Prof. James B. Kaler 1938-2022


It is with a heavy heart that we announce the passing of our friend and colleague James B. Kaler, Emeritus Professor of Astronomy.

Jim joined the Illinois faculty in 1964, right after finishing his PhD at UCLA with the thesis: "Recombination Spectra of Hydrogen and Helium in Gaseous Nebulae".  Since then, Jim had more than 450 publications ranging from that thesis to explaining "why your zodiac sign is probably wrong" in a recent popular article.  His scientific articles have garnered more than 6,500 citations, and his books, articles, and popular websites have inspired countless people.

Jim has taught all levels of astronomy from Introduction to Astronomy (for which he wrote a famous textbook) to graduate seminars.  He mentored 7 PhDs, and we estimate he taught around 10,000 students in his career.In addition to his amazing teaching record, he was renowned locally for his frequent TV appearances, uncountable radio interviews, his World of Science at Parkland talks (which are now also named in his honor), and serving as the Department Public Informational officer, when we would get the calls of "is this a rock or a meteor" for example. His extensive educational website  includes his encyclopedic stars pages that have taught millions of visitors.

Because of his science and educational leadership, Jim received numerous honors. These include the naming of the Kaler Classroom in our building and the Asteroid 17851 Kaler.  He was also selected as part of an elite group of Legacy American Astronomical Society Fellows, and was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Illinois Campus Award for Excellence in Public Engagement, an American Astronomical Society's Education Prize, a mysterious US Dept. of Agriculture award, among many other distinctions.

Jim was a brilliant astrophysicist and educator, and he will be missed.

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