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Darrel B. Hoff (1932-2009)

Darrel Barton Hoff, known for his accomplishments in astronomy education, died on 2 November 2009, in Iowa at age 76. Born on 17 December 1932 to Walter and Agnes Nelson Hoff, Darrel Hoff grew up on a small farm in western Wisconsin. He attributed his childhood interest in astronomy to his mother, who would tell stories about the constellations while the family lay out on the lawn during summer evenings. His primary-level education took place during the Great Depression in a one-room schoolhouse. After graduation from Wisconsin's Viroqua High School in 1951, Hoff attended Luther College, in Decorah, Iowa, where he received his Bachelors of Arts degree in chemistry. He taught high school chemistry and physics for several years before serving two tours of duty with the U.S. Army.

Hoff subsequently obtained his Masters degree from the University of Northern Iowa and his PhD in science education from the University of Iowa in 1970. He was Professor of Astronomy and Science Education at the University of Northern Iowa until 1987 before heading to the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics for a six-year stint conducting teacher-enhancement programs in their newly created Science Education Department.

Hoff’s photoelectric photometry research appears in the Information Bulletin on Variable Stars and his work in science education in the Journal of Chemical Education, American Journal of Physics, Sky and Telescope, The Physics Teacher, and other journals. He is best known for his series of classroom activity manuals, starting in 1971 with the original Laboratory Exercises for General Astronomy, co-authored with Linda Kelsey and John Neff, and proceeding through various editions to Contemporary Activities in Astronomy, with Jeffrey A. Wilkerson.

Hoff retired in 1993 to Iowa, where he served as Adjunct Professor of Astronomy and Science Education at his alma mater, Luther College. In 1997, he received the Astronomical Society of the Pacific’s Thomas Brennan Award for excellence in astronomy teaching. During his retirement, he enjoyed gardening, carpentry, and reading about military history. Hoff is survived by his wife Ardith, a former art educator, their two children Andrea and Adrian, and his brother Duane.

Obituary written by: Alan Hirshfeld (University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth)

BAAS Citation: BAAS, 2017, 49, 010