Herbert C Pollock

A Tribute to Dr. Herbert C Pollock

By Roy Anderson

(Dr. Pollock died November 24, 2000 in Wallingford, Connecticut.)

Dudley Observatory owes much to the vision and leadership of Herb Pollock. He joined the Dudley Board in 1972, served as its president from 1975-1980, as secretary from 1981- 1992, and assumed Emeritus status in 1995. He also served on the Board of the Schenectady Museum and Planetarium, and was a Trustee of the University of Virginia.

During his early tenure on the Dudley Board the Observatory had a rather large staff that conducted research under NASA and other contracts at its facility on Fuller Rd. in Albany. It added radio astronomy to its programs when it installed the Frank L. Fullam Radio Telescope near Bolton Landing. Scientists on the staff were connected with the Department of Astronomy and Space Science at SUNY- Albany.

The Dudley research programs came to a sudden crisis when SUNY closed its Astronomy and Space Science Department prospect for continued funding by any outside agency. The resulting financial and personnel problems could have resulted in the demise of Dudley.

With Herb’s leadership the Observatory leased the Fuller Road property to the Atmospheric Sciences Research Center under terms that alleviated the financial problems He led the moves of the library and archives, first to Plaza 7, then to Union Avenue. His vision contributed to the Observatory’s change from a research facility to a foundation.

Herb had a long and distinguished career at General Electric’s Corporate Research and Development Center. During World War II he worked on the separation of uranium isotopes, an achievement essential to the Manhattan project.

He wrote several technical papers, and was awarded numerous patents. He was a fellow of the American Physical Society. He worked on nuclear safety with the Federation of Atomic Scientists, which attempted to keep control of nuclear materials in the hands of scientists instead of the military. He worked on the development of the synchrotron, and it was during experiments he and his team conducted at the GE Research Laboratory that synchrotron radiation, today an important tool for analyzing the properties of matter, was observed for the first time. He led a GE R&D Center program of grants to Universities, unofficially called the Pollock Award.

He purchased and maintained Moss Lodge Camp on Saranac Lake that was built in 1898 by Isabel Ballantine, and n by the National Trust for Preservation as one of the “Great Camps of the Adirondacks”. He had a great interest in the historical an natural features of the Adirondacks.

I was very pleased when his wife Pat told me that in spite of the severity of his long illness he was able to travel all the way from New Haven to Moss Lodge last summer. While there he walked along the shore with some of his old vigor, thoroughly enjoying the place he loved.

Those who are associated with Dudley deeply appreciate the contributions of Herb, and will always remember the friendly, gentlemanly way in which he led us through a difficult time.