In Memoriam (original modified extensively and illustrated by Mel Oakes)
Arnold Romberg, professor of physics, died on June 1, 1974. He was 91.
Professor Romberg was born on July 7, 1882, in Muldoon, Texas. He was the fourth son of farmers, Bernhard and Caroline “Lina” Perlitz Romberg, who as children had immigrated from Germany in 1847. They were married in 1867 and lived in Black Jack Springs, Fayette County, TX. Arnold and his parents are shown in the remarkable picture at right. The photo, taken about 1889, was made available by Paula Eberle Wordan, great-great-granddaughter of Arnold’s aunt, Friederike Wilhelmine Conradine Romberg Perlitz, Lina’s sister.
Arnold’s brothers were John C. “Hans”, Ernst, Bernard and his older sister was Helene. Arnold was married in Cuero, TX to Margaret King of Lizzie, TX on December 26, 1908. They had two children, Frederick (b. 1910 Austin, TX) and Helen (b. 1914, Black Jack Springs, TX). Romberg earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Texas at Austin in 1910 and master's and PhD degrees from Harvard University in 1913 and 1915, respectively. In 1914, Harvard lists Romberg as a Whitting Fellow and Bayard Cutting Fellow. He was also designated the John Tyndall Scholar. His thesis was titled The Ratio of the Calorie at 73 Degrees to That at 20 Degrees.” The work was supervised by Professor H. G. Davis and financial support came from the Rumford Fund. The paper was published in the Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. P. W. Bridgeman “presented” the paper.
Following graduation Romberg was offered a full professorship at the University of Hawaii, where he was asked to develop the department at the new university. While there Dr. Romberg was active in astronomy and in the use and design of seismographic devices. He worked with Dr. Thomas A. Jaggar, Jr at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) to improve these devices. In his article on Jaggar and HVO, Russell A. Apple writes,
The history of seismology at HVO begins in 1912 with the completion of the Whitney vault. After two decades of pioneering, Jaggar was amply aware that seismometry on an active volcano is quite different from that at a station that studies mainly distant earthquakes.
Instrumentation provided a challenge from the beginning. The story of the evolution of seismic instruments at HVO is documented in Curtis (1913), Jaggar and Romberg* (1918), Apple (1978), and various issues of HVO's own publications, the Monthly Bulletin and Volcano Letter. The following account is synthesized and condensed from these sources.
Seismologist H.O. Wood reported for duty June 13, 1912, and he had the crated instruments from Japan installed on their "concrete tables" by July 2—installed, but not necessarily performing properly. These instruments were: (1) a sensitive Omori tromometer, designed for the registration of earthquake motion proceeding from a distant origin; (2) a less-sensitive Omori tromometer, designed for the registration of weak or moderate shocks of local origin; and (3) an ordinary Omori seismometer that started itself upon detecting a strong shock and that registered three components of motion, east-west, north-south, and vertical.
The more sensitive tromometer arrived missing the north-south component; it was, therefore, mounted in such a way as to measure and register the component of earth motion in the east-west direction. Both tromometers had smoked drums and timing capability with marks every one minute. The ordinary Omori was set up so that when earth motion was strong enough to activate its starting device, the smoked drum revolved rapidly and marks were made every one-half second. This instrument could also be set to ring an alarm bell when it started.
Heavy horizontal pendulums detected horizontal earth motions, and a "floating" weight suspended by two balanced helical springs detected, in theory at least, the component of earth motion in the vertical direction. Tune marks were made by an electromagnet operated by the brief closing of an electric circuit. Wood had all three instruments operating by August 1912, but all had, sometimes separately and sometimes simultaneously over the years, periods of non-operation when work was done in the Whitney vault or on the instruments.
Of these three seismometers, the first to leave the Whitney vault was the less sensitive Omori. It was moved to the Technology Station at Halemaumau in February 1913 and later was apparently dismantled for parts. The three-component self-starter never really worked properly, even after it was rebuilt in 1918, renamed "Domesticus," put on full-time duty, and its vertical detection apparatus removed.
The most sensitive Omori seismometer was rebuilt into an optical recorder and given a corner mount in 1918 in the hope that it would detect both north-south and east-west tele-seismic motion with its single boom. In 1923, it was retired. After retirement, this and all seismometers were cannibalized for parts to make or repair other instruments in the HVO machine shop.
During their service, the seismometers were modified and changed by the HVO staff to try to make them more suitable for use on the rim of Kilauea caldera—to be more responsive to local short-period earthquakes, volcanic tremor, and the extraordinary ground tiltings. These were the three distinctively Hawaiian geophysical phenomena Jaggar had identified by 1918. Jaggar noted that the mechanical imperfections of standard instruments, designed for cheapness and convenience of operating and ill-adapted to such special problems, combined to yield only mediocre results. Dr. Arnold Romberg was hired by HVRA for the summer of 1918 to rebuild and otherwise improve the two original seismometers still in the Whitney vault and to do some work on the Bosch-Omori seismometer that had been acquired in 1913. Romberg also made at least two new one-component seismometers for installation in cellars to be established by HVRA in Hilo and Kealakekua. As Romberg worked, Jaggar noted with satisfaction that small improvements had been made over experiments by Milne, Galitzin, and others and that already the difficulties of friction, magnification, damping, opening the record, and time marking had been partially overcome.
The two-component Bosch-Omori seismometer, purchased from the Whitney Fund, had finally arrived from Germany by April 1913. Wood noted that in order to permit the construction of foundations and the work of installing the Bosch-Omori, a 100-kg tromometer, the seismographs in operation had to be partially dismounted temporarily. The new instrument was mechanically and dynamically superior to those hitherto in use there, and it was expected that a larger proportion of tele-seismic records would be written, as well as more precise records of local shocks.
Trial runs of the new Bosch-Omori's east-west and north-south components were made on April 30, 1913; a feeble tele-seism was registered, as well as strong volcanic vibrations. Adjustments were completed on May 8, 1913, for the final trial runs. From that time on through 1953, the Bosch-Omori seismometer was the main reliable, basic geophysical instrument of HVO. Fine tunings of the Bosch-Omori never ended and were required after almost every unhinging caused by a strong earthquake. Modifications and upgradings were intermittent: steel wire replaced silk fibers to suspend the weights; oil damping baths were added, adjusted, redesigned, and readjusted; friction reduction was tried; new hinges were designed and manufactured; magnifications were lowered and raised; different levers, recording pens, and pins were tried; timing devices were improved; better drum-smoking devices were found. Dr. Romberg modified linkages and levers in 1918 so that one smoked drum recorded what two drums did originally; and one of the piers was rotated 7.5º to permit its boom to swing closer to a true east-west line.”
*Reference: Jaggar, T.A., and Romberg, Arnold, 1918, An Experiment in Teleseismic Registration: Seismological Society of America Bulletin, v. 8, no. 2-3, p. 88-89.
Romberg, Arnold, 1919, Theory of a Non-tilt Seismograph, Seismological Society of America Bulletin, v. 9, no. 4, p. 135-139.
This work by Romberg introduced him to seismic devices and would serve him well in future years as he pursued the study of torsion balances.
In 1916, Romberg joined forces with Frank E. Midkiff, science instructor at Punahou School, to make observations of Mars at its close opposition. They moved the superior Punahou telescope to the Kaimuki Observatory (at right), and there it stayed for the next forty years. It was used periodically by persons from the College of Hawaii, and others as well.
In 1922, he visited the Eötvös Institute in Budapest Hungary where he studied the use of the torsion balance for gravity measurements. According to Dezsö Pekär, the Institute Director, he stayed several months. (This information provided by Zoltán Szabó.)
California Passenger list shows Dr. Romberg sailing from Honolulu alone February 1, 1922, on the Wilhemina and arriving San Francisco on February 7. His return, with family, from San Francisco on the Manoa, was Aug 16, arriving Honolulu Aug. 23, 1922. Eötvös had promoted the use of precise gravity measurements for mineral prospecting. Eötvös died in 1919, so Romberg would not have met him, however they might have corresponded.
Romberg joined the faculty at the University of Texas at Austin in 1923. In 1925, Humble Oil Company ordered two Süss [sometimes spelled Suess] torsion balances from the Nádor Süss Company of Hungary, and Professor Romberg was sent to Europe to obtain all information possible on their use and the interpretation of the data from Director Dezsö Pekár of the Eötvös Institute. Pekár is pictured here (back right) with the torsion balances ready for export. The Board of Regents approved his absence without pay from February 15 to September 15. In February of 1925, he applies for a passport for him and his family stating their intention to tour Europe. In May of 1925, he is recorded as arriving in New York from Southhampton. In that same year, records show his wife, Margaret, and his son, Frederick (14) and daughter, Helen (11) returning separately on August 31 from Southhampton. Romberg taught at UT until 1940, when he left to establish the LaCoste-Romberg meter manufacturing firm.
In the fall of 1932, Romberg gave each student in a graduate mechanics class a different technical problem to solve. One of his students, Lucien Jean Baptiste LaCoste, was to design a vertical seismograph. LaCoste's idea was that a spring whose physical length equaled its stretched length would exert a force proportional to its entire length, not just the stretched length. His calculations showed a weight correctly suspended from such a spring would theoretically have an infinite natural period of oscillation. This would be ideal for vertical seismographs because they are well adapted to measure only seismic displacements with periods shorter than that of the suspension.
LaCoste called this spring zero-length because its initial length, when there is no stress in the spring, is zero. He approached Romberg with the idea the next morning. They immediately went to the physics lab to see if it would work. LaCoste suggested the spring be made with its coils winding in a spiral in a flat plane. But Romberg preferred a helical spring whose coils pressed against each other like many common screen door springs. Such springs, though obviously of finite length, do have initial length less than their physical length because there is force between the turns even when the spring is supporting no weight. To attain a zero-length spring, it would be necessary to increase the force between the turns of the unstretched spring. LaCoste made the first one by reversing the ends of an ordinary spring with his thumbnail. When he finished, he didn't have a zero-length spring; the coils pressed so firmly against each other that he had a negative length spring. That was no problem. It was easily adjusted to zero length by adding pieces of wire at both ends.
After deciding to use that type of spring, the two men needed only a few hours to build a crude seismograph, the first of many instruments they would make together. It did not, of course, have an infinite period because of elastic imperfections in the metal, but it did have a longer period than any vertical seismograph that the experienced seismologist Romberg had ever seen. Two days later, they built a more sophisticated version which had a natural period of one minute, an order of magnitude greater than anything else around.
At the time, the seismograph meant nothing more to its inventors than the conclusion of an interesting experiment. It was an elegant solution to a challenging problem. No attempt was made to commercialize it because both assumed the market would absorb only a handful of them, "an error we made," LaCoste says, "by a factor of about a thousand." He didn't even apply for a patent; he was planning an academic, not an Edisonian, career.
LaCoste received his doctorate in physics in 1933 and went on to the California Institute of Technology to study quantum mechanics. While in California, LaCoste, wrote an article, “A New Type Long Period Vertical Seismograph”, and sent it to Romberg for review. Romberg made only one change, deleting his name as co-author ("That shows you the kind of man he was," says LaCoste), and forwarded the manuscript to Physics where it was published in July 1934. In a few years, the lives of both men would change completely and permanently because of that paper. (Information excerpted from Biographies \ Virtual Museum, Society of Exploration Geophysicists, 2/9/2006-Lucien LaCoste By Robert Dean Clark. For more information see Lucien LaCoste.
The LaCoste-Romberg gravity meter became an industry standard. Members of the 1972 Apollo 17 team left a LaCoste-Romberg meter on the moon to measure the effects of the sun's gravity on the moon. A similar meter was used at the South Pole to measure the moon's gravitational effects on earth tides. In addition, the meter became an important tool in oil discovery. The Palais de la Découverte in Paris, France, included the work of Professor Romberg and Dr. LaCoste in recognition of their groundbreaking work. The meter continues in use today.
Professor Romberg was a member of the Seismological Society of America, the American Physical Society,
and the Hawaiian Volcano Research Association.
(Thanks to Kristof L. Kalas and Zoltan Szabó for a tour of the Eötvös Institute in Budapest and information about Romberg’s visit.)
Romberg Photo and Document Album
|Arnold’s sister, Helene Romberg (1870-1965), she is also in the Romberg family photo at the beginning of this album.
She was first married at Trinity Lutheran Church of Black Jack Springs, TX, on August 15, 1888, to Oscar Rudolph Gareissen, photo at right. Oskar was a voice teacher who was born June 6, 1866, in Monterrey, Mexico. Following their divorce, he taught in Omaha, Nebraska, New York City, Washington, DC and Rochester, NY. In 1914, he joined the staff of the Rochester Institute of Musical Arts, renamed DKG. The G for Gareissen. This was eventually bought out by George Eastman and became the Eastman School of Music.
Gareissen was a conductor and teacher of music at Eastman. he conducted the 250 strong Festival Chorus. He also married Mabel Fonda (McCormick) in 1905, who founded the Children's Theatre Guild of Rochester, the first of its kind in the country, and was active in the Festival Chorus of Rochester which was directed by Oscar.
Mabel died four months before Oscar. (Information from Findagrave created by Louise Tarabe, a cousin.) Mabel’s son, Scott McCormick, died from a hand grenade in France in 1918. She then went to France to serve as a volunteer in his unit.
Oscar died Dec. 9, 1924 in Rochester. A newspaper had this entry, “Oscar GAREISSEN, former vocal instructor at the Eastman School of Music, who died suddenly on December 9th, left a personal estate valued at $2,500, according to a petition filed in Surrogate's Court. He died intestate and letters of administration were granted to his mother, Mrs. Marie L. GAREISSEN, his only living relative.”
A book titled, Educators of Michigan, Copyright 1894, had the following entry, “ Oscar Gareissen is of German parentage and was born at Monterey, Mexico, June 6, 1866. Mr. Gareissen comes of a musical family, his father having been a prominent teacher and conductor and his grandmother a soprano soloist in the Court Theatre at Cassel. Mr. Gareiseen is assistant in the department of music in the Michigan State Normal School, teacher of voice piano, harmony, history, literature of music, acoustics and public school music. Mr. Gareissen studied piano with H. A. Lang of the Stuttgart and Koingsberg Conservatories and is thoroughly equipped for the work in his several departments. Perseverance and a faithful adherence to the best methods are qualities which are sure to work out for Mr. Gareissen tangible and gratifying results. Mr. Gaeissen is deservedly popular at ‘the Normal’."
In 1890, Helene and her mother-in-law Marie L. Gareissen are enrolled in the conservatory of the Michigan State Normal School in Ypsilanti, Michigan, where Oscar is an instructor. By 1894, the school annual news report no longer list any reference to Helene. Helene is incorrectly listed as widowed in the 1900 Census where she was living with her parents in Texas, presumably she was divorced or had one pending.
In July of 1901, Helene received a degree specializing in kindergarten education from Winthrop Normal and Industrial College in Columbia, South Carolina. In 1906, she made a trip to Germany. She received a degree from the University of Texas in 1909, having studied German as part of her coursework.
She taught in San Antonio in 1910. She attended the summer school at Harvard in 1912. In 1913, Helene and her cousin Elizabeth Eberle, were officers of the San Antonio Unitarian Church.
She married Louis Mackensen (1865–1958), a dairy farmer in San Antonio on August 24, 1913. He was 47 and the brother of Bernhard Mackensen who married Marie Perlitz.
Helene may have graduated from Radcliffe College. Arnold Romberg, her great nephew, tells a story about her. “She was quite a gal. She got a degree from Radcliffe in about 1908. She lived to be about 95. Once, when she was in her early nineties, she was staying with my parents at the house on Lake Travis. My mother had taken the curtains down and washed them, and she went into the living room and found Tante Helene (as we called her) standing on a ladder hanging them back up. My mother said "Tante Helene, you shouldn't be doing that -- you might fall and kill yourself: Helene answere "My dear, do you think it would be premature?"
In the late 1880s, the photographer who took the picture above of Helene, Justus Zahn, moved to Galveston, Texas. Justus Zahn went into business with Philip H. Rose, a well known local photographer. In 1888, Zahn bought out his partner and opened his own studio at 418 Tremont (23rd) Street. For the next fourteen years, Justus Zahn was considered the foremost society photographer on the island.The picture of Helene dates from about 1888–1989, like around the time of her marriage to Gareissen. Picture kindly provided by Paula Eberle Worgan, great-great-granddaughter of Arnold’s aunt, Friederike Wilhelmine Conradine Romberg Perlitz.