by Doug Simons Director, Gemini Observatory
Fred Gillett’s Legacy Inspired by the creative genius of the GeminiFocus editors and the International Year of Astronomy celebrations occurring around the globe, this edition features some truly remarkable and fascinating accounts of the “birth” of the giant twin telescopes we now call Gemini. Accounts are given of the singular contributions of scientists, engineers, and managers who played crucial roles in the development of Gemini. These include leaders like Sidney Wolff, who brought together the resources in Tucson to take a concept to reality, and Matt Mountain, Gemini’s director throughout the construction phase of the project. His vision and tenacity helped lead the project from the drawing board to massive chunks of steel and glass. This issue also features the mathematical genius of Brent Ellerbroek, whom the Gemini Project relied upon heavily in its early days to ground its designs in an emerging technology we now take for granted: adaptive optics. David Crampton and Roger Davies are also featured for their leadership and drive behind Gemini’s most scientifically productive instruments, the Gemini Multi-object Spectrographs at Gemini North and South. The core Gemini engineering and management team–comprised of Dick Kurz, Larry Stepp, Keith Raybould, Jim Oschmann, and Rick McGonegal–is featured as well. I witnessed firsthand the management and engineering wizardry of these key people in the original Tucson project office as they plowed daily through a complex trade space of cost, performance, and scheduling like a snowplow on Mauna Kea this winter! Finally, in this article, I have the privilege of sharing with you my own perspectives on Fred Gillett (pictured at right), the man whose image, on a memorial plaque, adorns the interior of the dome at Gemini North, watching as his “baby” harvests photons that seed tomorrow’s discoveries. Fred was working at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) the first time I met him in 1994. I had just arrived on the scene in Tucson as Gemini’s new “systems scientist.” Matt Mountain, who was the project scientist at the time, hired me to help interface between Gemini’s emerging international science community and the engineering team in Tucson, where low-level design trades were being made almost daily. Though Fred was not formally on Gemini’s staff at the time, in practice he was already heavily involved in the project, providing crucial guidance on top-level performance requirements for the telescopes, instruments, and sites.