Harvey Patashnick Interview
Bethlehem Central High School- Spring 2006
Mr. Reed’s AP Chemistry Class
Becca Stern: Okay well, I’m supposed to introduce everyone at the table so, our note takers are Katie Vincent and Dan Van Deusen, Paul Fang and Dan Royle, Mr. Patashnick and Becca Stern will be interviewing. Dave Morse and Josh Levy are sitting at the end of the table (laughter).
Janie: Also present is Janie Schwab.
Becca: Oh right sorry I didn’t see you (laughter). Yes, so I guess kind of tough question to start this of is, what do you think is your biggest accomplishment?
Harvey: Well you certainly start off with the uh-with the simple ones don’t you? (Chuckling)
Harvey: That’s a difficult question to-to answer in that it depends on whether I want to answer that in terms of my biggest, you know, personal accomplishment or my biggest, professional accomplishment.
Becca: Well maybe can you do like, one of each? (Laughing)
Harvey: One of each. Well I think the professional one is the easiest one to summarize. I think the greatest accomplishment I had was being able to start a rather interesting business that grew to a considerable size, and was able to do it basically through developing my own ideas and over a long period of time, getting the world to recognize that those ideas were worth some commercial value. Basically through my own—how shall I phrase it? —persistence, was able to develop a company of a decent size, and a worldwide reputation ultimately. So from a professional point of view that’s kind of an easy thing. From a personal point of view, I think everybody looks in terms of, you know, their families and whatever and the fact that I was able to develop a career and still devote considerable time to my family and whatever was probably my greatest personal accomplishment. But the two, as you get older, are sometimes in conflict, and it’s very difficult to have both at the same time.
Becca: That’s great. So well this kind of ties in to, like your family achievement, but how did the people around you, maybe your family before now, or your parents, help you to get to this point and start your own company?
Harvey: You know, I think a lot of things that shaped my passion for doing something and for really being as I say persistent about what I want to achieve did indeed come from my parents. My parents were not didn’t get very much of a formal education, and they recognized how much of a difficulty that represented to them in terms of making it in the world. I remember my mother saying to me you know, “Get an education, get an education,” and she didn’t care if I became a shoemaker, as long as I was an educated shoemaker. And that was a- that was an important factor, and I took her advice. I didn’t become a shoemaker- not that there’s anything wrong with being a shoemaker, but nonetheless, certainly she was right; getting education was the key.
Becca: The next question is who is your most influential mentor and would that be your mother? Judging from the last question obviously…
Harvey: Well I think in terms of, um, inspiring me to um, uh get out in to the world and do something, certainly she was. In terms of a professional mentor, it was actually the director of Dudley Observatory who recognized when I was a senior in high school basically that I might have some-some talent, and he really was very influential in getting me involved in the type of work I ultimately wound up doing.
Becca: Cool. I’m interested in like, what is, I mean not to get too deep in to the details of your science but what is your company and can you tell us a little bit about it?
Harvey: Yea actually, my company started to a large extent as a result of the work I did early on at Dudley Observatory. The observatory back in the 1960s was looking at micrometeorites, which are very tiny particles and they collected these micrometeorites in the upper atmosphere using high altitude balloons and saddle rockets and things like that. It was a really exciting thing when I was in high school to see that going on, and then when I started at college—I went to the University at Albany—I was a student assistant at the observatory. I had to work my way through school, and continued that working with those small particles. I was given a project to develop a way to measure the mass of those small particles, and I developed instrumentation that could actually determine the mass of very, very tiny particles. This eventually wound up in to a whole series of instrumentation, which led to the ability to measure fine particles in the air, fine particles in engine exhaust and in smoke stacks, particles in workplaces like coal dust, and whatever. And also, I worked up some spacecraft instrumentation when they wanted to measure some dust coming off a comet. I developed some instruments to go on spacecraft for that type of thing. The mission never flew unfortunately, but nonetheless. So from the early work at Dudley with small particles I developed a whole series of instruments which eventually became commercially successful, and are now located all over the world, thousands of them monitoring the air, determining whether it’s healthy or not to breathe the air, and the EPA uses them. They’re used over in Europe, and the UK and China.
Becca: Wow. I guess working at Dudley is sort of the precursor to your work at the company, but were there any like specific events that were exciting you think, that led to you studying these small particles or to developing the company?
Harvey: Specific events. Well it’s amazing where things lead. I thought certainly looking at extraterrestrial particles was kind of an interesting thing, so from the very beginning it was fascinating. When we developed instrumentation for looking at what was in the air, I thought it was a neat thing. You know the design to protect peoples’ health, which is kind of important these days. But then, other types of things came up as a result of our establishing reputation in this area. For instance when the terrible events of 9/11 occurred, and the World Trade Center disaster, we were called to deliver some instruments which had to monitor around the area of destruction, and you know when something like that comes up you basically shut down all other production and you immediately get those instruments built and out there. We were also called on as a result of the anthrax attacks to develop instruments, which could monitor biological materials. It doesn’t make any difference whether it’s combustion products, or unfortunately there are some nasty particles in the air which many people put in, so we were called on to do that. So it’s strange how things, where you think something almost as relatively unexciting as small particles, you know, sometimes develops in to rather important things. We’ve also been called to measure for instance, um the results of what happens with the major forest fires that were occurring in Asia at one point, and also in the West, and in Canada. So all of a sudden, we’re in the middle of not just mundane monitoring, but important global events.
Becca: Wow. Would it- this is not on our list, but what is the most sensitivity of your instruments, are they able to like…
Harvey: Well, okay now you’re getting in to a more technical area now, so I’ll answer it simply. One of the advantages of the instruments that we’ve developed is that they are scaleable, in other words, they can be used to measure extremely small particles or not such extremely small particles. If you’re familiar with laboratory microbalances, I don’t know what sort of balances you have in your chemistry classes, pardon me?
Student: We just have the four beam balances.
Harvey: Just the four beam? Okay, well when you go off to college or whatever, you’ll come across some balances in laboratories, and if it’s under very carefully controlled environmental conditions and placed on a granite slab so it doesn’t shake or whatever, you might be able to measure something like a microgram of material. That’s very large for the types of balances that we produce. The very first balance that I made as a junior in college, when I first developed this, could immediately weigh down to ten to the minus nine, or a thousandth of the microgram, and I developed balances that can weigh a millionth of the microgram, ten to the minus twelve grams. Okay so, the real surprising thing about this is when you compare it to a balance that’s in a laboratory which has to operate under climate control conditions and on a granite slab, the balances that we’re able to produce could be used in the field, and you could use these balances smoke stacks, and people can actually wear these balances, so miners can wear these things down in coal mines and determine how much coal dust they’re inhaling, and this type of thing. So these are much more sensitive than laboratory balances and yet they’re much more rugged. So that really, opened the door to a lot of applications.
Becca: Cool. So kind of getting away from the business side of this or the technical side, what do you do to relax after a hard day of work or at the observatory or… (Laughter)
Harvey: Well (laughing), a number of things. In terms of activities, I like to play tennis; that really is great. I have an antique sports car, a 1963 corvette, which is a fun vehicle, and I always have something to do on that. In fact the carburetor plugged up just the other day so I have to take that apart now, but anyway, that’s a fun car. I’ve had that since 1968 actually. I got that when I was in college, and rebuilt the engine and all that; so I enjoy working on that sort of stuff. For relaxation, as well, I do quite a bit of astronomy. I have an observatory in my backyard and I love doing astronomy. I take rather interesting pictures of different celestial objects and I’m doing work with students to get some measurements and whatever, so yea all sorts of things.
Becca: That’s nice. So what is it like to be the CEO of a company, or to lead a lot of people?
Harvey: Well it’s interesting because when I started off I never envisioned I would be the head of a company, so I started off in research. I thought I’d go on and basically get a position at a college someplace or maybe work for NASA. In fact I was offered a job at Goddard Space Flight Center at one point, and I sort of thought I’d always be doing research, that type work. There’s no simple answer to say, you know, what it’s what it’s like being a-a CEO. First of all, I didn’t all of a sudden wake up one day and say, “Oh gosh, I’m the CEO of a company,” or whatever. Of course you have to remember this company started with my partner and myself, just two of us, and you know when you’re a two person company, you know who’s the CEO and who’s the president, it doesn’t make any difference. Then we grew to you know, four people, and then eventually ten people. And you know, I guess all of a sudden one day technically I was the CEO after we got to I dunno, fifty people, or whatever. We’ve gotten to over a hundred people ultimately. What it’s like? It’s not easy, all right? And people think that when you get into the position where you can you know, run a company, that you know, that gives you a lot of flexibility and this type of thing. And it really doesn’t because there are a lot of constraints when running a company. Um, On the one hand it’s fun because it is, you know, a position of responsibility and-and it’s—if you have the personality, and I mean there is a definition of an entrepreneur which I fit, which also fits in terms of being a CEO, and that is the inability to work for anybody else (laughter), and I think that that describes me pretty well. And so there is a certain advantage in that sense, if you have that personality. But there’s an awful lot of responsibility, because there are a lot of people who are really depending on you and the decisions that you make. And you always—some people will make a decision and then they’ll think about it again, okay I don’t do that. I’m always thinking, is that the right decision? and so on and so forth. So it’s fun sometimes, and you lose a lot of sleep other times.
Becca: How did you meet your partner in the company?
Harvey: Actually it was after I had developed that initial balance to look at micrometeorites. I published a paper and someone at Martin Marietta Corporation, which is now Lockheed-Martin happened to come across that paper. And at that time—which was in the let’s see, I probably published it in 1969 so early 1970s—I got a phone call from Martin Marietta Corporation. Before the international space station was launched years ago or whatever, the first space station was called Sky Lab—I dunno if you’ve heard of Sky Lab or not. They were having a problem with Sky Lab, and one of the problems was that there were ice particles that were forming on the outside of the spacecraft, and they were floating around the spacecraft, and they were reflecting sun light, and an ice particle or a snowflake, you know, can sometimes reflect quite a bit of light. With their extremely sensitive cameras on board Sky Lab, and these particles floating around, (laughing) they wipe out the cameras every time they reflect sunlight. So this person read about the balance I made, and wanted to know if I could measure under space conditions, the lifetime of ice particles in space. Well I was young, and I didn’t realize how difficult of a task that was, and I figured, you know, what the heck, sure I can! And I mean, you know, when you don’t know too much about something you’re very optimistic about being able to solve a problem. So I got a contract to do that, and the person who was assigned to be the technical monitor of the contract, in other words, when you have a contract and you agree to do the work, but then the organization that gives you the contract has a person in charge to you know, be sure that reports are filed on time and those other type of things, and that technical monitor came to visit me and he got so intrigued with what I’m doing he said “Look I don’t want to just write reports. Why don’t we just team up to do this together; it’s exciting stuff.” And that was uh George Rupprecht and he became my partner.
Becca: That’s neat. To talk about Dudley for a few minutes, how long were you working at Dudley?
Harvey: I started just after my senior year in high school, so pretty much immediately when I started college, and I went to State University at Albany, so it was local. Dudley Observatory was located on South Lake Avenue at the time, and the University at Albany was actually not too far away; it was on Western Avenue, that’s the downtown campus. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that. I started there in 19-guess it was 1963, and I started out as a student assistant, which meant initially I swept the floors, (laughing) literally, no joke, but I knew something about astronomy. When I was in junior high school I built my own telescope. I mean everything, not just- I didn’t just buy parts, I actually made the optics, ground the optics and everything else. So I knew something about astronomy. They had a telescope and some stuff like that, and part of the work I did besides sweeping the floors was I would help and run open nights. So every Tuesday night I’d be at the telescope showing the public the moon and the planets and star clusters and things like that. And eventually as I was a physics major in college, and as I learned more and more or whatever, when I was a junior I was offered five hundred dollars by the National Science Foundation to do any type of research I wanted, and that’s when I went to the director of Dudley Observatory who suggested I come up with a way to measure the mass of micrometeorites. So that’s how it progressed.
Becca: Yeah. What do you think is the greatest aspect of Dudley Observatory?
Harvey: That depends upon the time period. Okay, you’re talking about presently or…
Becca: Yea presently.
Harvey: Presently the greatest aspect is I think it’s um, it’s dedication to astronomy education, which I fully agree is probably the most important mission that Dudley can have. And in terms of being both a scientist and an entrepreneur and a businessperson and whatever, I really think that science education is exceptionally important, and in this society somewhat misunderstood. And I think astronomy education in particular is pivotal to really understanding where we really are as a species on this planet. And I think if more people had a little more education in astronomy, I think their overall view, not just in terms of science technology, but their overall view in terms of life on this planet would be improved for the better.
Becca: Okay. I was asked to ask you about this, (laughing) what do you know about the Dudley Curse? Or anything of that nature…
Harvey: Uh oh. (Laughter) The Dudley Curse well (laughter), who told you that?
Becca: Well we had a field trip and we were hinted that there is a such, a Dudley Curse, but we don’t know much about it.
Harvey: Well I don’t, I’m…
Becca: It’s fine if you don’t have anything…
Harvey: Well I’m assuming it refers to, now, Janie you’ll have to correct me if I’m wrong, if there is a specific definition of the Dudley curse. But, you know there seems to be a certain aspect of people who come together and in some way associate themselves with Dudley who for various reasons somehow don’t agree on certain aspects of how Dudley should proceed or, what should happen at the institution, and whatever. In the past it has gotten quite acrimonious, unfortunately. And it started all the way back when Dudley was founded, way back in the mid-1800s. There’s an initial personality conflict, and it seems to have continued to just about the present day to a certain extent. So, I think, is that what you’re referring to?
Becca: Yeah, I think that’s it. Can you tell us a little bit about your family?
Harvey: A little about my family…
Becca: Like do you have pets or.. how many kids do you have?
Harvey: I have two children. Two daughters. Jennifer is the oldest and recently got married, lives in Boston; she went to Voorheesville High School, then went on to Brandeis, outside of Boston, and she is now working at Boston Children’s Hospital as a researcher on a project which is trying to follow the progress of chronically ill children and trying to get some understanding as to why some children respond better to their medical treatment than others. And that turns out to be a very involved subject. Not just from a medical point of view but from a sociological point of view. And so that’s what she’s doing. And then my youngest daughter, who also went to Voorheesville, Susan, went to Vassar, and then spent about a year and a half trying to figure out what to do, so she worked in West Virginia at a Veterinary Clinic, which she found rather fascinating. You should interview her; she has a lot of stories about her veterinary clinic. She then went out to Utah to work at an aviary, which is, you know a bird sanctuary. And then she applied to veterinary school, and she’ll be attending Cornell veterinary school this fall. And my wife was an English major. I met her at the University at Albany. And since I was a science major and she was an English major it seemed like a good match. (Laughter) And she lives playing guitar and things like that.
Becca: Neat. What was the greatest challenge in your career… overall, do you think? (Something mumbled)
Harvey: The biggest challenge was trying to do thing differently. (Slowly) Most people would not have taken the route that I took. And most people would have considered it way too risky because basically I left, you know, with an opportunity, like I said to work at Goddard Space Flight Center, and then started business and, I started the business with absolutely no funds whatsoever, which was, almost, you know, unheard of. And I had the challenge of trying to keep funds coming into the business, because we not only had to, you know, buy food for my family but also had to have enough money to develop instrumentation, and eventually, you know, build a whole company. And that was not easy to do because with no financial backing it is an extremely difficult task. I’m glad I didn’t know how difficult it was when I started (laughing), but once I got involved in it just kept going, and it turned out to be very successful. And that was quite a challenge, yeah.
Becca: Yeah, so, this ties into that but, how did you make this transition from scientist to business man and do you do more business-type work now than research, and was that hard for you to give up- the passion you have for science?
Harvey: Yeah, well, I never totally gave it up. But, it did transition. Initially, when it was just my partner and myself, and we’re doing everything, from the basic research to a little bit of the machining. You had to be a jack-of-all-trades. And then as the company grew, I had to take on more and more managerial role. But, even so, I still kept my finger a bit in the scientific area, and I actually have gotten patents all the way through my career, including one just, you know, a year or two ago, or whatever. So, I have never totally left science, even though, as I say, my role at the business has become more managerial. But even for a hobby now I do astronomy work, and whatever. So, when you have a love for something you don’t, you can’t just leave it, drop it. It’s still there.
Becca: That’s good. Um, what do you think is one of your best techniques for inventing and discovering?
Harvey: (Sigh) That’s a very difficult question to answer. And I think everybody’s creative spark is a little bit different. I don’t know if I have a very good verbal description of what takes place, but, you know, I look at a problem that has to be solved and I just continually go over in my mind all kinds of different far out possibilities of things that can be applied to solve the problem, and I will look at certain things and think about things which are totally out in left field. And after enough thought I somehow can synthesize all these crazy disparate thoughts that pop into my mind, and over a period of time you usually can come up with some type of approach. Once in a while, (laughing) not all the time, but once in a while it works. (Laughter) And that’s all that counts. It doesn’t work all the time but once in a while you have to have something that works. But basically it’s trying to look at a problem from a non-traditional point of view and bring in all the information you possibly need- every subject imaginable. Ok, you have a mechanical problem. You think, well, is there, is there someway that a biological system solves the problem, if you just bring in all kinds of different aspects of information and somehow some people can process that, and I guess other people can’t. But if you can then I guess you’re fortunate.
Becca: Are these ideas that end up working, are they your favorite inventions, or, what is your favorite patent or invention?
Harvey: Well, I mean, I think just the (Tape 1 Side 1 ends)…well, I mean I think just the initial barrels that I came up with early on is kind of a neat thing. I mean you realize how neat it was when I came up with it. I’d say the second most interesting one was one I came up with recently, which uh was more technical, so I don’t want to get in to it, but it solved a longstanding problem of how to correctly measure particles in the air which have volatile substances, as well as nonvolatile substances. Okay that’s a fairly technical thing, but that has been a problem that has been plaguing people for a long time, and I think I successfully came up with a way to solve that, using commercialized instrumentation to do that. So I think that point of view is interesting, in terms of some science papers and whatever. I’m kind of proud of some work I did on what happens to ice in space and how that relates to comets and things like that.
Becca: Would you say those are your most… what would you say is your most influential invention, in terms of like impacting society?
Harvey: Well, I think the basic microbalance is probably the most important thing. As I say, it’s used worldwide. Many environmental protection agencies around the world have standardized on this instrumentation so it’s become, you know, rather important in the environmental arena.
Becca: That’s good. Well, that’s all of our questions that we have so far. Does anyone want to add a question? I dunno…
Josh: Josh Levy speaking. Before we asked you about what was the best aspect of the Dudley Observatory, and you differentiated between the present Dudley Observatory and the Dudley Observatory that you might have worked at. What was the best aspect of that Dudley Observatory and how has it changed and evolved over the years?
Harvey: The Dudley that I initially was involved with was certainly more research oriented, so it was a very exciting place to work at. It really formed a basis in terms of how I look at research and how I think about problems, and one of the most enjoyable aspects of Dudley at the time was the connections between the researchers. We could sit down for instance, at a coffee break, and have a discussion about all kinds of crazy things, which then eventually people started to develop ideas out of. Uh, this goes back to what I was saying about you know, disparate ideas coming together. So basically, it was a much more rigorous research institution with some very, very bright people, and that was a very exciting aspect of it. Nowadays, you know, it’s not a research institution, but it is devoting it’s time to educational activities. And then prior to the time that I was associated with Dudley, you may have heard from others, there was some very important work being done on the positioning of where stars are positioned in the sky, and whatever, and some catalogs were made, which were very important in terms of deciphering stellar motions and the understanding of how the motions of the Milky Way are perceived, and things like that. So there was some very important work that was done, you know a hundred years ago, as well as fifty years ago, and so it depended upon the time frame for Dudley.
Becca: I have actually another question. Do you have any long term or short term goals for now? In terms of either your business or research?
Harvey: Well, I recently sold the business, so currently I’m really a consultant to that business and also I am beginning to get involved with some other businesses as well who are trying to tap into the expertise that developed early in my own business. So that’s more the short term. In terms of the long term, I’m always coming up with new concepts and new ideas. Whether they’ll work out or not I don’t know yet. We’ll see. But I’ll be continuing my involvement certainly in astronomy education, perhaps working with some more students or whatever; I’ve been successful in the past. I’ve worked with two high-school students, one of whom was from Bethlehem actually, and they both became um, the other one was from Guilderland High School, they both became Intel Science Competition finalists. One went on to Princeton and then Harvard, and the other one, that was Cullen Blake, and then Katy Hartman from Guilderland went on to MIT. So, they both worked with me in the observatory. I’d have them in the back yard to take measurements and so, I certainly will continue on with astronomy education, either through my own endeavors or perhaps through Dudley.
Dan Royle: Yea, I have just a question about your micro particle detection. Like this says it was used at the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympics. What sort of things were you looking for, the-the biological weapons, or?
Harvey: Yea that was for the security of the Olympics. And we were contacted by Los Aloes National Laboratories since we had this type of instrumentation, to come up with a modified version of some instrumentation to put at the Salt Lake City Olympics, and yeah, it was meant for biological detection.
Becca: That was Dan Royle.
Josh: Josh Levy again. Who were some of your role models and heroes when you were a child?
Harvey: (Laughing) Well, aside from the standard baseball ones back then, and whatever, and I guess I was a Yankee fan back then, I would say my role models were probably—well I think in the 1960 era I’d say the typical one was John Kennedy, who, you sort of have to had lived through that time to really understand why he was. He was very inspirational. And he really got the country going on the Space program, which I eventually got, you know, involved in obviously. So, besides from standard sports heroes and whatever, I’d say from a national type of a thing, certainly he is a role model.
Becca: Ok, this is Becca again. I have another question that’s sort of broad. What do you think is your greatest weakness?
Harvey: Oh… (Laughter) Where do I start? (Student laughter) I think that almost summarizes it right there. I think my greatest weakness is that I continually rehash decisions, as I mentioned before. Ok, and I don’t recommend that for when you all become CEOs. You have to, you know, you’ve got to make decisions and just move on, Ok? And I think my greatest weakness is not mentally getting into a place where I can just say, ok, you know, that was a decision, right or wrong, you know, ok now we’re moving on. I’m always rehashing. And that’s something I have been working on. I’d say that is my greatest weakness, because it really saps a lot of strength and energy that could be developed and put to better use elsewhere.
Becca: To get a little more of like, you as a person. In addition to that, how do you think your family would describe you? In a few words, or..
Harvey: (Laughing) How would they describe me or how would I like them to describe me? (Laughter) I think they would describe me as intense dedicated; I would hope they would say loving. (Laughter) Yeah, I guess that, I hope that is how they would describe me.
Dan: Um, this is Dan Royle again. How did it feel to have an asteroid named after you, in 2005?
Harvey: Oh, that was great (Student laughter). Yeah it was kind of a surprise; I didn’t expect it. It was great. And it was special because I’ve been involved in astronomy for so long, as a kid, and what made it really very interesting is that as soon as I got the notice I checked the orbital parameters for the asteroid, and as soon as the sky cleared I could—I have an automated telescope so I can sit at the computer and put in the coordinates and go over and actually image my own asteroid (laughing). It’s kind of neat, in that you know, the company, which was Rupprecht and Patashnick and now is Thermo Electron. You know, the company name will eventually fade and whatever, but the asteroid Patashnick is forever so to speak. You know, so, that’s neat. They are neat things. If you look down the list of the alphabetized names of the named asteroids, ok, as you go down the name right before me is Pasteur. (Laughter) That was nice. So, it’s fun. That’s my rock out there.
Becca: This is Becca again. What do you think is one of like your fondest childhood memories, or a good memory you had?
Harvey: You know, rather than a specific memory, it’s more an exciting feeling in a way. When it first dawned on me that although—and I’ll write this back to my astronomy interest again, but it’s kind of important because it does in these certain aspects of my childhood, did inspire me to do what I’m doing. And, the fact that we were not very well off financially meant that when I got interested in astronomy and I just wanted to get a small telescope and whatever, we literally could really not afford to do that because a telescope at that time that you could see something through costs thirty dollars. Thirty dollars was just, you know, out of the question in terms of being able to do it. And what I had to then, was to figure out some way to get a telescope without being able to get money for it, okay, and that’s why I went to the library and got a book, and saw that it was possible to actually make a telescope. It was that feeling of empowerment all of a sudden. It was like, hey, you know, there are ways to do things, and even though I was in junior high school, you know, I got the book and I got you know, pieces of glass and cardboard tubes and all this type of thing, and I literally made the telescope. A much bigger size and whatever than the thirty-dollar telescope ever represented. And of course I learned a whole lot. So, my greatest memory is more that feeling of, you know, you can really do something. You know, it doesn’t make any difference if you’re a kid, and some people would have looked at that and said, you know, make an optical thing when you’re only in junior high school? That thought never crossed my mind. So, it was more that feeling of excitement. That, you know, here I am, and all I have to do is know how to read and you can do anything. So, I’d rather put it in those terms than, you know, in terms of…
Becca: Yeah, great. Does anyone else have any more questions? I have another. If you had to live one moment over again, which would you choose it to be? (Laughing)
Harvey: My goodness, that’s a tough one.
Becca: Sorry… or more than one moment.
Harvey: Oh, I mean there are so many. There are some I wouldn’t like to live over again, well (while laughing). I mean, you know, obviously from a personal point of view, you know, having kids is a great experience, and whatever, and being there when your children are born is really something that, you know, from a personal point of view there is really no, nothing else can compare. And then you know there are, if you want to go the other extreme in terms of things I wouldn’t like to live again, well one example that once again, relates to Dudley…
(Tape cuts out for a minute)
Becca: Ok, so, we’re just continuing the question of one moment that he wouldn’t like to relive.
Harvey: Yeah, it was, an experience I had when I was doing some of the research at Dudley in the micrometeorite field and with this microbalance and whatever. I was asked to give a paper at a scientific conference. And this was at the American Astronomical Society. And it took place in Washington D.C., I think at the Smithsonian. This was in 19…60… gosh, probably 67 maybe, and being in college, I was thrown in amongst professional astronomers who were giving papers. And here I was just, you know…(something mumbled).. and I had no idea of how contentious scientists really are, and I also had no idea that the work that was being done at Dudley at the time was highly contentious for a lot of reasons. So, I went in quite naively uh to give this paper on the project I was doing, and whatever, and suddenly a blizzard of hostile questions (laughing) which surprised me no end, going in as you know basically a kid, and amongst all these distinguished astronomers whose names I have heard and revered and everything else. Here I am, you know, being peppered with all these hostile questions, and I just couldn’t believe it. So it was an interesting experience. Something that certainly was a maturing experience. (Laughing) Something like that, certainly from a professional point of view, I wouldn’t like to live that over again, but I certainly learned a lot from that experience, and in fact I must say that the fellow from NASA came up to me afterwards and was very apologetic and was very surprised I hadn’t been warned ahead of time and everything else, so that was an interesting experience in terms of the, of the negative ones.
Becca: Does anyone else have any more questions? Ok, I have another. If you had to give students studying science any advice for our future or for research, what would it be?
Harvey: Yeah, I would say basically don’t doubt yourself. As long as you are looking at something that is interesting to you and you continue to, as I mentioned before, bring a lot of information to barrel whatever problem you’re working on, don’t doubt your ability to be able to come up with a solution. And even if you wind up not quite solving what you thought you were going to be able to solve, it will lead to something else. So just don’t doubt your ability to put things together and to really look at things in a slightly different way. Be very attentive and respectful when you’re being instructed on a certain line of science, but always leave an open mind that there may be more there than even the professor is teaching you. And, you know, always leave your mind open and always bring in a lot of information from every direction possible; don’t doubt your ability.
Becca: Do you think that is your biggest life lesson that you learned that you want us to learn, or something that you personally think is important to you.
Harvey: I think that that’s the most important one, is to maintain a sense of confidence in who you are and what you’re doing. And, you know, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t change directions when it becomes obvious the direction you’re going is not right. I don’t mean foolish confidence, I mean, as long as you sense that there is a possibility that some approach or something that you’re doing is even kind of on the right track, you know, pursue it to where you can really get it someplace, and get some conclusion or, to move on, yeah, just persistence really is the name of the game.
Josh: Josh Levy again. Do you have any specific goals, either for your business or science, or for your personal life, that you feel like you’d like to achieve in the next few years?
Harvey: Well, I’ve set-aside in my mind certain projects I’m working on and some are pretty far out (laughing). Others are a little more down to earth. Yeah, I think I’ve, I would like to develop some interesting new ways of measuring from an environmental point of view, certain environmental products. This ties into, you know, the previous business. From the astronomy point of view, looking at some processes going on in stars, which, these are variable stars. And we have some ideas looking at how certain spectrum changes as the star fluctuates or whatever. And I have certain concepts there, which I hope I’m able to work out. So, you know, both these things are fairly technical types of things. In terms of grand plans, you know, I don’t know if I’ll be starting another business or not, and you know, anything the size of what I developed before. I may decide to write something now.
Becca: Alright, that’s all the questions I have. Does anyone else have any extras? Well thank you very much for taking your time to teach us so much.
Other Students: Yeah, thank you.
Janie: Can I ask one more little thing?
Becca: Yeah, sure.
Harvey: Sure (laughing)
Janie: You had mentioned that uh, Curt Hemenway was influential.
Janie: Could you expand on that please?
Harvey: Yeah, Curt was a very (sigh) interesting individual. He was very charismatic; he was exceptionally bright, very quick. He was an excellent teacher in a lot of respects. And I really learned a lot from his example in terms of how to, you know, develop ideas, how to, um, “sell” those ideas. Ok, I put sell in quotes. In other words, I learned how to convince people that these ideas are a good thing to pursue. I also learned a lot from some of his failings, as well, which was also a learning experience, because I felt, and I saw, early on in-in the work that he was doing, that there was a certain oversight that he lacked in terms of some of the details of the experimentation, which eventually came back to haunt him. Then also when he went too far in promoting some ideas of his, which clearly were not scientifically justifiable, but he still would insist and pursue those. So, I learned a lot from his good side, and a lot from his not-so-good side. And basically, I saw an approach that would work for me that I would feel comfortable with and could also encourage people to support what I was doing in a way. So, I learned a lot of science, how to do science, from his example, and how not to do science, from his example, and also, how to persuade people from his example, and how not to persuade people from his example. So, he was in that sense an excellent mentor. And I owe him a lot, I really do.
Becca: Ok, well thank you for visiting Bethlehem High School. That was really great.