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Emil R. Herzog (1917–1998)

Published onDec 01, 1998
Emil R. Herzog (1917–1998)

AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives,

John Irwin Slide Collection

Emil Rudolf Herzog, astronomer, and, since 1987, retired professor of mathematics at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, California, died peacefully of heart failure on April 23, 1998.

Emil came from Riehen, Switzerland, attended the Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftliches Gymnasium in Basel, was graduated summa cum laude in mathematics from the University of Basel, and earned his PhD there in 1946 with a thesis titled "Die Methoden der Astronomisch-Geographischen Ortsbestimmung in systematischer Behandlung." One of his earlier papers, "Die Anwendung der Riemannschen Zahlenkugel zur Herleitung der spherischtrigonometrischen Hauptsetze" (1953), was an elegant and original generalized derivation of the three fundamental formulas of spherical trigonometry, using a projection on the Riemannian sphere.

Because Emil published rather little, his brilliance in mathematics was known mainly to his friends and students. He had read, understood in depth, and had at hand, all of the classics of anlysis by Euler, Gauss, and others. As he would solve some problem new to him, he would usually voice his thoughts. These thoughts were, in fact, delightfully lucid lectures on his methods of reasoning for those of us honored to have heard them.

In astronomy, Emil worked at Caltech and Palomar Observatory with Fritz Zwicky (1949-1951 and 1956-1968) on the pioneering six-volume Catalogue of Galaxies and Clusters of Galaxies, published between 1951 and 1968. While the delineation of the clusters on the 48-inch Palomar Schmidt plates was Zwicky's work, all of the measurementts of the tens of thousands of individual galaxies were Emil's: photographing each field with the 18-inch Palomar Schmidt, measuring coordinates, and preparing finding charts. In addition, he determined the apparent magnitudes of the brighter galaxies by schraffier guided plates and a flyspanker. For the fainter objects, where the schraffier images were too washed out to be measurable, Emil found that his nearsightedness made schraffier images unnecessary. His familiarity with the 48-inch Schmidt plates led him to be one of the first to be aware of the character of the large-scale distribution of galaxies.

Teaching was a significant part of Emil's career: in mathematics at the Institut Athenaeum, Basel 1946-1948 and 1951-1956, in astronomy at the University of Southern California 1965-1968, and again in mathematics at Cal Poly Pomona 1968-1987, where, from 1974-1980, he was chair of the Department of Mathematics.

Emil was a quiet gentleman, by no means shy, and an unmerciful master chess player. His deep understanding of human nature, including his own, gave him the ability to get along well with many of the notorious "prima donnas" of astronomy. He had a strong sense of humor, which he needed. A favorite admonition was, "Some people get into trouble because they don't tell the truth, and other people get into trouble because they do." Emil always told the truth, but very gently.

Emil Herzog leaves Gertrud, his wife of 51 years, his astronomer son, Dr. Adrian Herzog, and a daughter-in-law Tiambun Napitupulu, as well as many friends and admirers.

Note from the Editor [Virginia Trimble]: Herzog's understanding of the large-scale distribution of galaxies did not entirely agree with Zwicky's. At a colloquium at Caltech in the mid 1960s I heard him say that he saw evidence of superclustering (which Zwicky absolutely denied), immediately followed by George Abell (one of the discoverers of superclustering) standing up and offering Emil "political asylum" at UCLA.

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