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Erich Robert Paul (1943–1994)

Published onSep 01, 1994
Erich Robert Paul (1943–1994)

Erich Robert Paul, Professor of History of Science and Computer Science at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, died October 12, 1994, of cancer. He was most recently the author of The Milky Way Galaxy and Statistical Cosmology, 1890-1924, (Cambridge University Press, 1993), and an annotated translation of Henrietta Hertzsprung-Kapteyn's The Life and Works of J.C. Kapteyn (Kluwer, 1993). These detailed studies are important for an understanding of how our present view of the stellar universe developed.

Robert was born July 23, 1943, in Los Angeles, to William B. and Caroline Paul. After receiving his B.S. (1966) and M.S. (1969) in Mathematics from Brigham Young University, he worked at Boeing and General Dynamics as an aerospace engineer, gaining expertise in the rapidly expanding field of computer science. He then set his sights on a career in history of science, specializing in the history of astronomy. He received his M.A (1974) and PhD (1976) in History and Philosophy of Science from Indiana University, under the guidance of Victor Thoren and Richard S. Westfall. Here he began the historical studies on statistical astronomy which became the central focus of his scholarly work.

Upon graduation in 1976, Robert went to Dickinson College as an assistant Professor, and moved up through the ranks to Professor in 1991. From 1984 to 1989 he also served as Chair of the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science. Robert was praised by students and colleagues alike for both his teaching and administrative abilities. He was instrumental in making history of science a part of the science requirement at Dickinson. Shortly before his death he had been named Joseph Priestley Professor of the History of Science.

In undertaking his research, Robert frequented many archives in attempting to understand the relative roles of George Ellery Hale, Kapteyn and Hugo von Seeliger, among other astronomers central to the rise of statistical astronomy. Grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities for this research testify to the high opinion of his peers.

Although comfortable with the technical aspects of history of astronomy, Robert was also interested in much broader issues, including the relation between science and religion. A devoted Mormon, he was also the author of Science, Religion and Mormon Cosmology (University of Illinois Press, 1992). Above all, he was devoted to his family, with whom he enjoyed skiing, music and the joys of everyday life. He is survived by his wife Kathleen, and five children: Ann-Marie, Lisa, Juliet, Erica and Christopher.

Robert was a member of the History of Science Society and the Historical Astronomy Division of the American Astronomical Society. He was always a thoughtful and helpful colleague, as well as a careful scholar and a good friend. Our field will be diminished by his untimely death.


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