Interview of Nathaniel C. Gerson by Brian Shoemaker
Creators:Gerson, Nathaniel C.
Subjects (LCSH):Arctic regions -- Discovery and exploration -- Interviews
Ionosphere -- Interviews
Polar regions -- Discovery and exploration -- Interviews
Subjects (Other):Gerson, Nathaniel C. -- Interviews
International Geophysical Year (IGY) (1957-1958)
MetadataShow full item record
Publisher:Byrd Polar Research Center Archival Program
Series/Report no.:Polar Oral History Program
Gerson, a participant in the IGY (International Geophysical Year) begins his interview with the discussion of his time in Civil Service with the Railway Mail System between Washington, D.C. and Boston in the 1930s. During his time with the Mail System he continued to take various Civil Service exams and eventually, in August of 1938(39) he was given an appointment at the US Weather Bureau. This was his introduction to science and meteorology. Gerson worked as a meteorological observer in the Boston office, casting maps of current weather conditions to be printed for distribution. The Bureau eventually assigned Gerson to San Juan, Puerto Rico so that he could go to the University of Puerto Rico at night to earn his degree in Physics. While in San Juan, Gerson worked at the Hurricane Center, releasing radiosohn balloons all night and sending the data gathered to Washington, D.C. When his degree was complete, Gerson moved to a Weather Bureau job in Washington, D.C, where he developed equations for determining the pressure altitude of planes with Louis P. Harrison. He then moved on to the US Army Air-Force in 1946 and worked in the Watson Laboratories in New Jersey, dealing with radar navigation systems. George W. Kendrick was the Chief Scientist at Watson and the key project Gerson worked on was the development of a low frequency, long-wave navigational system to cover the Arctic (known to the Army as Operation Musk Ox, then MUSCALF, and finally Project Beatles). This eventually developed into the LORAN-C system of navigation. Gerson describes his time north of the Arctic Circle in detail, particularly his calibration of the various stations and outposts. He also discusses the fur trade that was taking place in Northern Canada, with particular emphasis on wolf and polar bear pelts. Gerson eventually moved on to Fort Monmouth in New Jersey and began working on the LF noise intensities in the North American sub-Arctic. Additionally at this time his writing revolved around the refractive index in polar regions and its effect on radio noise. While working at Fort Monmouth, Gerson also earned his Master’s degree from NYU in Physics. Ultimately, Gerson’s work at Fort Monmouth led to his promotion to head of the Propagation Laboratory, an extension of the Watson Laboratory, which was part of the Army-Air Force Laboratories. During his time at Watson, Gerson became interested in geophysics, studying the nocturnal ionization in the F2 layer. In 1947, the Army-Air Force split, becoming the USAF. The USAF took over operations at Watson Laboratories, moving the engineering sector to Griffis Air Force Base in Rome, New York as the RADC (Rome Air Development Center) and moving the geophysics sector to Boston as the Air Force Cambridge Research Center. Gerson went to Boston and took charge of the Ionospheric Physics Laboratory. He discusses the development of a photographic balloon program and the effect this laboratory had on foreign relations. Additionally, Gerson describes the ionosphere, ionization of air particles, and the use of an ionosohn dropped from airplanes. As time progressed, Gerson began to work with a German physicist named Dr. Demigar on the issue of polar cap absorption. He presented his work to an international audience at the Hague in the Netherlands, with the primary discovery elucidated being protons and electrons causing ionization of oxygen by spiraling down the magnetic lines of force and colliding with oxygen atoms on both the dark and sunny side of the earth. This causes the auroral zones seen at the Poles. This work led to the production of the first flying laboratory in the United States, which Gerson equipped. As IGY approached, the idea of a polar flying laboratory was talked about. This eventually led to a somewhat modified flying lab, used for making necessary measurements to be taken back to the South Pole base. Gerson was made Chairman of the first two Antarctic committees, the first to justify going and the second to implement the trip. He spends a good amount of time describing these meetings, the proceedings, who attended, among other details, beginning in 1953. Ultimately, Gerson spent his time studying auroral physics during IGY. Major Themes International Geophysical Year (IGY) United States Weather Bureau Casting weather maps Radiosohn balloon release programs in both Puerto Rico and the Arctic Circle Operation Musk Ox/MUSCALF/Project Beatles LORAN-C system of navigation Measurement of LF noise intensities in the North American sub-Arctic Geophysics, particularly in relation to nocturnal ionization in the F2 layer and auroral zones in the Polar Regions Air Force Cambridge Research Center Polar cap absorption First flying laboratory in the United States Development and implementation of the International Geophysical Year
Key Individuals Mentioned Dr. Sarle, pp. 11 Gordon Dunn, pp. 13 David Fuchs, pp. 13 Facando Bueso, pp. 14-15 Dr. George W. Kendrick, pp. 15-17, 22-24, 33 Louis P. Harrison, pp. 18-20 _____ Wexler, pp. 20, 22 F.W. Weikeldurer, pp. 23 Captain Albert C. Trakowski, pp. 31, 65-66 Colonel Higgenson, pp. 33, 58 General Kohl, pp. 63 Dr. Newman, pp. 67-68 Dr. Korff, pp. 67 Dr. Haurowitz, pp. 67 General Rives, pp. 70 Colonel Westburn, pp. 72 ______Kruschev, pp. 72 General Bernard Shrever, pp. 72 Colonel Joe Fletcher, pp. 76, 78 Henry Booker, pp. 78-79 Dr. Demigar, pp. 79-80 ______ Greenberg, pp. 85 Joseph Kaplan, pp. 94-95, 97 ______ Berkener, pp. 97, 100-101 Marcel Nicolet, pp. 98 Sidney Chapman, pp. 98 ______ Audeshaw, pp. 100 ______ Shapley, pp. 100 ______ Stillhouse, pp. 100 ______ Bulkeley, pp. 101-102
Funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.
Other Identifiers:Record Group Number: 56.101
Rights:Restrictions: This item is not restricted.
Items in Knowledge Bank are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.