Dr. Koch, Astronomy

Dr. Robert H. Koch, professor emeritus of astronomy, died October 11, 2011, in Ardmore. He was 80.

Dr. Koch received a BA in mathematics from the University of Pennsylvania in 1951. He served for two years in the U.S. Army prior to earning a masters in astronomy at Penn (1955) and a masters of science in astronomy from the University of Arizona in 1957. He returned to Penn for his PhD, which was awarded to him in 1959.

He began his teaching career as an instructor at Amherst and Mt. Holyoke Colleges. By 1960, he was assistant professor at Amherst, and held that position for five years. He was then an associate professor, first at the University of Massachusetts, and then at the University of New Mexico, before joining the faculty at Penn in 1967. He was made full professor in 1969, and emeritus status was accorded to him when he retired in 1996.

Dr. Koch was the chairman of Penn’s department of astronomy (1969-1973), undergraduate chairman of the department of astronomy and astrophysics (1984-1987), director of the Flower and Cook Observatory, and chairman of the graduate group in astronomy and astrophysics (1989-1994). He served on numerous committees, including the Natural Science Board, the Senate Executive Committee, the University Safety Committee and many others.

He published widely, and was an invited lecturer at universities and observatories worldwide. Dr. Koch continued his astronomical research, mostly on close binary stars, after his retirement. In 2009, he wrote a history of the astronomy department at Penn entitled, “Observational Astronomy at the University of Pennsylvania 1751 – 2007.”

Dr. Koch is survived by his wife, Joanne; sons, Thomas and James; daughters, Elizabeth and Patricia; a brother, a sister and seven grandchildren.

A Funeral Mass will be held December 21, 10 a.m. at St. Colman’s Roman Catholic Church in Ardmore, PA.