the park. We hiked down the Kaibab Trail and crossed the bridge over the river to a picnic area on the other side. I dont remember seeing anyone else on the trail. It was great scenery, but we were exhausted and slept the night in sleeping bags on the concrete pads of the picnic tables. Sunrise the next morning was memorable, but soon it clouded up. We recrossed the Colorado and began to hike up the Bright Angel Trail. It began to rain. The dirt trail turned to mud that clung to our shoes. Wed struggle up and slide partway back down. As we got higher, the rain turned to snow. That made hiking even more difficult. Some how we managed to get to the rim after dark. Cold and wet, we went into the lodge and sat in the lounge to recover. After we were sufficiently recovered, we returned to where Georges car was parked. On the way we met two young men who told us that the engine of their car had frozen and cracked in the cold. Happily, our car was okay. Once again we drove through the night and arrived back on campus the next day.
The college library had records that students could check out. I had taken two years of Latin in high school so when I saw some records with spoken Latin, I borrowed them. One was a reading of Julius Caesars Commentaries on the Gallic War. Another was the medieval "Play of Daniel" performed by the New York Pro Musica. Years later, the New York Pro Musica came to the University of Wisconsin to perform "The Play of Daniel". That was my first date with Gail Paton.
During spring of my freshman year, I earned a few dollars by riding in cars. The Mobil gas company sponsored an annual Economy Run determined the gas mileage potentials of passenger cars under the typical driving conditions encountered by average motorists. Before the run started, the drivers had the opportunity to drive the cars around in southern California to break them in. Mobil employed Caltech undergrads to ride along on these break in runs to be sure that no one modified the cars while they were out of the compound. Wed just sit in the cars as they were driven around town and on the highway, listening to music like "Mr. Bassman". I think we were cheap labor and Mobil probably got a little prestige from associating with the engineering school.
After my freshman year, I came home for the summer. My dad had gotten me a job as a lifeguard at Sunset Lake, never mind that I had not finished the Red Cross lifeguarding class in spring of my senior year in High School. I alternated days with another lifeguard. We had a rowboat and a stand to watch from. I never had to rescue anyone, but I did get some bad sunburns.
After my sophomore year, I came home for the summer again. My dad had gotten me a job with M.A. Hanna Mining. Kenny Wenzel and I split rock cores from exploratory diamond drilling in half lengthwise. Perhaps some of these cores had come from the drilling that had been done near my home. We tossed half the core away and saved the other half in trays. Kenny wore contact lenses and the dust we created was hard on his eyes. One day our supervisor took us on a field trip down into the Homer-Wauseca Mine. The fumes, probably from blasting, were very strong and I had a bad headache for hours afterward.
In my Junior year at Caltech, I began to work for a professor at the Seismic Lab. With the money I earned I bought a used Honda 150 touring motorcycle. On the way from the motorcycle shop back to campus, I took a turn from Del Mar onto Hill Street too fast, and the bike fell on its side and slid across the intersection. I wasnt hurt and luckily there was no traffic coming.
During the summer between my junior and senior years, I stayed on campus and continued to work for the professor at the Seismic Lab. One weekend, he took me into the desert to help with some equipment. We stayed overnight in a motel. After we got back, I put 32 hours down on my timecard because that was the interval between when we left campus and when we returned. Was I naive! He later questioned me about the hours, but he did pay me and didnt fire me.
I took a non-credit Fortran class along with secretaries and others. During the summer after my senior year, I worked for Peerless Pump in Montebello, California, helping their engineers to convert their formulas to computer programs. We had card readers and printers that linked to a computer in another facility. I lived with some of my classmates in a house in South Pasadena. When I left that job to attend grad school, I sold my Honda to a man for his son. I hope they got their moneys worth out of it.
I was a college senior in Pasadena in spring of 1966, when Michigan draft board notified me that I needed to get a pre-induction physical. On the scheduled day, I rode my 150cc Honda motorcycle in scary rush hour traffic down the Pasadena Freeway into the center of Los Angeles. Close to city hall, I went through a yellow light. There was a cop controlling the intersection who had signaled for traffic to stop. Bad move on my part. I got a bawling out. The testing gave me a classification of 1Y, which means that it would be a national emergency if I were drafted.
When time came to chose a grad school, I told my advisor that I was interested in studying invisible matter in space. He suggested I apply to University of California at Berkeley, Wisconsin, and Caltech. Faculty at Wisconsin were working to prepare a telescope that would operate in space to observe light at wavelengths that is hidden by the Earths atmosphere. I chose to go to Wisconsin, in part, because after four years in California, I wanted to be closer to home. Wisconsin also offered the largest stipend.
I came to the University of Wisconsin-Madison as a grad student in astronomy in 1966.
The Wisconsin astronomy department operated a small observatory at Pine Bluff about 15 miles west of town. The department liked to have someone living in the apartment in the first floor of the observatory to keep the building secure and make sure vandals did not damage anything. In addition to my stipend, I was allowed to live out there during my first year. I shared the apartment with William Gebbel, a student who was finishing his thesis. Bill was also a fan of baroque music and was building a harpsichord in our living room. I learned to love Bach and other baroque masters during that winter.
The road to Pine Bluff Observatory was steep. There was a sharp left turn at the bottom of the hill and deep gully on the right side. Because it was steep, it was hard to get up after snow. One snowy evening, I was returning from campus and approached the hill as fast as I dared. Unfortunately, it was too slippery and the car slid close to the gully. Spinning the wheels only sent the car closer to the gully. Not knowing what to do, I walked up the hill to the observatory and called my dad. (We did not have cell phones in those days.) He suggested I jack the back of the car up, and then push it towards the center of the road. That worked! With the car safely back on the road, I backed down to the straight section and left it parked on the edge of the road overnight.
Wisconsin graduate students were also expected to assist in an annual cleanup of the observatory. After the first time we participated in this, my fellow grad student Charlie Wu invited me and another student to have dinner at his girl friends apartment in Madison. His girl friend had a roommate named Gail Paton, and that was the first time I met my future wife.
My grandfather, Victor Holm, died on November 3, 1967. That was during my second fall of taking classes as a graduate student, and I felt that I wasnt able to take time off to attend his funeral. I think now that if I had spoken to my professors about it, they would have told me to go. Now I regret my reluctance to ask.
I did my thesis research in 1969-1970. I was modeling the radiative behavior of condensations in planetary nebulae, trying to understand the existence of features such as the comet tail structures in NGC7293. That was a long time ago and Ive forgotten many of the details. I do know that it did not always go as smoothly as I had hoped. On those many occasions when I did not feel I had made much progress, I would dread my status meetings with Dr. Mathis. But he always was very cheerful. By the end of our meeting, his great enthusiasm would launch me forth, ready to do battle with the computer again. Had it not been for his enthusiasm, Im not sure I could have finished.
At first, I used the desk-sized IBM computer at the Space Astronomy Laboratory to run my Fortran programs at night when no one else was using the machine. The program I had developed to model radiation transfer and gas pressure in the nebulae was too large for the memory of the computer so I have to flip sense switches and swap subroutines in and out to carry out the analysis. At the end of the night, I would print out my intermediate results on cards so that they could be used as input during the next run. After a long time doing this without getting much closer to the conclusion, Dr. Mathis got me some time on the big Univac computers in the Universitys computer center. These were much fast, but the turn around was slow. You submitted the box of cards that defined the program and data to an operations staff. The operators then put it in a queue to be run. Sometime later you came back and looked for the results. If you made a mistake in the control cards or a minor coding error, debugging was a slow process.
While in grad school, I attended the wedding of Eric and Sandy Jones in New York. It was the first time I had been to New York. Eric and I had attended Caltech together, and we were fellow grad students in astronomy at the University of Wisconsin. I was living at south Monroe Street with three other students. Mike Aschbacher, a fellow Caltech grad and roommate, and I had decided that we would travel together. He arrived from LA a day or so before we had to start for NY. The morning we were going to leave he walked over to my old MG-A and I walked over to his car. It turned out that each of us expected that the other was going to drive, and neither of us was sure that our own car could make the distance. We soon found ourselves in a Greyhound heading east. As I recall, the seats were relatively comfortable and I slept a lot.
In addition to the hall and reception that seemed over-the-top at that time, but are probably normal today, I remember that they arranged for us to attend a performance of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.
Some things I remember because they were embarrassing.
One fall during my second year as a grad student at Wisconsin, there was a moderately bright nova, Nova Delphini 1967. Professor Don Osterbrock wanted scanner observations of it, and assigned some grad students to take the data. The evening that I was responsible, I had no trouble operating the 36-inch and the scanner at Pine Bluff Observatory. And I got some really nice data, with strong emission lines. Not being experienced in telescope usage, I was proud that I had succeeded in getting the observations. The next day I shared the data with Dr. Osterbrock. He pointed out that I had not observed the nova, but rather a Wolf-Rayet star. Oops!
I was a grad student at Wisconsin during the Vietnam War, and Madison hosted frequent protests against the war and all things military. I was against the war and participated in candlelight marches for peace. However, this was also a time when NASA was making great leaps in discovery. The Universitys astronomy department operated a Space Astronomy Laboratory in a former garage on Park Street. A suite of telescopes developed by SAL was being used on the first ever astronomical satellite, the Orbiting Astronomical Observatory-A. One afternoon, the head of SAL, Dr. John McNall, told us that he had heard rumors that some anti-war activists were planning to attack the Space Astronomy Laboratory that night. So several of us graduate students, all of whom were opposed to the war, stayed up all night in the Park Street facility, armed with baseball bats to prevent trouble. Fortunately the rumor was false and nothing came of it. Nonetheless, it was a tense time for us.
At UW-Madison, the astronomy department was located on the top two floors in one wing of six-story Sterling Hall. The physics department occupied the basement and first floor in our wing. Between the physics department and the astronomy department, was an organization named the "Army Math Research Center". The Army Math Research Center was a frequent target of anti-war protests.
During the summer of 1970, I was struggling to finish my thesis and living in a rented room near Monroe Street, about a mile from campus. Early during the morning of August 24, I was awakened by two loud booms. Being an astronomer, my initial thought was that a large meteor had struck the city, but I heard nothing more, no sirens or anything else, and soon fell back to sleep. The next morning I walked to campus as usual, but found the streets blocked and police on the barricades. There I learned that there had been an explosion in the driveway next to Sterling Hall. One physics student, staying late to finish a project before his familys vacation, had been killed. The building, including the astronomy department, was heavily damaged. The astronomy department was on the fifth and sixth floors, above the Army Math Research Center. All of our windows over the bombing were shattered and shards of glass were driven into the spines of books in the library. My office looked toward Van Vleck Hall on the opposite side of the building from the explosion so I did not have any permanent losses to my thesis on why dense clouds could persist in planetary nebulae. Nonetheless, it was a shocking experience and it delayed my work. The office of one of my fellow students, Mike Molnar, was on the Chamberlin Hall side of the building, overlooking where the bomb had exploded. The only copy of his thesis on A-type stars was sucked out of the window and blown as far down University Avenue as Rennebohms Drug Store. Later we learned that four anti-war activists had exploded a truck bomb.
Almost all the astronomy department staff were away at a conference in London. Only one remained in town, Professor Lowell Doherty. Dr. Doherty was able to arrange for a visit to the astronomy department a few days later so we could assess the damage.
I dont remember how, or if, I let Mom and Dad know that I was OK. I dont remember how I spent the time during the days after the bombing until I could return to my office.
Later that fall Molnar and I moved to Maryland to help the University operate the Wisconsin Experiment Package on the Orbiting Astronomical Observatory-2. While working at Goddard Space Flight Center, we received an invitation to join an older man for dinner at the Cosmos Club in the District of Columbia. At dinner, he heard our stories and told us he was a survivor of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire. From his experience, he advised us to keep copies of important documents in a different location. I always remember his advice and try to live accordingly.
I joined the Wisconsin team as astronomer operating Orbiting Astronomical Observatory-2 (OAO-2) at Goddard Space flight Center in the fall of 1970, a few months after the bombing of Sterling Hall. Mike Molnar joined at the same time. Smithsonians operation of Celescope had been suspended that spring so Wisconsin had full-time operation of Wisconsin Experiment Package (WEP). We inherited three technicians from Smithsonian. They operated the equipment for receipt of data, but Wisconsin astronomers still had with the burden, and benefit, of generating observing plans for 24/7 operations.. Wisconsin astronomer Charles Lillie had left WEP operations that summer so the arrival of Mike and myself provided relief for Professor Theodore Houck.
Under Ted Houcks supervision, Mike and I took over responsibility for developing observing plans, dealing with crises, and performing quick-look analyses on the data. Like its successor, the Hubble Space Telescope, the OAO-2 usually operated on a pre-programmed basis. However, its on-board memory was limited and could hold at most a couple hours of observational instructions. We had a goal of preparing command loads for the spacecraft at least 24 hours in advance, but many issues often caused lead time for the preparation of commands to shrink to hours and, sometimes, even minutes. Therefore, it was necessary for a Wisconsin astronomer to be available 24/7. Mike worked the more stressful day shift, having to deal with Goddard management and other contractors.
A major benefit of our position was that we had freedom to choose which objects the OAO-2 would observe. At one point during Mikes tenure, the conditions of the spacecraft stability and the intersection of the orbit with the South Atlantic Anomaly allowed him to program the telescope to spend six days observing Alpha-2 Canem Venaticorum. From this series, he obtained ultraviolet light curves in nine bandpasses that showed that the visual maximum corresponded to light minima in the line-blanketed ultraviolet.
At one point, someone in the U.S. Air force came up with the idea of using the OAO-2 to try to observe the exhaust from a missile launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base. The question was whether satellites with ultraviolet detectors could be used to provide early warnings of missile launches. The Air Force convinced NASA to do it, and NASA management came to the Wisconsin staff to implement the observations. Having recently been subjected to the bombing of Sterling Hall due to the presence of the Army Mathematics research Center, Mike and I were both opposed to participation. Goddard management was not pleased. Eventually, the impasse was resolved by having a team of Goddard astronomers led by Donald West take over control of the OAO-2 to make the observations. This was attempted twice. The first time, the Air Force launched its missile while the OAO-2 was on the opposite site of the Earth. The second attempt was successful in getting data.
The next spacecraft in this series, the Orbiting Astronomical Observatory-B, failed to reach orbit on on November 30, 1970. After months of negotiations, the astronomers who would have supported OAO-B began to participate in the use and operation of WEP, taking responsibility for four days every two weeks. That bi-weekly break made life a lot easier.
Mike left for a job at the University of Colorado at the end of summer of 1971. To replace, Mike Molnar, Wisconsin hired John Caldwell. Even with the breaks from the Goddard astronomers, the job was very stressful for John because he had a family. John stayed until summer of 1972. Wisconsin then hired Chi-Chao "Charlie" Wu, and later added the first astronomer who had not gotten his degree at Wisconsin, David Gottlieb.
While working at Goddard, I would call Gail on the government phone.
David Gottlieb was performing quick-look data checking on the night shift on Feb. 1, 1973, when he noticed that the signal was coming out all zeros and ones. Our high-voltage power supply had failed! We were not able to recover from that so, after Grumman performed tests with the spacecraft, OAO-2 was turned off on Feb. 13, 1973. The hardware is still in orbit and will be there for hundreds of years, but it is not communicating or under control any longer.
After the end of satellite operations, I helped close out the office and then returned to Madison, where I helped with WEP data reduction and analysis until summer of 1977.
I smoked marijuana once while working at Goddard. A part-time assistant who worked for Wisconsin at Goddard Space Flight Center invited me to a party he was having. At the party one. or probably many more, marijuana cigarettes were passed around. I sat along a wall and smoked it with a colleague. I remember becoming very mellow.
When I returned to Madison, Gail was working at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul. She asked if I would take care of a cat for her. This small cat was from the Universitys farm and had been very friendly with Gail, even perching on her shoulder. I said yes. When the time came to bring the cat to Madison, it was obvious that she was going to have kittens. Gail named her Minnesota, or Sota, Cats, plural because she was in a multiple cat condition. She had three kittens, which we named Huey, Dewey, and Louie. After they were weaned, Gail took Huey and Dewey to live on the University of Wisconsins turkey farm. Sadly they did not survive long there.
Gail moved back to Madison from St. Paul. We got married on April 27, 1974. Rose, Gails mom, threw a big reception for us at the Genoa City Legion Hall. The next day, we flew to Florida and honeymooned in Everglades National Park. We quickly got sunburned and had to remain covered for the rest of our stay.
Bob, Gails dad, did not like to travel, to leave his home, so the success of this adventure wasnt guaranteed.
Our time on Tahiti was brief, basically only a short interval to break up the long, trans Pacific flight and to let us adjust to the time zone. There we took the circle island tour, we visited Point Venus where Captain James Cook and astronomer Charles Green observed the 1769 Transit of Venus to attempt to measure the distance to the Sun, we swam off the beach at our resort, Gail and I climbed the hill above our resort at night to photograph the Southern Cross, we were entertained by hula dancers, and we enjoyed a rich, island buffet. At the buffet it became clear that the family bonding might not work when Guy became upset that there were no hamburgers.
From Tahiti, we flew to Aukland, New Zealand, where we joined a coach tour. On the North Island, the tour took us to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves, which we saw by boat, and to Rotorua, a geothermal hotspot. At Rotorua, we saw, and smelled, the hot, bubbling mud pools, we flew in a small plane over the volcano Mount Tarawera, and we saw entertainment by Maoris.
Next we flew to the South Island and joined a coach tour. Our tour picked up a family of Texans who quit their rental car after deciding that driving on the wrong side of the road was too stressful. We visited Christchurch, Dunedin, the Church of the Good Shepherd on the shores of Lake Tekapo, and Milford Sound. At Milford Sound, we took a cruise to see Bowen Falls. We stopped along the road to see Mount Cook, now called Aoraki, but it was shrouded in clouds. We saw lots of sheep and had a demonstration of sheep sheering. In an article in the Lake Geneva Regional News paper, Rose reported that New Zealand was the more beautiful of the two countries and that New Zealand serves a more American type of food.
From New Zealand, we flew to Sidney, Australia, where we we joined another coach tour. First we visited the Opera House and the Sidney Bay Bridge. Then we went inland to Canberra, the capital. There we saw the usual monuments and government buildings, but we also had an adventure. Bob needed to get a refill for his insulin so we left the tour to get him to a pharmacy. The pharmacy would not provide the insulin because he did not have a prescription. In Genoa City, he did not one because the pharmacist knew him. Therefore, we had to take him to a medical clinic for a prescription and then back to the pharmacy. Meanwhile, the tour was waiting for us to go on to the next destination. The driver/guide was not happy with us for the delays,
Continuing our journey, we stayed in Albury and visited a winery and a large hydroelectric dam before arriving in Melbourne. The rooms of tne motel where we stayed had pass-through windows in the doors where breakfast was delivered. One item on the breakfast menu was spaghetti. We thought we'd try that. It turned out to be Chef Boyardee canned spaghetti on toast. Interesting! In Melbourne, we visited the National Gallery of Victoria art museum with its beautiful stained-glass ceiling. Here we encountered Captain Cooks trail again. His cottage had been shipped from England and re-erected in the Fitzroy Gardens.
From Melbourne, we headed home. Our flight had a change of planes in Hawaii. We didnt leave the airport, but the warm, moist air and lush flowers were wonderful.
On March 14, 1975, after we returned from Australia, my dad died suddenly of a heart attack at age 62. He had had a previous heart attack several years earlier and had slowly recovered. That night he was riding snowmobile with my mom and got stuck in deep snow. Trying to get it out, his heart failed.
Dad was born in Kenora, Ontario, on January 28, 2013, and named Carl Gustav Victor Fritiof Holm. He came to the United States in 1917 with his family. First they lived in Victoria, Michigan, then in Port Wing, Wisconsin, and finally in Rogers Location near Iron River, Michigan. His mother died of heart disease in 1928. After graduating from Iron River High School, he joined the Civilian Conservation Corps. While in the CCC, he met his first wife in Michigans Lower Peninsula. She did not take to life in the Upper Peninsula and they soon divorced. Back in Iron River, he married Helen Nault and they raised a family.
Dad was skillful and talented. He could have gone on to college, but there was no money for that. He enjoyed reading and he could do math in his head. He helped his dad build a home on Passamani Road, and later built his own home on the same road. He often helped friends with their construction projects, ranging from putting a basement under an existing house to installing a bathroom. He did his own auto maintenance. At his funeral, when his body was lying in his coffin, mom called attention to the dirt under his nails that the undertaker had not been able to remove and said that showed he was a hard working man.
Three months later, his younger sister also passed away from a sudden heart attack at age 55.
Two years later, my mom and the widower of my aunt married.
In 1977, I returned to Goddard to work on the staff supporting the International Ultraviolet Explorer (IUE). My role was to help create procedures (software) to run the telescope, to develop observing programs to calibrate the instruments, and to guide guest observers who came to make observations with the telescope. I worked for Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) with Charlie Wu and Skip Schiffer in this. CSC software developers were also writing the software for the IUE mission operations center. We got a little heat from the company when our pre-launch testing showed lots of errors in the software prepared for the mission operations center.
IUE was a "fun" satellite because we would sit in a control room on the Goddard campus and generate commands to cause the telescope 24,000 miles above our heads to instantly react and start carrying out an observation. As soon as the observation was completed, we could transmit it to our display screens and we could decide whether to continue observing that object, to modify the parameters of the observation, or to move on to observe other promising objects. It was almost like being on the spacecraft itself, like being the space cadet I had wanted to be many decades earlier.
The IUE was sent into orbit on January 26, 1978. Once there, the plan was to observe a quick sample of high-priority targets before moving on to the dogged work of commissioning the telescope with flat field, wavelength, and other calibrations. But the quick sample wasnt quick. We would slew the telescope pointing to what we thought was the targets location, but the image of the field taken with the Fine Error Sensor (FES) would be empty. So then we would have to search nearby locations until we finally found the target. This cost us about a day per target. Then I realized that the problem was the amount of roll drift that occurred at the previous target. Once we found the previous target, we knew the Right Ascension and Declination accurately, but there was drift around the roll axis, controlled by gyroscopes, all the time we were searching. The solution was to use sun sensors on the spacecraft to correct the roll attitude right before slewing on to the next target. That improved our efficiency geatly.
IUE was not so much fun for Gail. When I applied for the job, Don West told me that we only had to operate the satellite during two shifts of the day, because it would be run from Spain the other eight hours. Unfortunately it turned out that because IUE was in an elliptical orbit, the eight hours when the astronomers at the European Space Agency ground station could see the spacecraft were fixed in sidereal time, in which the day is four minutes shorter than our solar day. Hence, every month our work period began two hours earlier than the month before. The shifting schedule would have us getting to work at 4 AM, 2 AM, 6 PM, etc. To reduce the fatigue from constantly changing shifts, the U.S. astronomers would work on one shift for 10 consecutive days, have a 5 day "weekend", and then come back to work on the other shift. Because of the weird hours and the changing shifts, Gail had trouble keeping track of when I was working and, when I worked a night shift, she had trouble keeping Douglas and Carolyn quiet in order to let me rest.
My own personal studies primarily were in an obscure part of astronomy dealing with variable stars. I remember observations I made of one star using the IUE that were kind of unique in the way we made the observations. The star I was observing was a pulsating white dwarf named ZZ Piscium. I wanted to determine whether the changes in how bright it appeared were due to changes in its radius or its surface temperature. There were two problems. First, the star was so faint that integrating its signal on our detector would take several hours. Second, the brightness changes occurred on time scales of only 10 minutes and were unpredictable. I solved this by enlisting a colleague at Louisiana State University who had access to a telescope on the ground. We spent the entire observing session on the telephone. The LSU colleague watched ZZ Piscium through his telescope and would call out when the star was getting brighter and again when it was getting fainter. Then, using our ability to send commands to the IUE, we would change the spacecraft pointing to integrate the stars light on a location for "bright" or on a location for "faint". I dont have the paper with me but I recall that the final results did show surface temperature variation.
One white dwarf I was studying showed a broad absorption feature in its spectrum near 1400 Angstroms. Another astronomer, actually my advisor when I was an undergraduate, had attributed the feature to triply-ionized silicon, which has a strong feature at that wavelength in very hot stellar atmospheres. I wasnt happy with that because the white dwarf was only a little more than twice as hot as the sun and because its atmosphere was mostly hydrogen with very few atoms of heavy elements such as silicon. I puzzled about this for some time and then realized that, because the atmosphere of the white dwarf is subjected to such high pressure by the strong force of gravity from the star, that there could be unusual kinds of compounds that are not seen here on Earth. I determined that the spectrum of molecular hydrogen with an extra electron attached would be a good fit for this feature in my star. This kind of ion could not exist on Earth because the orbital electrons of the molecule would strongly repel the third electron, but the atmospheres of white dwarfs are very different.
While working with IUE, I was awarded a "NASA Individual Outstanding Service Award" for uncovering a major flaw in how the observations were processed. The problem was that short wavelength spectra that were underexposed made the target look brighter than spectra that were properly exposed. I used the calibration observations to demonstrate this effect, and searched for possible causes. Eventually, I found that one of the flat field images used to calibrate the data was only 3/4 as intense as it should be. A colleague then found that the bad image was the average of four source files, but one of the files was blank. Recreating the calibration image with the correct data solved the problem.
On Saturday, March 19, 1983, I began to keep a journal at home. I used it to record events and activities, from time to time.
In the early 1980s, NASA began to prepare to launch and operate the Hubble Space Telescope. Two of my colleagues from IUE, Charlie Wu and Skip Schiffer, transferred to the Space Telescope Science Institute located on the Johns Hopkins University campus, and in 1983 I joined them. We were preparing software and procedures to run the Hubble when it reached orbit, which was planned for 1986. It was going to be a struggle to be ready and we clearly were going to have to apply lots of workarounds. Then, while we were carrying out pre-launch simulations, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after launch.
The launch of Hubble was delayed for four years while NASA redesigned the safety program for the Shuttles. We were able to take advantage of this delay to be much better prepared. A personal downside of the delay was that top management at the Science Institute became more interested in rigorous management practices so that I had to devote much more of my effort to management tasks and had very little time for my own personal astronomical research. In addition, the prime contractor, AURA, that managed the Space Telescope Science Institute discouraged astronomers who worked for CSC from doing research by refusing to allow us to use research grant money to buy some of our work time.
That is how things continued for the next two decades until I retired. During this time I was branch chief for an evolving series of organizations associated with processing data from the telescope and distributing the data to the astronomers who requested observations.
A memory of September 11, 2001. I was in a morning staff meeting when the first plane hit. When we came out, Valerie, one of the computer systems managers, told us that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. At first I thought it was a small private plane. From time to time, it happens that small planes hit buildings. During World War Two, a B-25 even hit the Empire State Building. But we gathered around the TV and my mis-understanding was quickly corrected. Then we watched the second plane hit and the buildings collapse. Shocking! No one got much work done for the rest of the day.
The following information was sent to a distant cousin in Sweden.
I think of myself as a shy and introverted person. I have trouble making small talk with people in gatherings. My farfar, Victor Fredriksson/Holm, and farmor, Frida Sorqvist, married in Sweden and my oldest faster, Svea, was born there. My farfar moved to Canada in 1909, and farmor followed in 1910. My next faster, Aurora, was born in Canada in 1911, and my father, Carl, in 1913. They moved to the U.S. in 1917, and my youngest faster, Greta, was born there in 1920. Svea and Aurora both married but did not have any children. My father married and had a son, Charles, but he and his first wife soon divorced. Then he married my mother, Helen, and they had four children. I am the oldest. I had a brother, Carl, who was four years younger than me but he died last year. I also have a sister, Terri, and a younger brother, Wayne. My faster, Greta, also married and had three children.
In my youth, I lived with my family in the forest of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I got a scholarship for college and attended the California Institute of Technology in southern California. It was many, many times farther away from home than I had ever been before. After I graduated, I moved closer to home to attend grad school at the University of Wisconsin. After I finished my Ph.D work, I was given a job to help operate the Orbiting Astronomical Observatory-2 at Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. My wife, Gail, and I married after I returned to Wisconsin when the OAO satellite failed. Later we moved back to Maryland and I worked in spacecraft operations for the International Ultraviolet Explorer and then for the Hubble Space Telescope.
After I retired in 2010, Gail and I bought a Recreation Vehicle (called a caravan in Europe). Since then, we have usually spent about three months away from home every summer, often volunteering as workers at state parks in parts of the country that we wanted to visit. We also took winter vacations to tropical islands. This year, however, we are staying home, rarely even going shopping, because of covid-19.
I enjoy giving talks about astronomical topics to public, but I am not a dynamic speaker. You can see the video of one of my talks at this location: https://cloudproject.hosted.panopto.com/Panopto/Pages/Viewer.aspx?id=917ca521-8cd2-4c38-b9f6-aa340106edac
I have a sense of humor, but cant remember jokes.
I enjoy reading mysteries, science fiction, and history books. I enjoy taking photos of birds and landscapes. Im not interested in watching professional sports. I like to hike and, when visiting tropical islands, to snorkel.
Albert Holm, 29 December 2022