Kolb, Edward W. 1951–

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Kolb, Edward W. 1951–

(Edward William Kolb, Rocky Kolb)

PERSONAL: Born October 2, 1951, in New Orleans, LA; son of Edward William and Dorothy (Beaeman) Kolb; married Adrienne Margaret Wild, March 30, 1972; children: Karen, Jeffrey, Christine. Education: University of New Orleans, B.S., 1973; University of Texas, Ph.D., 1978.

ADDRESSES: Office—Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Enrico Fermi Institute, University of Chicago, 5640 S. Ellis Ave., Chicago, IL 60637. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Physicist and educator. Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM, J. Robert Oppenheimer research fellow, 1980–81; Theoretical Astrophysics Group, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, Batavia, IL, deputy group leader, 1981–83, group head and scientist grade I, 1983, scientist grade II, 1984–90, and scientist grade III, 1991–93, 1998, 2001, then member and scientist grade III, 1994–98, 2001–; University of Chicago, Enrico Fermi Institute, Chicago, IL, professor of astronomy and astrophysics, 1983–. Visiting professor at University of California, Santa Barbara, 1981, 1992; University of Rome, 1987, 1988, 1990; University of Michigan, 1987; University of Sussex, 1990; CERN, Paris, France, 2001–02; and University of Texas, Austin, 2003. Has appeared in television programs, and in the IMAX film The Cosmic Voyage.

MEMBER: International Astronomical Union, American Physical Society (member of executive committee of division of astrophysics, 1993–95; division councilor of executive council, 2002–05), American Astronomical Society.

AWARDS, HONORS: Fellow, American Physical Society, 1984; Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, University of Chicago, 1993; Eugene M. Emme Astronautical Literature Award, 1996; George Marx Medal, Hungarian Academy of Science, 2002; fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2002; Örsted Medal, American Association of Physics Teachers, 2003.


(Editor, with others) Inner Space—Outer Space: The Interface between Cosmology and Particle Physics, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1986.

(Editor, with Michael S. Turner) The Early Universe—Reprints (textbook), Addison-Wesley (Redwood City, CA), 1988.

(With Michael S. Turner) The Early Universe (textbook), Addison-Wesley (Redwood City, CA), 1990.

(Under name Rocky Kolb) Blind Watchers of the Sky: The People and Ideas That Shaped Our View of the Universe, Addison-Wesley (Reading, MA), 1996.

Contributor of articles to professional journals. Member of advisory board, Astronomy.

SIDELIGHTS: Astrophysicist and educator Edward W. "Rocky" Kolb literally "wrote the book" on particle physics and cosmology with help from scientific colleague and coauthor Michael S. Turner; their 1990 work The Early Universe is considered the standard college text in that advanced field of physics. Teaching and lecturing on the subject of physics at universities around the world, Kolb has also devoted much of his time to speaking on his favorite subject before general audiences as well as participating in workshops geared for science teachers and gifted high-school physics students.

Kolb and Turner are colleagues at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory where they cofounded the lab's Theoretical Astrophysics Group in 1981. As William H. Press explained in Science, "Only dimly suspected [in the early 1980s] …, it is now taken as fact by most cosmologists and particle physicists that the gross nature of the universe today, both its chemical composition and its aggregate structure, was determined at very early times by processes whose study we would now conventionally assign to nuclear physics and high energy particle physics." Kolb and Turner were leaders in this new field of particle astrophysics, and their The Early Universe "is able not merely to summarize the field but to crystallize it," according to Press. The 1990 book summarizes the findings of previous scientists with regard to Hubble expansion, cosmic microwaves, and various galactic rotation curves, and also reviews the process of expansion known as the "big bang," with its attendant thermodynamic aspects. From here Kolb and Turner extend their discussion into modern particle theory as well as cosmological phase transitions and other mathematically complex studies. To supplement their text and provide scientific background information for readers who might otherwise not have access to such materials, the authors collected other relevant literature in the field and published it as The Early Universe—Reprints.

While The Early Universe would likely prove too daunting for the average reader, Kolb's Blind Watchers of the Sky brings the history of astronomy and cosmology down to the grasp of even the generalist. In what Astronomy critic Lew Phelps dubbed a "witty and fascinating tour" of the study of the heavens, Kolb presents the panorama of scientific discovery through profiles of the individuals who made those discoveries: Tycho Brahe, Copernicus, Johannes Kepler, Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, and Edwin Hubble, among others. As the author notes throughout his history, each scientist broke with tradition in interpreting his scientific observations in a new way, yet all were bound by misguided perceptions of their generations as well; in Brahe's case, as Phelps noted, the scientist's "observation of a supernova shattered the notion that the sky was immutable, yet he adhered to an Earth-centered model of the universe." Kolb traces the intellectual path, characterized by such fits and starts, and colors it with "relevant anecdotes drawn from art, music philosophy, history," as well as his well-honed sense of humor, Phelps added, noting appreciatively that Kolb provides a detailed bibliography and confines higher-level math to a single, inessential chapter. In Booklist, Gilbert Taylor also praised Blind Watchers of the Sky—the title is taken from a comment by Brahe to his detractors: "Oh thick wits. Oh blind watchers of the sky."—noting that Kolb's "bright style and flashing humor" enhances the author's "elucidating" work.



Astronomy, October, 1996, Lew Phelps, review of Blind Watchers of the Sky: The People and Ideas That Shaped Our View of the Universe, p. 98; June, 2001, Rex Graham, "Deep-Dish Cosmologists," p. 44.

Booklist, March 15, 1996, Gilbert Taylor, review of Blind Watchers of the Sky, p. 1229.

Science, January 16, 1987, P.J.E. Peebles, review of Inner Space—Outer Space: The Interface between Cosmology and Particle Physics, p. 372; August 17, 1990, William H. Press, review of The Early Universe, p. 808.


Rocky Kolb Home Page, http://home.fnal.gov/∼rocky (August 27, 2004).