Dinsmore Alter and the Griffith Observatory
David H. Menke
[originally published in the Planetarian, Vol. 16, #4, October 1987]
I had the privilege of working at the Griffith Observatory for six years, from 1970 to 1976. Like any prospective planetarian, working at such a place was very important to my professional development. I gained invaluable experience that would help me as a future planetarium professional, and the time there was a very special and seemingly "magical" period. When I began as a guide at Griffith, Dr. William J. Kaufmann had just become director replacing Dr. Clarence H. Cleminshaw and acting director Leon Hall. When I left the staff, Dr. Edwin C. Krupp had just become the head. I worked there during a time of many changes and transition.
George Bunton, a former planetarium technician who went on to direct the Morrison Planetarium and the Bishop Planetarium (Hawaii), once commented that the Griffith Observatory was a "college for planetarium personnel." That was certainly true for me. In addition, there were a great many individuals who had worked at the Griffith Observatory and later became well-known astronomers, planetarium directors, and observatory directors. These include, but are not limited to George Abell, Halton Arp, Bruce Bohannan, E. C. Bower, George W. Bunton, Arthur Cox, Thomas Cragg, David DeVorkin, Bruce Douglas, Douglas Duncan, Dale Etheridge, Charles F. Hagar, Ronald Hartman, George Herbig, Jonathan T. Hodge, Arthur W. Johnson, Howard Leveaux, William Livingston, Dimitri Mihalas, Joseph Miller, O. Richard Norton, Ronald A. Oriti, Anthony Pabon, Robert S. Richardson, Leif Robinson, John Russell, Edward J. Sarton, Ronald L. Smith, Lawrence Trafton, Edward K. L. Upton, Gerald Waxman, H.P. Zeiler, and Eric Zimmerman.
The Griffith Observatory is certainly not the only planetarium that can boast many alumni. In fact, each of the first U.S. planetariums served as "planetarium colleges" for future leaders in the field, and most active planetariums today continue to train and educate individuals to go on to successful astronomy careers: in schools and colleges, in planetariums, and in observatories.
The Griffith Observatory was the result of a bequest left in the will of Griffith J. Griffith to the City of Los Angeles, and the facility was dedicated May 14, 1935. It had a 75-foot dome, a Zeiss Mark II projector, 12- and 9-inch refracting telescopes and a triple-beam coelostat. In addition, the Hall of Science had numerous exhibits, including the large Foucault Pendulum. The Griffith Observatory was the third U.S. planetarium, following the opening of Chicago's Adler in May 1930, and Philadelphia's Fels in November 1933; New York's Hayden opened five months later than Griffith in October 1935.
Currently, the director of the Griffith Observatory is Dr. Edwin C. Krupp. He is most ably supported by John Mosley, Observatory Program Supervisor, and a cadre of professional staff. There is a Zeiss Mark IV projector and a computerized special-effects system, and the theater holds about 663. The Observatory is open six days a week (seven in the summer) and offers many public and school shows, as well as special events.
Griffith's first director was Dr. Philip Fox, at that time in charge of the Adler Planetarium. Dr. Fox served in a temporary capacity for about a month until a permanent director was selected. That permanent director was Dr. Dinsmore Alter, astronomy professor at the University of Kansas.
The Griffith Observatory sits in one of the largest city parks in the world, on land that was once part of the Spanish colony of California. A story about this land concerns a corporal in the Spanish army, Vicente Felis. Corporal Felis came to what is now the Los Angeles area in the late 1770s with his army regiment. Felis decided to remain there when his hitch in the army was finished, and he managed to impress the Spanish governor of California, Don Pedro Fages, so well, that Don Fages appointed him to be manager of the small colony of Los Angeles.
In 1802, Felis was rewarded for his service with a land grant of 6647 acres several miles north of the main colony. The acreage became known as Rancho Los Felis, and he settled there with his family. Felis married Maria Verdugo and had several children. Upon the death of Felis in 1816, the land was willed to his wife.
Many years later, in 1843, Maria Verdugo received a legal decree from Governor Don Micheltorena that the property was actually hers. More than ten years later, Don Antonio Coronel, a wealthy citizen of Los Angeles, purchased a large portion of the Rancho and married one of Maria's daughters. The remaining parcels of land went to Jose Antonio Felis, the only son of Vicente and Maria Felis, after Maria had died.
In 1863, a C. V. Howard purchased all the land held by both Coronel and Felis for the purposes of investment. After a few more property transactions, a wealthy mining speculator, Griffith J. Griffith, bought the remaining 4071 acres from Thomas Bell in 1882.
Griffith Jenkins Griffith was born in Wales on January 4, 1852. When Griffith was 14 years old, a relative from America came to visit, and filled young Griffith's head with visions of prosperity. The relative offered to take him to the United States to seek his fortune, and Griffith arrived in New York harbor in the winter of 1866.
Within a few days of his arrival, Griffith had found lodging in the town of Ashland, Pennsylvania. Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Mowry took in young Griffith in turn for chores and odd jobs.
In 1873, 21-year old Griffith moved to New York City and enrolled in a two-year college program at the Fowler Institute. During that period several people advised Griffith that it would be easier to make a fortune if he were to move west. In 1875 Griffith traveled to San Francisco where he remained a short time before journeying to Los Angeles. After visiting the small town of 6500 inhabitants, Griffith returned to San Francisco to work as the manager of the Herald Publishing Company.
Always wanting to better himself, Griffith studied mining and mineralogy in his spare time. He realized that there were many precious gems and minerals in the West, and he wanted to have a stake in those riches. The newspaper Daily Alto Californian offered Griffith a job as a journalist specializing in mining, and he immediately accepted. Soon he became known as a mining expert, and received large consultation fees from such people as Stanford and Crocker.
In 1880, Griffith became a partner in a silver mine near Chihuahua, Mexico. By 1882, he had earned nearly a million dollars in this mining venture.
Upon his return from Pennsylvania in the summer of 1882, Griffith bought Rancho Los Felis from Thomas Bell. To reward himself for a successful investment and purchase, Griffith, at age 30, embarked on a trip throughout Europe. While there, he noticed that most major cities had beautiful, well-cared-for public parks. He thought to himself, "If the cities of Europe can have such nice parks, why not Los Angeles?"
Returning to Los Angeles, he began to court Mary Agnes Christina Mesmer, also known as Tena, the daughter of a business associate. They became engaged a few years later in September 1886. During the engagement period, Tena inherited a sizeable estate from a former professor of hers, Andre Bristwalter. Griffith and Tena were married at the home of Tena's family on January 27, 1887.
Tena's worldly experience was extremely limited. As a result, Griffith felt it would be a good idea for them to travel throughout the United States and Europe during their honeymoon. Thei
Griffith, always being civic-minded, served his community in many ways. He was a Colonel in the California National Guard. Consequently, he was often called Colonel Griffith. Recalling the beautiful city parks of Europe, in December 1896 he gave the city of Los Angeles a Christmas Present-3015 acres of Rancho Los Felis-to be used as a city park.
Just as things were going very well in the life of Griffith J. Griffith, a peculiar tragedy struck. On September 3, 1905, while he and his wife were staying in a hotel near the beach in Santa Monica, Griffith shot his wife. The reason for the shooting remained a mystery. Even though Tena fully recovered, Griffith was sent to San Quentin Prison to serve a jail term. A model prisoner, Griffith worked hard to pay off his criminal debt. Nevertheless, by the time he was released, Tena had divorced him.
Griffith returned to Rancho Los Felis and resumed his interest in helping the community. In 1912, somewhat disappointed that Griffith Park had not yet been developed even though sixteen years had passed since his gift of the land, he presented the City Council with a check for $100,000 for the purpose of building a public observatory on Mount Hollywood. Although many city leaders were eager to accept such a gift, his offer was rejected. Several prominent citizens argued that the city should not accept a large sum of money from a convicted felon who was trying to buy his way back into civilized society.
The last years of Griffith's life were spent in solitude and contemplation. He was generally a kind man; during his life, he had helped the Mowry family get out of debt and had provided a comfortable home for his impoverished brothers and sisters. In addition, he persisted in trying to help the city. In 1916 he wrote a will leaving a substantial amount of money in trust to the city of Los Angeles, for the purpose of building a museum to include
"... a popular observatory, complete in all its details, and having at least a 12-inch telescope ... a small coelostat and stereoscope to show the sun's image and the solar spectrum ... a model of the solar system, showing relative sizes of the sun and planets ... a good collection of illuminated transparencies of photos of the sun, planets, nebulae, comets a large moving picture theater or hall, having a seating capacity for many people...."
It is amazing that he had the vision in providing for a public observatory and planetarium several years before the planetarium's invention.
Griffith J. Griffith died on July 6, 1919. The estate that he left to the city was administered by his son, Van Griffith, who remained active in promoting better parks and other facilities for the city of Los Angeles all his life. Van Griffith, as trustee, approved $225,780 for the construction of the Griffith Observatory in Griffith Park, overlooking Hollywood. Interestingly, the first U.S. planetarium in Chicago was the result of a gift of Max Adler-but only after the planetarium had been a proven item. Samuel Fels purchased a Zeiss instrument for Philadelphia-but only after he had personally seen several. And Charles Hayden donated funds for the New York planetarium after it was a well-established entity. Griffith J. Griffith provided far more money much sooner for the purpose of constructing a public observatory and "... a large moving picture theater ...", yet he never even got a chance to see a planetarium, since he died just before the planetarium was invented in Germany by Walther Bauersfeld.
Dr. Phillip Fox
The city commissioners asked Adler Planetarium's Dr. Philip Fox to be the first director until a suitable permanent director could be selected. The unanimous choice for that position went to Dr. Dinsmore Alter. Interestingly, Dr. Alter's background was similar to Dr. Fox's. Both men served as officers in the Army during the first and second world wars, and both had served nearly 20 years as college professors: Fox at Northwestern University, and Alter at the University of Kansas.
Dinsmore Alter was born in Colfax, Washington, on March 28, 1888. After high school, he enrolled in Westminster College in Pennsylvania where he earned a bachelor's degree in science, (with an emphasis in mathematics, statistics, and meteorology) at the age of 21. The following year he married Ada McClelland. Dinsmore and Ada had one child, Helen, and two grandchildren, Joseph and Carol.
Dr. Dinsmore Alter
After graduating from Westminster College, Alter spent a year at the University of Pittsburgh earning a master's degree in astronomy, with further studies in meteorology. He then received an appointment as an instructor in physics and astronomy at the University of Alabama in 1911. He was promoted to assistant professor in 1912, and to adjunct professor in 1913.
Wishing to further his education as well as to teach, Alter accepted a job as instructor of astronomy at the University of California in Berkeley in 1914. During the years that he taught there, he pursued a doctorate in astronomy, studying under the well-known astronomer Dr. Leuschner; Alter earned his Ph.D. there in 1916. After finishing his three-year contract at Berkeley in 1917, he was appointed assistant professor of astronomy at the University of Kansas, where he remained for almost twenty years. One of his students during his tenure at Kansas was astronomer Clyde Tombaugh.
Similar to Philip Fox, Alter also served as a major in the United States Army during the first world war. The University of Kansas allowed Alter time off to serve his country, since he was a faculty member at that time. A competent astronomer, Kansas promoted Alter to associate professor in 1919 after just two years. He spent some time at California Institute of Technology during the 1923-1924 academic year, and in 1924, he received promotion to professor at Kansas.
Alter served as vice-president of the American Meteorological Society from 1925 to 1927. In addition, he was a member of the American Astronomical Society, the Geophysical Union, the Philatelic Society, the Institute for Mathematical Statistics, the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, the British Astronomical Association, and was a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. For his sabbatical in 1929-1930, he received a Guggenheim fellowship to study astronomy in the United Kingdom.
Upon his return from Britain, Alter continued teaching, researching, and writing. Much of his work at the time dealt with solar physics. When the Adler Planetarium opened in 1930, Alter was asked to lecture there on occasion.
Dr. Dinsmore Alter took a leave of absence from the University of Kansas in June 1935 to assume the directorship of the Griffith Observatory. Alter was joined by astronomer Dr. Harry Crull, who served as assistant director. Like Fox, Alter resigned from his professorship after serving for a year as director in order to remain head of the planetarium. Dr. Crull left after the first year, and was replaced by astronomer Dr. Clarence Cleminshaw.
During the first seven years as director, Alter planned, produced, and gave many lectures and shows in the planetarium theater. In addition, he was a research associate at California Institute of Technology during this time. In 1941, Dr. Alter received an honorary doctorate in science from Monmouth College in New Jersey.
When the second world war began, Alter was called to active duty as a colonel in the army, and was allowed by the city to take a four-year leave beginning in April 1942. Colonel Alter was in the transport division which assisted in getting U.S. troops from one place to another. During his absence, Dr. Cleminshaw served as acting director.
During wartime, the Griffith Observatory was open only on weekends and there were very few staff members. Alter resumed his duties as director in 1946, but he continued wearing his military uniform to his office for several months, and remained active in the army reserve, often spending time at Fort MacArthur in Los Angeles. The Observatory resumed a daily schedule after the war.
Alter was highly regarded and well-liked by his staff. However, one knew without a doubt that he was the director. He demanded respect and a certain order within the organization. Some former staff members felt that his expectation for proper administration was in some way related to his military background. In fact, during his tenure, the men's restroom in the office area was restricted to the director and assistant director. All other male staff members were required to use the public restrooms. (Woman staff members could use the women's restroom in the office.)
Alter began to increase the entertainment aspect of planetarium shows when he introduced the concept of space travel. Many of the shows that he produced dealt with travel to the moon utilizing a series of zoom projectors. For several years the topics of shows often included space travel to or from some celestial body. In addition, Alter built a model of a space station and used it for planetarium shows.
Always involved in astronomical research, he continued his association with professional astronomers. In 1950 he served as president of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.
During the late 1940s and early 1950s, Alter turned increasingly to studying the moon. In addition to shows about the moon, he researched, observed, and published articles dealing with the moon. Soon he became recognized as an expert on the moon's surface, geology, and history; after his retirement, he was often consulted by NASA regarding lunar exploration. He spent much time observing and photographing the moon using blue and infrared filters at Mt. Wilson's 60-inch reflector. On October 26, 1956, Alter noticed a partial obscuration on the floor of the lunar crater Alphonsus. This discovery soon received international attention from lunar specialists around the world. His research eventually led to a lunar crater being named for him.
Alter had a sense of humor and appreciated a practical joke, too. The story has it that one day he asked staff astronomer Paul Roques to photograph a rare postage stamp, inasmuch as Alter collected stamps as a hobby. Later when Alter came by to pick up his stamp, it was ostensibly missing. Being rather concerned, Alter inquired as to its location. Roques seemed perplexed, mentioning that the stamp was there a short while before, but perhaps wind from the open telescope dome had blown the very rare stamp off the table. Alter became quite worried until Roques confessed and showed him the stamp on a nearby desk. Remembering this event, some time later a seemingly angry Alter called Roques at home very early one morning to mention that he found the telescope motor on; the instrument was turned all the way around toward the floor and the large 12-inch objective lens was smashed and lying in pieces on the floor. Roques at first thought this to be a joke, but hearing Alter's secretary saying in the background how terrible this was, Roques was convinced it was real; he soon became extremely distraught. (In reality, the secretary knew it was a joke and was remarking to Alter that the joke was terrible). When Roques arrived hurriedly at work, Alter exposed the hoax to him, thus paying back Roques' earlier philatelic humor.
Even though he demanded order, Alter was certainly warm and concerned about others. In 1958 the United States had successfully launched its first satellite, the Explorer. Alter was giving a planetarium show to several hundred people at the time of the launch. Believing that the director would want to know this news immediately, a young staff member, Ron Oriti, decided to interrupt Alter's show after hearing the radio announcement. Instead of being upset, Alter was delighted to hear the news and it gave him a chance to tell the planetarium audience. After the show ended, Alter called Oriti in to his office and thanked him again for his insight.
Colonel Professor Dr. Alter turned 70 on March 28, 1958, and thus, reached the mandatory retirement age as an employee of the city of Los Angeles. He officially retired on March 31, 1958 and the next day Dr. Clarence Cleminshaw was promoted to director. Replacing Cleminshaw as associate director was Mt. Wilson astronomer Dr. Robert Richardson, who joined the staff three months later.
Alter was not pleased about retiring, and thus continued his work in astronomy and science. He published his first book, Introduction to the Moon, in 1958. His book Pictorial Guide to the Moon was published in 1963 with a second updated edition in 1967. Just before his death in 1968 his third book, Lunar Atlas, was published. Alter served as Director Emeritus of the Griffith Observatory for the remaining years of his life. Even though "retired," Alter continued writing, observing, researching, and consulting. For example, he served as a science consultant to Aeronutronics, Inc.
Shortly after his retirement, he and his wife moved to Berkeley to be closer to his daughter's family and the school he loved so much, the University of California. Dr. Alter died in Oakland on September 20, 1968.
Dr. Clarence Cleminshaw
The next director of the Griffith Observatory, Clarence H. Cleminshaw, was born in Cleveland on January 15, 1902, the third of four sons. As a youth, he traveled a great deal and was an outdoors enthusiast. He loved camping and canoeing, and served on his high school track team. He earned a bachelor's degree in English, with a physics minor, from Cornell in 1923. Due to family pressure, Cleminshaw entered Harvard University to study law, earning his degree in 1926. For the next four years he worked as an attorney with the Cleveland firm of Thompson, Hine, and Flory. However, he felt uncomfortable prosecuting and suing other people, and in reality, his heart was in science.
During the 1929-1930 academic year, Cleminshaw enrolled in an astronomy night class. This course sparked his love for astronomy and a desire to teach. He also rekindled his love for a young kindergarten teacher, Dixie Borton, another student in the class. They became engaged before the end of the year and were married in 1932.
Cleminshaw left his law practice and enrolled in a master's program in astronomy at Case Institute of Technology in the fall of 1930. He finished his master's, writing a thesis dealing with asteroids, and transferred to the University of Michigan in 1931 to pursue a Ph.D. His doctorate was awarded in 1934 with a dissertation covering stellar spectroscopy. Unfortunately there was little work available for a new astronomer then, so he taught astronomy in the basement of the Borton's home during the 1934-1935 academic year. In 1935 he got a job as a faculty member and assistant to astronomer Charles Oliver at the University of Pennsylvania.
When assistant director Dr. Harry Crull left the Griffith Observatory, he was replaced by Dr. Cleminshaw on July 1, 1936. Cleminshaw worked as Alter's assistant for the next six years until Alter left for military service. During Alter's absence, Cleminshaw served as acting director. In addition, he served part-time as chairman (and only astronomy professor) of the astronomy department at the University of Southern California from 1936 to 1946; during the second world war, Cleminshaw also taught celestial navigation to military personnel.
When Alter returned, Cleminshaw was promoted to associate director, a position he held until Alter's retirement. Dr. Cleminshaw became director April 1, 1958. During his distinguished career, Cleminshaw wrote a monthly column about astronomy for the Los Angeles Times, taught celestial navigation to a number of astronauts, co-authored Pictorial Guide to Astronomy, wrote Beginner's Guide to the Stars, was rescued by helicopter after having broken his arm while on a hike to find meteorites, and gave some 8000 planetarium presentations. Cleminshaw also opened the office men's room to all staff members.
Dr. Cleminshaw retired on July 5, 1969 at the age of 67. He wanted his retirement to coincide with man's first landing on the moon, which was on July 21, 1969. Cleminshaw said once "[I have] never been interested in basic research. I'm interested in popularizing it. I think it's very good for people to have some idea of the universe in which they live...." Cleminshaw had an active retirement; he taught astronomy at University of Southern California and at the Braille Institute; he spent time lecturing, writing, and enjoying his family; the Cleminshaws had two daughters and five grandchildren. Dr. Cleminshaw also served as Director Emeritus of the Griffith Observatory until his death on June 22, 1985.
I joined the staff of the Griffith Observatory as a guide in June 1970, less than a year after Cleminshaw retired. A sophomore in astronomy at UCLA at the time, I was hired by Ron Oriti. During my first year at Griffith, there were many rich stories concerning former director "Clem." He was beloved of his staff and greatly respected. Most staff members felt they could come to his office any time and talk with him, very much as if he were their father or grandfather. In turn, "Clem" expressed a great love for all those who worked for him. I was fortunate to meet Dr. Cleminshaw on several occasions. Even though retired, he often came - walked actually - up to the Observatory from his nearby home. He continued to serve as a source of inspiration to staff members long after his departure.
Dr. Robert Richardson
Dr. Robert Richardson was hired as associate director when Cleminshaw became director. He was born in Indiana in 1902 and earned his bachelor's in astronomy from UCLA in 1926. He worked for two years at Mt. Wilson Observatory, then enrolled at the University of California at Berkeley in 1928 to pursue a doctorate in astronomy. After finishing his Ph.D. in 1931, he returned to working as an observational astronomer at Mt. Wilson Observatory, where he remained until 1958. A truly professional astronomer, Richardson really enjoyed his work at the planetarium. He was often described as a humanist, since he seemed very human and cared for people a great deal. He left Griffith Observatory in 1962 to pursue other interests, primarily writing science fiction books under the pen name of Philip Latham. He died November 12, 1979. He was replaced as associate director by Leon Hall, then Observatory technical supervisor.
When Dr. Cleminshaw retired in 1969, Leon Hall served as acting director while the city of Los Angeles conducted a nation-wide search for a prominent astronomer to become the new director. Leon Hall was born December 15, 1903 and earned his bachelor's degree in science in 1931 from Occidental College. He began working for the Griffith Observatory in 1933 - two years before it opened. His major responsibilities included planning, designing, and building the major exhibits for the new facility. During World War II, Hall joined the staff of California Institute of Technology, but returned to Griffith in 1945 as Observatory technician. In 1955 he was promoted to Observatory technical supervisor, and Cleminshaw promoted him to associate director when Richardson left.
Emmons, Hall, Cleminshaw
Hall served with distinction as acting director, from July 5, 1969 until March 1970. When the new director joined the staff, Hall resumed his duties as associate director and remained there until he retired in 1973. Leon Hall died March 6, 1984.
When I first met Mr. Hall (he was always called "Mr. Hall"), he was most foreboding. Generally quiet, when he spoke he seemed to growl. His office was on the lower level of the Observatory, and it was not unusual to see him slowly working his way up the stairs, slightly stooped, with a cigarette in his hand. I was afraid of this man for the longest time, as were many of the other guides. I didn't want to go downstairs during the day believing terrible things might happen to me. In some ways he reminded me of the parts played by the actor Lon Chaney; he was most abrasive and gruff.
My first impressions of Mr. Hall could not have been more wrong. One day my wife, JoAnn, who was then working at Griffith selling tickets, accidentally locked the cash box keys in the safe and the only way to solve the problem was to call Mr. Hall. JoAnn was not about to do that, and as a consequence, I called him. Expecting the worst, JoAnn feared she would be yelled at, perhaps thrown off the roof, or at least fired. On the contrary, when Mr. Hall came upstairs and studied the situation, he slowly turned around and stared at each of us squarely in the eyes. Then he threw up his hands, smiled, and said, "Oh, well, we'll have to do something else!" Then he laughed and told us not to worry about it. We were most relieved and quite surprised.
Mr. Hall gave me my first break as a planetarium lecturer. One day the scheduled lecturer was ill and the show was about to start. He asked if I were ready to give a show, and I told him I was. After my first show, he was rather pleased, and he continued to support me in my young career. I remember spending many happy hours learning from him. Leon Hall, in reality, was a kind, considerate, loving man.
Dr. William Kaufmann, III
Born in New York City on December 27, 1942, William J. Kaufmann, III, often visited the magnificent Hayden Planetarium as he was growing up. He attended private schools as a lad and later earned a bachelor's degree magna cum laude in physics from Adelphi University in 1963. He went on to earn a master's in physics from Rutgers in 1965 and a Ph.D. in astrophysics from Indiana University in 1968. His doctoral dissertation dealt with the concept of relativistic astrophysics.
Kaufmann was a faculty member of the astronomy department at UCLA during 1968-1969, and served as a post doctoral fellow at California Institute of Technology the following year. Upon the recommendation of Dr. George Abell, chairman of UCLA's astronomy department and member of the advisory board of the Griffith Observatory, Kaufmann was appointed director of the Griffith Observatory in March 1970. There is little doubt that Los Angeles had hired a brilliant and extremely well-qualified astronomer as the new director.
Kaufmann was hired about two months before I joined the staff, and for most of the six years that I was there, I worked indirectly for him. I remember Bill as a very energetic and enthusiastic person, always running from one thing to another. I tried to get to know him, but I don't think anyone really did get to know him well during his short tenure at Griffith.
Almost everyone who worked with Kaufmann at the time had great respect for his astronomical knowledge, but they were concerned that he did not fill the role of a "fatherly" director as Hall, Cleminshaw, and Alter had before him. Instead, Kaufmann acted more like a young kid - and he was. He became director at age 27. As a consequence, I believe that Kaufmann's goals for the Observatory were not necessarily the same as those of the other staff members; at times, his goals and plans were not clear to us.
Kaufmann always seemed either to love an idea and be completely committed to it, or he was vehemently opposed to it. At times he heaped great praise upon me for something I had done, and at other times he would greatly criticize me. Other staff members confided in me that it was the same for them. This kind of leadership caused some discomfort, and contributed to Kaufmann's desire to depart some years later. I really liked Bill and believed he was going to do many great things for the Griffith Observatory - and he did do some. He and I got along well. However, sometimes other staff members did not appreciate his style of administration.
During his four years at Griffith Observatory, Kaufmann wrote many articles and several books dealing with relativity. In addition, he gave numerous excellent public lectures and inspired many to reach for the stars. In 1972, Kaufmann hired Edwin C. Krupp as observatory curator, and a year later, when Leon Hall retired, he hired UCLA astronomy professor Dr. Edward K. L. Upton as associate director. (Upton departed Griffith in 1975). Kaufmann left the Observatory to pursue other interests, most notably teaching and writing, in 1974. He is currently living in the San Francisco area and serving as an adjunct faculty member of two universities - San Diego State University and the University of Illinois. In addition, he has just published his thirteenth book dealing with astronomy. He was replaced by the current director, Dr. Edwin C. Krupp. [Kaufmann died in 1994.]
Dr. Edwin C. Krupp (right) and friend
Dr. Krupp was born in Chicago in 1944 and earned a bachelor's degree in physics and astronomy from Pomona College in California in 1966. He entered UCLA in the fall of that year to pursue a master's and doctorate in astronomy, which he earned in 1968 and 1972 respectively. He married Robin Rector on New Year's Eve 1968 and they have one son.
Krupp taught astronomy part-time at local colleges while working on his Ph.D., and was hired as a lecturer at Griffith Observatory early in 1970. Upon completion of his doctorate, he was hired as Observatory Curator replacing Dale Etheridge, who had left the Observatory to work on his own doctorate. When Kaufmann departed in 1974, Krupp was appointed acting director, a position he held until he became director in 1976.
I got to know Ed shortly after I joined the staff. He was a planetarium lecturer and I was a guide. In addition, we were both members of the astronomy department at UCLA; he was a graduate student while I was an undergraduate. I spent many hours assisting Ed in the planetarium while he gave shows. His style of presentation was always warm, friendly, informative, and interesting. He had the respect of the entire guide staff who called him "Mr. Ed."
Ed and I served together as lecturers under Mr. Hall for a short time before Ed finished his doctorate and became Observatory Curator. Now "Mr. Ed" was "Dr. Ed," but he was basically the same person and everyone felt comfortable with him.
Ed has always had an off-the-wall sense of humor and a friendly personality that could disarm the most serious critic. I always remember walking into his office only to find Disney characters, boxes of animal crackers, and a wax cheese burger. How many scientists and community leaders have visited Dr. Krupp and stopped to wonder whether this man was really serious?
Dr. Krupp's longevity and success at the Griffith Observatory and his research, books, and writings can only attest to a man who is most serious about his work, while perhaps taking himself and the world's craziness less seriously. If he hasn't grown up yet, I hope he never does.
Many thanks to John Allsites, Lonny Baker, Charles G. Clarke, Suzy Gurton, Betsy Hall, Susan Armine Injejikian, William J. Kaufmann, Sandi Kitt, Edwin C. Krupp, John Mosley, Ron Oriti, Paul Roques, and James Stokley for contributing to this article.
Reprinted from Planetarian, Vol 16, #4, October 1987. Copyright 1987 International Planetarium Society. For permission to reproduce please contact Executive Editor, Sharon Shanks.