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Jack Hardy Robinson, science educator and archeoastronomy researcher, died on 21 March 2016 after a brief illness. Born on 27 March 1925 in Mount Vernon, New York, to Harry Johnston and Lida Meacham (Hardy) Robinson, Robinson earned his BS in physics from Yale University in 1945, MA in Science and Mathematics Education from Stanford University in 1950; and doctorate in Science Education from Harvard in 1960. He was Assistant Professor of Physical Science at Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, from 1953 to 1960; Associate Professor of Science and Mathematics Education at the University of Puerto Rico, in Rio Piedras, from 1960 to 1962; Professor of Physical Science at the University of South Florida (USF), Tampa, from 1963 to 1971, and Professor of Education and Astronomy at USF from 1971 to 1990. He became Professor Emeritus in 1990. In retirement, he developed a number of astronomy and physical science courses for seniors, which he taught at USF’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.
Robinson's studies in archaeoastronomy include examinations of ancient manmade structures known as medicine wheels, such as the Bighorn Medicine Wheel in Wyoming and the Moose Mountain Medicine Wheel in Saskatchewan, Canada. Among his contributions to our understanding of these structures was the discovery that the backsight onto Cairn D of the Bighorn Medicine Wheel was aligned with the heliacal rising of the star Fomalhaut. He also spent nearly 20 years studying astronomical aspects of Stonehenge, specifically whether that structure might have been used to predict eclipses.
In 1995, Robinson collaborated with artist Nancy Holt to create, on the USF campus, the sculpture “Solar Rotary,” which emits a circle of sunlight once a year to mark the summer solstice. He was also a charter member of the Center for Inquiry and longtime vice-president of an affiliated organization, the Tampa Bay Skeptics, a nonprofit organization whose mission is the critical examination and dissemination of factual information about paranormal and fringe-science claims. In addition, he was a member of the Tampa Humanist Association and past board member of Tampa’s ACLU chapter.
Jack Robinson was married to Barbara (Bobbie) Oak from 1947 until her death in 2009. He is survived by their daughter Susan Conte, granddaughter Maggie Conte, and grandsons Tommy Conte and Jack Oak Robinson. A son, Charles Robinson, predeceased him.
Photo: Tampa Bay Skeptics
Obituary written by: Alan Hirshfeld (University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth)
BAAS Citation: BAAS, 2018, 50, 020