Hale Bradt '45

Professor Emeritus, M.I.T.
I attended Grace Church School for two years in the middle of World War II. My mother, my sister, and I were in NYC because of the war. I was born in Washington State where my Dad was a Professor of chemistry.
In 1936, when I was five, we moved to Maine where he was at the University of Maine. He was in the National Guard and went on active duty when his unit was called up in February 1941. That is when we moved to New York.
 
GCS became my home away from home and it provided quality schooling for me (5th and 6th grades, 1941-43); we had Latin in both years and I remember well the woodshop on the roof. I was able to attend because I auditioned for the Grace Church choir, which led to free tuition at the school. I even earned a salary of a few dollars as week as a choirboy. I am now 82 and I still sing. My chorus in Salem, MA, is doing Haydn's the Seasons in a few weeks. I have to get busy learning better the bass part. I picked up the violin again about five years ago and play, not well, with a couple of small groups. The year after my two years at Grace, I went to a less academically advanced boarding school and was immediately jumped a grade (to 8th). GCS was good! I remember my first day there when I responded to a teacher's request (it was all men and boys at that time) with a "Yeah," and was promptly informed that at GCS it was "Yes Sir" and "No Sir" not "Yeah".

After that boarding school year, we went back to Maine for one year and then to Washington, D.C. for my high school years. My Dad came home from the war (three years overseas and lots of combat) and killed himself six weeks later. I am working on a book about my family in World War II, based partly on the many highly literate letters he sent home. It is now my big project. It is a rich human story as well as a war story. Previously in my retirement I wrote and published two textbooks on Astrophysics.   
(In 2011, the American Astronomical Society awarded one of Hale’s textbooks, Astrophysics Processes: The Physics of Astronomical Phenomena [Cambridge University Press, 2008]The Chambliss Astronomical Writing Award for an academic book.)
 
After high school, I went to Princeton University (Class of 1952) where I majored in Music, but took some physics courses. After two years in the Navy in the Korean War (on a cargo ship carrying supplies to Japan for Navy ships involved in the 
Korean War), I returned to Princeton to take physics courses and to work in a laboratory (Cosmic rays) because I had decided to move ahead in physics. This gave me the credentials to enter graduate school at MIT, where I got the Ph.D. in 1961. 
 
Caption: Hale at his 60th reunion at Princeton with the bell clapper he stole from the tower of Nassau Hall as a freshman in 1948.

What changed my mind about my future career? I began to understand that others in music had greater intrinsic aptitude for music than did I. On the other hand, in Navy courses I took to become an officer the summer between my junior and senior years, I discovered that on quantitative topics, like navigation, I was much more facile than my fellow students. I could picture vector diagrams and gun mechanisms easily. (Moral: one's natural aptitudes are a good guide to a possible career.)
 
I did my Ph.D. thesis at MIT on cosmic rays which are charged particles raining down on us. I took my measuring equipment to a cave in New York State. It was an old cement mine, then used for mushroom growing and now is a storage location for document safe keeping. I was married by then and my father-in-law told my wife, “not everyone can be married to a cave man.” Cosmic rays originate from very energetic protons and some heavier nuclei that enter our atmosphere from interstellar space. They interact with the nuclei in the atmosphere (oxygen and nitrogen), and the products (other particles) propagate through the atmosphere to sea level where they can penetrate our bodies. I was studying the ones that had enough energy to get through the 30 feet of overhead rock to my instruments.

Shortly after my Ph.D. was finished (1961), I joined the faculty of the Department of Physics as a Professor and served in that role for 40 years. Our group began to study x rays that come from different "stars" in our Milky Way Galaxy; we call it x-ray astronomy. This was a brand new field. Our research was all done from rockets, balloons, and satellites; it was an exciting field to be in. I was deeply involved in x-ray astronomy experiments with sounding rockets launched from White Sands Missile Range and then with the NASA satellite experiments, SAS-3 (launched 1975), HEAO-1 (1979), and RXTE (1995). We provided instruments and did science with the data that was telemetered to the ground. The latter mission (The Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer) returned data to world-wide observers for 16 years, from 1996 to 2012.

The Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer project took Hale and his colleagues nearly 20 years to bring to fruition. The extraordinary amount of data it collected lead to a 1999 award, the Rossi Prize, presented by the High Energy Astrophysics Division of the American Astronomical Society; Three subsequent years of the same prize were given for research that used his RXT Explorer.
Pictured here, Hale and three colleagues with a replica of the "All Sky Monitor" that he (at MIT) built and flew on the Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer . Learn more about this extraordinary project at xte.mit.edu.
 
I have been retired from MIT for almost 12 years now, but I do attend seminars there and serve as academic advisor to six to nine MIT freshman women each year. My wife and I also get to quite a few concerts of chamber music groups, opera, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Our travels often are to attend astronomy 
conferences, and for many years we visited the Observatory of Rome in Italy for several weeks each year. We developed many friends there. We had a sabbatical leave there in 1997. My previous sabbaticals were in Chile and Japan. I learned enough of each language to get along on the street, but not to converse socially with comfort and understanding, and have now forgotten most of what I knew (except Italian).
 
On the domestic side, I will have been married to my bride for 55 years this July. Our two daughters are each married to a "Bart" (be assured that they are two different wonderful guys). The older daughter is 53 (I cannot believe it!) and is a Veterinarian who has her own practice in our town of Salem, Massachusetts. We never let her have pets as a child, which surely intensified her love of animals. Now she has dogs and cats at home, and we have learned to love them. Her two children are in or just out of college. The other daughter works in Portland, Maine for a health organization. She is close enough so we see her every month or two.
 
This past June, after driving to my Princeton reunion, from Massachusetts, I drove on to visit siblings, cousins and step relatives in Maryland, Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, and New York. I did this all myself in 200 to 400 mile legs. It took 29 days and 4700 miles and took me through 21states. I met 71 relatives (which is easy when a cousin's two children show up, each with three or four kids). I did all this solo. It was a wonderful and memorable trip that reconnected me to family and to our wonderful country.
 
I have kept in touch with Gerry Iannelli and George Miller who are both recently deceased and also with Peter Blaxill.

I am quite healthy and mobile at this time but was quite fortunate to come through a bout of life threatening lymphoma in 1976 at age 45. I went through chemotherapy and radiation treatments and it went away. Later in 1995, I had coronary bypass surgery and that is holding up so far. Most people my age have similar stories, but not all are so fortunate. I did learn something from the lymphoma episode, namely that one’s work is a source of great satisfaction in our lives. One can only relax and smell the roses (as some advised me at the time) only so long without getting awfully bored.

All in all, Dottie and I feel fortunate that we are still both around to keep each other company and to enjoy the accomplishments of our children and grandchildren as well as those of the many other younger persons we meet at conferences and elsewhere.
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