Record Unit 9539, Naval Research Laboratory Space Science Interviews, 1986-1987
World War II and the advent of the Cold War led the United States government to underwrite basic scientific research that could be applied to military purposes. Because the United States Navy was concerned about the effect of nuclear radiation on its wireless radio communication system, it funded studies in astronomy and aeronomy--the examination of the earth's atmosphere--at the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) in Washington, D.C. Wartime advances in rocketry and electronics enabled physicists and engineers to study non-visible radiation at ever greater distances from the earth's surface. These studies resulted in more sophisticated views of the composition of the atmosphere and of solar radiation, and in the revelation of the presence of stellar X-ray radiation between 1946 and the early 1960s. By the latter period, however, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) began to eclipse NRL's pre-eminence in space science.
Herbert Friedman was born in 1916, received his Ph.D. in physics from Johns Hopkins University in 1940, and began working at the NRL a year later. After two years of using X-ray radiation to detect manufacturing flaws, he was appointed head of the Electron Optics branch of the Rocketry Division. In 1958 Friedman took over the Space Science Division until his retirement.
Edward T. Byram earned his degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Toledo before the war, during which he served in the U.S. Army for three years. He spent two years at the Glenn L. Martin Aircraft Company and joined the NRL's Electron Optics branch in December, 1947. Between 1962 and 1972 he contributed to 54 papers on X-ray astronomy.
Talbot A. Chubb was born in 1923 and took the B.A. in physics that he received from Princeton University to the Clinton Engineer Works in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, in 1944. His doctoral advisor in physics at the University of North Carolina referred him to the NRL in 1950. Chubb headed the Lab's Upper Air Physics branch from 1959 to 1981.
Robert Kreplin spent the summers of 1948 and 1949 at the NRL while finishing his B.A. in physics at Dartmouth University. After receiving his M.A. in 1952, Kreplin returned to the NRL permanently.
Charles Y. Johnson was born in 1920 and received his B.E.E. from the University of Virginia in 1942. After serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II he joined the Cosmic Ray Section of the NRL. He headed the Air and Ion Composition Section from 1954 to 1958 and the Aeronomy Section until his retirement.
Julian C. Holmes was born in 1930 and received his A.B. in physics from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, in 1951. He joined Johnson at the NRL in 1956 as a Physicist.