Ed Groth

I spent a great day in Princeton at the birthday and retirement celebration for Ed Groth (Princeton), who was instrumental in the HST WFPC project and is the originator of the incredibly influential Groth Strip. There were many great talks and reminiscences, a few of the highlights for me were the following:

Ed MacDonald (who worked on oceanography for the Navy and NATO) talked about moving data by paper tape from experiment to computer center, and the fact that mundane tasks are an important part of all important scientific discoveries. He noted that Bob Dicke (the leader in the Gravity Group at Princeton) was never afraid of doing mundane things in support of scientific discovery.

Bill Wickes (formerly of HP) talked about many things, not the least of which was the importance of calculators in scientific research. Indeed, calculators featured heavily in the stories and photographs from Groth's early days. Wickes is responsible for inventing and designing and improving various HP calculators. He also talked about the Gravity Group attitude of "you sit on it until it works", which is a very good principle for science!

Bruce Partridge (Haverford) discussed the precise timing of the Crab Pulsar, done at Princeton by him and Groth and others, which led to the discovery of period derivatives, second derivatives, and glitches. The timing was done very cleverly; he showed the electronics diagram. The Gravity Group was always motivated to precisely measure anything for which there was simultaneously a hope of precise measurement and a precise quantitative prediction. He showed also that the search for gravitational radiation was already in the air way back then.

Jason Rhodes (JPL) and Todd Lauer (NOAO) talked about HST imaging. Rhodes and Groth wrote one of the first papers on weak gravitational lensing. Lauer pointed out that Groth was instrumental in starting the HST Archive and our understanding of the huge legacy value of digital data sets.

Finally, Jim Peebles (Princeton) talked about correlation functions, on which he worked with Groth, and which remain the key tool of cosmology today. He showed some lovely visualizations of hand-taken data on galaxy counts from the 1960s and 70s. He highlighted the ways in which Groth's career spanned the transition from "small science" to "big science", doing important things in both modes. It was a great day!

1 comment:

  1. Steve Thorsett09 June, 2014 20:08

    It was good to see Ed last fall when I was out in Princeton. The Gravity Group of my student days, with Ed, Jim Peebles, Dave Wilkinson, and Joe Taylor (and the emeritus professors Bob Dicke and John Wheeler, along with a variety of young faculty), and later the GG of my faculty days with Lyman and others added, was a remarkably creative and exciting place to be -- and Ed always knew what every one of the students was doing and in his own gruff way always showed he cared. Princeton is losing a gem with Ed's retirement.