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Interview with Gerald M. Smith, 1992-10-10, 1994


Scope and Contents

An interview in October 1992 with Gerald M. Smith, project manager for the W. M. Keck Observatory’s two 10-meter telescopes on Mauna Kea until his retirement in 1996.

He recalls his early interest in electrical engineering and his work, after graduating from USC (1963), at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory on vidicon cameras for the Ranger, Mariner, Viking, and Voyager missions. In 1976, he is recruited by Robert Kraemer to help build NASA’s 3.1-meter telescope on Mauna Kea. Later becomes deputy project manager for IRAS (Infrared Astronomical Satellite) back at JPL, working under Kane Casani. After its successful launch (1983), he is recruited by Harold Ticho as project manager for the 10-meter telescope the University of California hoped to build on Mauna Kea. He recalls later involvement of Caltech and the Keck Foundation in funding the project.

Discusses telescope’s design; Caltech/UC partnership; leadership of then Caltech provost Rochus E. Vogt and physics division chair Edward C. Stone; his conflicts with project scientist Jerry Nelson. Difficulties with Itek, the manufacturer of the segmented mirrors. Comments on current delays in instrument building.

He concludes the interview with recollections of his family’s stay in Hawaii in 1941, at the time of Pearl Harbor.


  • 1992-10-10
  • Publication: 1994


Conditions Governing Access

Most edited transcripts are available to researchers on the web at Audio recordings and additional transcripts are available in the reading room at the Caltech Archives. When additional restrictions apply to specific interviews, they are noted in the finding aid.


1 audiocassettes (Compact Cassette) : audio and transcript

1 books : 48 pages

Language of Materials

From the Collection: English

Repository Details

Part of the California Institute of Technology Archives and Special Collections Repository

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