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Oral-History:Dorothy Gillette

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== About Dorothy Gillette  ==
 
== About Dorothy Gillette  ==
  
Gillette graduated from Mount Holyoke with a physics major and a math minor, and went to work for the [[MIT Rad Lab|Rad Lab]] in September 1944. She went to work J. L. Lawson’s group, experimental systems, doing signal threshold studies She did some computing, but mostly made observations and assisted with the data analysis. After the war, she helped edit the Rad Lab series of publications. Later she went to work for IBM's  Watson Laboratories; she ended up in the computers field. She describes the Rad Lab atmosphere as informal, sociable, and enthusiastic.
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Gillette graduated from Mount Holyoke with a physics major and a math minor, and went to work for the [[MIT Rad Lab|Rad Lab]] in September 1944. She went to work J. L. Lawson’s group, experimental systems, doing signal threshold studies She did some computing, but mostly made observations and assisted with the data analysis. After the war, she helped edit the Rad Lab series of publications. Later she went to work for IBM's  Watson Laboratories; she ended up in the computers field. She describes the Rad Lab atmosphere as informal, sociable, and enthusiastic.  
  
 
== About the Interview  ==
 
== About the Interview  ==
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This manuscript is being made available for research purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to the IEEE History Center. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the Director of IEEE History Center.  
 
This manuscript is being made available for research purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to the IEEE History Center. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the Director of IEEE History Center.  
  
Request for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to the IEEE History Center Oral History Program, 39 Union Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8538 USA. It should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user.  
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Request for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to the IEEE History Center Oral History Program, IEEE History Center at Stevens Institute of Technology, Castle Point on Hudson, Hoboken, NJ 07030 USA. It should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user.  
  
 
It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:  
 
It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:  
  
Dorothy Gillette, an oral history conducted in 1991 by William Aspray IEEE History Center, New Brunswick, NJ, USA.  
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Dorothy Gillette, an oral history conducted in 1991 by William Aspray IEEE History Center, Hoboken, NJ, USA.  
  
 
== Interview  ==
 
== Interview  ==
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'''Aspray:'''  
 
'''Aspray:'''  
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<p><flashmp3>093 - gillette - clip 1.mp3</flashmp3></p>
  
 
What can you tell me about the general work environment? Tell me about some of the other people at the Laboratory.  
 
What can you tell me about the general work environment? Tell me about some of the other people at the Laboratory.  
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You're welcome.  
 
You're welcome.  
  
[[Category:People_and_organizations|Oral-History:Dorothy Gillette]] [[Category:Scientists|Oral-History:Dorothy Gillette]] [[Category:Inventors|Oral-History:Dorothy Gillette]] [[Category:Research_and_development_labs|Oral-History:Dorothy Gillette]] [[Category:Culture_and_society|Oral-History:Dorothy Gillette]] [[Category:Defense_&_security|Category:Defense_&amp;_security]] [[Category:Signals|Oral-History:Dorothy Gillette]] [[Category:Signal_detection|Oral-History:Dorothy Gillette]] [[Category:Radar_detection|Oral-History:Dorothy Gillette]] [[Category:Computers_and_information_processing|Oral-History:Dorothy Gillette]] [[Category:Computing|Oral-History:Dorothy Gillette]] [[Category:Components,_circuits,_devices_&_systems|Category:Components,_circuits,_devices_&amp;_systems]] [[Category:Measurement|Oral-History:Dorothy Gillette]] [[Category:Electromagnetic_measurements|Oral-History:Dorothy Gillette]] [[Category:Noise|Oral-History:Dorothy Gillette]] [[Category:News|Oral-History:Dorothy Gillette]]
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[[Category:People and organizations|Gillette]] [[Category:Scientists|Gillette]] [[Category:Inventors|Gillette]] [[Category:Research and development labs|Gillette]] [[Category:Culture and society|Gillette]] [[Category:Defense & security|Gillette]] [[Category:Signals|Gillette]] [[Category:Signal detection|Gillette]] [[Category:Radar detection|Gillette]] [[Category:Computers and information processing|Gillette]] [[Category:Computing|Gillette]] [[Category:Components, circuits, devices & systems|Gillette]] [[Category:Measurement|Gillette]] [[Category:Electromagnetic measurements|Gillette]] [[Category:Noise|Gillette]] [[Category:News|Gillette]]

Revision as of 16:35, 30 June 2014

Contents

About Dorothy Gillette

Gillette graduated from Mount Holyoke with a physics major and a math minor, and went to work for the Rad Lab in September 1944. She went to work J. L. Lawson’s group, experimental systems, doing signal threshold studies She did some computing, but mostly made observations and assisted with the data analysis. After the war, she helped edit the Rad Lab series of publications. Later she went to work for IBM's  Watson Laboratories; she ended up in the computers field. She describes the Rad Lab atmosphere as informal, sociable, and enthusiastic.

About the Interview

DOROTHY GILLETTE: An Interview Conducted by William Aspray, IEEE History Center, 13 June 1991

Interview # 093 for the IEEE History Center, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.

Copyright Statement

This manuscript is being made available for research purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to the IEEE History Center. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the Director of IEEE History Center.

Request for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to the IEEE History Center Oral History Program, IEEE History Center at Stevens Institute of Technology, Castle Point on Hudson, Hoboken, NJ 07030 USA. It should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user.

It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:

Dorothy Gillette, an oral history conducted in 1991 by William Aspray IEEE History Center, Hoboken, NJ, USA.

Interview

Interview: Dorothy Gillette

Interviewer: William Aspray

Date: 13 June 1991

Location: Boston, Massachusetts

Educational Background

Aspray:

This is an interview on the 13th of June 1991 with Dorothy F. Gillette. The interviewer is William Aspray. This is part of the MIT Radiation Laboratory Oral History Project. I'd like to find out what you had done before you came to the Rad Lab. What your education was, that sort of thing.

Gillette:

I was in college.

Aspray:

Had you worked before you went to the Rad Lab?

Gillette:

No. I went to Mount Holyoke College. I accelerated in my studies and graduated early. Then I went to work at Rad Lab.

Aspray:

What was your undergraduate education in? What was your department?

Gillette:

I majored in physics and minored in math.

Recruitment to Rad Lab

Aspray:

How were you recruited to the Rad Lab?

Gillette:

I was recruited through the college appointment bureau. The head of the appointment bureau at the college gave me several places to apply, and I picked Radiation Lab.

Aspray:

What did you find attractive about it?

Gillette:

I thought it would be interesting work.

Aspray:

Were you looking for something that you could use your physics background in?

Gillette:

Yes.

Aspray:

Do you remember what other options you had at the time?

Gillette:

Another option was working at Sylvania out in Danvers. I found MIT more convenient.

Signal Threshold Studies

Aspray:

What was your first assignment at the Rad Lab?

Gillette:

I was in J.L. Lawson's group. It was experimental systems. I ended up doing signal threshold studies.

Aspray:

What did that group do primarily? What was its chief objective?

Gillette:

They sat in a dark room and looked for signals in a background of noise. They kept increasing the noise, and we'd guess where the signal was, even if we couldn't see the signal.

Aspray:

Did you use an oscilloscope?

Gillette:

Yes, an oscilloscope. We used both horizontal and circular displays. I looked at that system most of the time.

Aspray:

What was the date at which you arrived at the Rad Lab?

Gillette:

I arrived in September of '44. We were on the roof of Building 6.

Aspray:

How did the work that you were doing use your physics background?

Gillette:

I did some computing. But I mostly made observations and then assisted with the analysis of our data.

Aspray:

So you complied data. Is that right?

Gillette:

Yes.

Aspray:

Had your undergraduate education prepared you for this?

Gillette:

Yes. More or less. It was a liberal arts college. The Math and Physics courses were helpful.

Publications Office

Aspray:

Did you continue to do the same kind of work until the end of the war, or did you have other duties while you were there?

Gillette:

Oh, at the end of the war I was working on editing the Rad Lab series publications.

Aspray:

Were you moved to a different department, or you were just doing this on the side where you were located?

Gillette:

We moved to another building. I worked for Dr. Josephson. He was in the previous group.

Interaction between Groups

Aspray:

How large was your group working on the signal threshold studies?

Gillette:

About four in our immediate group. Then I think there were about 16 in the whole group.

Aspray:

Was this work that you would do jointly with other people? Did you have lots of interaction?

Gillette:

It was a joint effort and it was competitive. It's hard to say which person could detect the signals in the highest noise.

Aspray:

You got a gold star for doing that.

Gillette:

Yes. [Chuckling] They said I was psychic. [Laughter]

Aspray:

Tell me something about the work environment at the Laboratory. What was it like to be working there?

Gillette:

It was very informal.

Aspray:

In what way?

Gillette:

Well, the guards made coffee for us and we could go out over to Walker (the MIT cafeteria) on our breaks. We could also use the library facilities.

Aspray:

Did you have much interaction with any of the other departments?

Gillette:

No. I didn't have much contact with other departments until I worked on the publications. I looked at the photographs that were going into the books and decided what size they should be in the publications.

Postwar Career

Aspray:

What effect do you think the Laboratory had on your subsequent career? What did you do after you left the Rad Lab?

Gillette:

I went down to Albany Street and started working for the Watson Laboratories, at the Cambridge Field Station. It used to be used by Rad Lab, I guess, for the training of laboratory technicians.

Aspray:

What did you do in your postwar job?

Gillette:

I started out translating scientific articles from German into English. That was the first thing I did. It was sort of varied.

Aspray:

Did your work during the war have any bearing upon your subsequent career?

Gillette:

I think that's why they hired me. I always wanted to do mathematics. I started out as a physicist, but they changed me to a mathematician after I'd taken a lot of math courses at MIT. Then I got involved with computers.

Methods of Calculation During War

Aspray:

You had been doing hand calculation during the war. Is that right?

Gillette:

Yes.

Aspray:

Can you tell me a bit about the character of that? I'm particularly interested because my specialty's not radar but the history of computing. I'd be interested in knowing what kinds of problems you did, and what kind of machinery you used. Did you use a desk calculator to do your work during the war?

Gillette:

I don't remember using any desk calculators during the war. We did it by hand or with a slide rule.

Aspray:

What kinds of problems did you do?

Gillette:

We were computing the statistical accuracy of the data analysis.

Aspray:

You were computing deviations and distributions and things like that?

Gillette:

Yes.

Aspray:

How many data points did you have? What size was the calculation? I'm just trying to get some sense for this.

Gillette:

We worked on it quite a while. It was quite a big plot. It was in one of the Rad Lab series. A lot of the Rad Lab series disappeared from our library at AFGL. I think Lincoln Labs has the whole series. I was looking for our particular book, but I couldn't find it in our library.

Work Environment and Social Life

Aspray:

What can you tell me about the general work environment? Tell me about some of the other people at the Laboratory.

Gillette:

They were very interesting people. They came from all over the country. A lot of them came from Brigham Young University in Utah.

Aspray:

I hadn't heard this before.

Gillette:

Dr. Linford brought quite a few people with him. They didn't believe in drinking alcohol, coffee, or liquor. So we had unusual parties. At one party they had a scavenger hunt, and one secretary had red hair. One of the items of the scavenger hunt was a piece of red hair. [Laughter]

Aspray:

Many people have remarked on the fact that the Laboratory was a place run by physicists for physicists. How would you compare either the administration or the interaction of people in the Laboratory with other places you've worked after there?

Gillette:

It was much more informal. And inside it was much more sociable.

Aspray:

What kinds of things made it informal? Can you give me some details about that? In what ways was it more informal? Reporting lines, or dress, or work hours?

Gillette:

I guess we had long hours, but it didn't bother me then. I was younger. It was an informal set-up. I mean, we were in temporary buildings with wooden floors. You'd get the elevator up to the fourth floor, and then climbed up the stairs the rest of the way. They had a radome on top, and we could overlook the sunbathing yard of the MIT students. [Laughter] The wall was supposed to be high enough to shield them, but we were higher than the wall.

Aspray:

What about the social life in the Laboratory? You've told me about the scavenger hunt. Did people who worked there get together and do things outside of work? Or did people just scatter to their own homes?

Gillette:

Some of them got together, and some of them scattered to their own homes.

Aspray:

Nothing really special in one way or another at that time?

Gillette:

No.

Aspray:

What can you remember about various personalities, especially key people in the Labs? Did you get to know some of them, and could you tell me something about them?

Gillette:

I worked with Steve Sydoriak and R.R. Meijer. Meijer was an enthusiastic person.

Aspray:

In what regard?

Gillette:

He was politically an ardent supporter of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. A lot of the people at Rad Lab came to work for the Air Force. One man came from a farm in Iowa, and he said if he ever looked at a girl, his grandmother would come down from Iowa and take him home again. [Laughter] I don't know what happened to him either. I talked to someone who said that Dr. Lawson and his wife had both died. There were some very interesting people at Rad Lab. There were three groups up there on the roof.

Aspray:

Did you notice much interaction between the groups?

Gillette:

Not really. We talked to each other.

Aspray:

Was there a sense of commitment and seriousness because of the value of this equipment for the war effort? How did that affect the esprit de corps?

Gillette:

Well, we were all very enthusiastic.

Aspray:

Was there was a sense that people had to work hard because that was their war contribution?

Gillette:

Yes. They were interested. They were young people full of enthusiasm.

Aspray:

If you wanted to just cite a few things that would characterize the Rad Lab in contrast to other big laboratories, what would you point to?

Gillette:

The enthusiasm, the interest, and the friendliness made Rad Lab special. The staff handed out bulletins on what was going on and how well the equipment was working all over the world.

Aspray:

Are there any other things you want to tell me about your experience or observations of the Lab? Are there things that we haven't talked about so far?

Gillette:

I can't think of anything.

Aspray:

Okay. Well, thank you very much for your comments. I appreciate them.

Gillette:

You're welcome.