Department News

Jul 07, 2014 - Obituary: Dr. Tibor József Herczeg

 „The ancient order opens to readmit me.
I lean out on the windy stars.”

(János Pilinszky, Apocrypha

Emeritus Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Oklahoma Dr. Tibor József Herczeg, 87, died on the 7th of July 2014. 

Tibor was born on the 4th of November 1926 in Budapest, Hungary.  He finished his studies in 1948 at the Eötvös Loránd University of Science as a mathematics and physics teacher. He was the member of the Eötvös Collegium.

From 1949 to 1956 he was an assistant astronomer at the MTA Institute of Astronomical Research (Budapest, Svábhegy Observatory), and taught in the Astronomy Department of Eötvös Loránd University. Tibor began immediately doing astronomy outreach, his promotional articles appearing in various papers like Élet és Tudomány (Life and Science), where he was also a member of the drafting committee, the Természet és Technika (Nature and Tech), and in the Csillagászati Évkönyv (Astronomical Almanac).

Tibor left Hungary in December 1956. He went to Germany to work at Die Sternwarte der Universität Bonn (Observatory of the University of Bonn). After that he became an observer at the Hamburger Sternwarte (Observatory of University of Hamburg), and was a teacher at that university. He received his Habilitation (a degree beyond the PhD, required to become a professor in some European countries, particularly Germany and France) from the University of Hamburg in 1966. He also taught as a visiting professor at universities in: Tel-Aviv, Ankara, Dallas, and New York. 

In 1970, he moved to the US, and became a Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Oklahoma. Tibor was the first astronomer in the department. The previous astronomer, Balfour Whitney, held an appointment in the Mathematics Department. In 1973, Tibor received the Regents' Award for Superior Teaching. After his retirement in 2000, he became Professor Emeritus. During his career, he spent a sabbatical year at the Tulouse Observatory and for shorter periods at the Observatory of Bamberg. He was a regular teacher of summer semesters at New York University. 

The main area of his research was the examination of variable stars (double and multiple stars, close binaries) and stellar evolution. For five years (1983-1988) he served as Editor in Chief of the Bibliography of Close Binary Stars, under the auspices of the International Astronomical Union's Commission on Close Binary Stars (C 42).

Tibor was a renaissance man, he loved literature and he spoke at least four languages (Hungarian, English, German, and French). Sadly, Tibor suffered a stroke in 2003 and became aphasic. In 2007, he moved back to Budapest and was cared for by his brother and his family.

His brother Janos, his sister-in-law Kati, and his nieces survive Tibor.

Funeral services were held on Wednesday, July 23, at the Cemetery of Old Buda, Budapest, Hungary.


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