Letter from Don Whitney to Tim Tillyer (Doc Tillyers Grandson) dated September 9, 1997

Dear Tim,

I was pleased to receive your letter in response to my E-Mail regarding your grandfather. I think it is great that you are developing his biography, and I am happy to provide any information which might be helpful to you in this endeavor.

I will try to respond to your questions in order.

I feel certain that the "Green Block" referred to by Louis Rowe and the Schmidt Plate mold are one and the same. I remember the 'green block' well, and worked with the Schmidt Corrector Plates.

As to anecdotes, let me give this one some thought and I'll get back to you in another letter.

I knew Dr. A. Estelle Glancy very well. In fact, she was the head of the Lens Design Dept. when I joined AO in March of 1947. John Davis was her assistant, and took a more active role in the management of the department than he otherwise might have because Dr. Glancy was extremely hard of hearing. Through close associates at the Zenith Corporation, Doc arranged for Dr. Glancy to be a sort of guinea pig in trying out new advances in hearing aids.

Dr. Glancy was a wonderful person, and made an enormous contribution during her long tenure at AO. She did the lion's share of the computing behind the Tillyer Lens Series. That was quite a task, involving many years of work, because it was before the days of mechanical calculators (to say nothing of computers). That meant all her computing had to be done using logarithms. I don't mean to imply that she did it all alone (she had help), but I think it is probably true that she never got as much credit as she deserved.

During the period from the mid - 1950's until 1973, Doc was certainly much more than a figurehead. He was, in a sense, put out to pasture by the new regime, but that far from ended his contribution to AO. During this period he didn't do much, if any, lab work, but he was there for us, always ready to listen to our technical problems and contribute ideas toward their solution. His range of scientific knowledge was truly amazing, and he was more than anxious to share it. I, personally, spent countless hours during this period learning science through sessions with Doc. While a lot of it related to optics, much it did not. I remember, for example, his explaining the inner workings of Buick's new Dynaflow transmission, and how a fan-jet engine worked. He was a great teacher.

Doc's wife, your grandmother, became mentally ill which is why she was hospitalized in Vermont. In these times, I suspect her illness would be diagnosed as Alzheimer's.

Doc's routine during the period consisted of discussing science in his office, and walking around the Research Laboratory, looking over the shoulders of the scientists and technicians. His office was small and cluttered, but there was always enough room on his desk for him to climb up and sit. The atmosphere was informal, and anything but stuffy.

The flood of 1955 nearly brought down AO, both literally and figuratively. It shut the plant down for nearly 3 months. For a brief period, there was serious consideration given to shutting the plant down for good. I don't remember what Doc did during that period, but I was given the responsibility of seeing to the supply of safe drinking water to the crew putting things back together. It was a challenge.

If you haven't already done so, you should contact John Davis. John can fill you in on the earlier years, before I came along, and can expand on any information I might provide. Any biography of Doc would be incomplete without the involvement of John.


Don Whitney

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