Charles H. Holbrow

September 23, 1935-December 19, 2023

For more than sixty years Charles H. Holbrow made significant and innovative contributions to physics education and physics research. The American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT), recognized these contributions by awarding him the Home L. Dodge Citation for Distinguished Service to AAPT (2009), the Hans Christian Oersted Medal (2012), and the AAPT Fellow (2014).

The Oersted Medal recognizes those who have had an outstanding, widespread, and lasting impact on the teaching of physics.

Holbrow earned his B.A. in History at the University of Wisconsin, Madison in 1955. In 1956, he married Mary Louise Ross, with whom he has five daughters. Following the addition of an A.M. in History and a Certificate of the Russian Institute from Columbia University he returned to the University of Wisconsin where he earned his M.S. (1960) and Ph.D. (1963) in Physics.

While working on his Ph.D. Holbrow worked as a Research Assistant for the Midwestern Universities Research Association and as a Research Assistant at the University of Wisconsin. From 1962-65 he was Assistant Professor at Haverford College, and then Research Associate at the University of Pennsylvania.

After a short time as Associate Editor at Physics Today in New York City, he took a position as Associate Professor at Colgate University. During his first years there, he taught physics and was Associate Director of the Colgate Computer Center (1968) and Director (1972). He was also Chairman of the Department of Physics and Astronomy (1970-72), and Director of Institutional Research in 1972. He spent 1972-73 at Stanford University as an ACE Academic Administration Intern Fellow. Colgate promoted him to full Professor in 1975 and named him Charles A. Dana Professor of Physics in 1986. He directed Colgate’s Division of Mathematics and Natural Sciences from 1985 to 1988.

He was Visiting Professor of Physics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cornell University, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has been Visiting Physicist at Brookhaven National Laboratory, Visiting Scientist at SRI International, Molecular Physics Laboratory, Guest Scientist at SUNY Stony Brook, Department of Physics, Visiting Associate in Physics at California Institute of Technology, Guest Scientist at Gesellschaft für Schwerionen Forschung in Darmstadt, Germany, and Gast Professor at the University of Vienna, Austria.

Holbrow was an active participant in physics education, serving as a member of the Steering Committee of 'The Research Physicist in Undergraduate Curriculum Development: A Joint Program of the American Physical Society and the American Association of Physics Teachers.' He was a member of the APS Forum on the History of Physics program committee, of the APS Committee on Education, of the Board of Directors of the American Institute of Physics, of AIP’s Liaison and Advisory Committee on Public Policy, and of the Physics Today advisory committee.

He has served AAPT as President, Senior Staff Physicist, and Executive Officer. He was editor of the New Problems section of the American Journal of Physics. He served as a member of AAPT’s Finance Committee and Co-chair of the 2012 Gordon Research Conference -- Physics Research and Education: “Astronomy’s Discoveries and Physics Education.”

Harvard University recognized him for excellence in teaching during the academic year 2006-2007. In 2009 AAPT presented him with the Distinguished Service Citation in recognition of his contributions as a physics teacher, textbook author, nuclear physics researcher, and physics historian as well as his service as Associate Editor of Physics Today, AAPT President, AAPT Senior Staff Physicist, and AAPT Executive Officer. He was honored as an AAPT Fellow in 2014.

In recent years, he was active in the Lexington Computer and Technology Group, taught for the Lexington Community Education Program, and created an alumni group for Ford Foundation Fellows. He continued to correspond with friends and colleagues throughout his life.


David Wolfe

Director of Communications