According to Stanley Bashkin's friend and colleague Bill Bickel, the work the two physicists did at the Van De Graff Accelerator Lab at the University of Arizona was almost too easy.
Once Bashkin came up with the idea to bombard metal foil with ionized atoms and watch what happens, discoveries came at a fast pace, Bickel said.
"It worked. We got papers published, sometimes four to five in a week. A lot of equipment was built for the first time. Scientists from around the world came to the university. It was absolutely prolific. It was magic. You could do no wrong."
Aden Meinel and the astronomers were happy. They now had measurements of elements to compare to the spectra of stars.
The physicists began building an elemental understanding of atomic states.
Bickel came to the UA to work with Bashkin in 1965. In a tribute prepared for Bashkin's memorial in 2007, Bickel called the next ten years "a tour de force without equal. It was almost laughable in its simplicity, but it was mind-stopping in its brilliance."
The Bashkin team worked its way through the 92 elements known at the time, taking spectra of them in all their excited states.
Then the theorists took over. It turned out that once the Bashkin team established a baseline, the rest could be simply inferred from their work.
Beam-foil spectroscopy blazed bright and quickly faded, like the the glimpses of starlight in Stanley Bashkin's chamber.