Finding Aids to Oral Histories in the Smithsonian Institution Archives
Record Unit 9546
Geller, Margaret J., interviewee
Margaret J. Geller Videohistory Interviews, 1989-1990
Margaret J. Geller, professor of astrophysics, Harvard University, and astrophysicist, Smithsonian-Harvard Center for Astrophysics, was universally regarded for her revolutionary work on the large-scale structure of the universe. The discovery by Geller, John Huchra and Valerie de Lapparent of the bubble structure of galaxies was arguably among the most important work in late twentieth century astronomy.
Geller received her A.B. from the University of California, Berkeley in 1970. In 1972 she completed her M.A., followed by a Ph.D in physics in 1975, both from Princeton University. Her professional experience included a research fellowship in theoretical astrophysics at the Center for Astrophysics, 1974-1976. She was a senior visiting fellow at the Institute for Astronomy in Cambridge, England, 1978-1980, and a research associate at the Harvard Observatory (HCO), 1978-1980. She has taught astrophysics and astronomy at Harvard University since 1980, and reached the rank of full professor in 1988. In July 1990, she was awarded a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. She conducted research at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) on the nature and history of galaxy distribution, the origin and evolution of galaxies, and x-ray astronomy. She has published prolifically in these areas. Her long-range research goals include the development of a coherent picture of the formation and evolution of clusters of galaxies, and the relationship between individual clusters and the cluster environment.
The Smithsonian Videohistory Program, funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation from 1986 until 1992, used video in historical research. Additional collections have been added since the grant project ended. Videohistory uses the video camera as a historical research tool to record moving visual information. Video works best in historical research when recording people at work in environments, explaining artifacts, demonstrating process, or in group discussion. The experimental program recorded projects that reflected the Institution's concern with the conduct of contemporary science and technology.
Smithsonian historians participated in the program to document visual aspects of their on-going historical research. Projects covered topics in the physical and biological sciences as well as in technological design and manufacture. To capture site, process, and interaction most effectively, projects were taped in offices, factories, quarries, laboratories, observatories, and museums. Resulting footage was duplicated, transcribed, and deposited in the Smithsonian Institution Archives for scholarship, education, and exhibition. The collection is open to qualified researchers.
In Session One, Matthew H. Schneps, co-director of the Wolbach Image Processing Laboratory at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, interviewed Geller about her personal and family history and the early influences on her life and work as a student and scientist. Schneps also touched on Geller's research on the structure of the universe. The interview took place on February 5, 1989, at Margaret Geller's home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Schneps's intention was to examine the personal, social, political and psychological forces that determined the direction of Geller's scientific research. In Session Two, David H. DeVorkin, curator at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum (NASM), focused on Geller's scientific interests and activities, including publications, major collaborations and specific research projects. DeVorkin's goal was to gain a greater sense of Geller's extensive contributions to the field of astronomy. The second session was conducted at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Cambridge, Massachusetts, first in Margaret Geller's office and later in the image processing laboratory, where DeVorkin and Geller were joined by visiting professors Emilio Falco and Massismo Ramella. The interview took place on July 16, 1990, shortly after Geller was notified about winning the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship.
This collection consists of two interview sessions, totaling approximately 7:00 hours of recordings and 199 pages of transcript.
This collection is indexed under the following access terms. These are links to collections with related topics, persons or places.
- Geller, Margaret J.
- Huchra, John P.
- Schneps, Matthew H., interviewer
- DeVorkin, David H., 1944- , interviewer
- de Lapparant, Valerie
- Harvard University
- Princeton University
- University of California, Berkeley
- University of Cambridge. Institute of Astronomy
- Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
- Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
- Harvard College Observatory
- Science -- History
- Women -- History
- Women scientists
- Oral history
- Technology -- History
Physical Characteristics of Materials in the Collection
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9546, Margaret J. Geller Videohistory Interviews