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Kyong Chol Chou (1929-2010)

Kyong Chol Chou, popularly known in South Korea as “Dr. Apollo,” died on 6 March 2010 of heart failure at Yonsei Severance Hospital in Seoul. Born on 4 April 1929 in Sonchon County, now part of North Korea, Chou was the son of Jai Byong Chou and Hwak Sil Chung. He served as a captain in the South Korean Army from 1950 to 1953.

Chou received bachelor degrees in physics from Yonsei University, Seoul, in 1954, and in political science, from Tusculum College, Greenville, Tennessee, in 1955. After studying astronomy at the University of Michigan, he went on to receive his M.S. in Astronomy in 1959 and his Ph.D. in Astronomy in 1962, both from the University Pennsylvania. His Ph.D. thesis was titled, “Photoelectric Photometry of the Eclipsing Variables Beta Persei, RZ Draconis, and BX Pegasi.”

Chou was a staff astronomer at the U. S. Naval Observatory, in Washington, D.C., 1962-1965; research scientist at NASA, Greenbelt, Maryland, 1965-1967; Professor of Astronomy, University of Maryland, College Park, 1967-1969; and Professor, Yonsei University, Seoul, 1969-1979. He served as Professor and Dean at Kyong Hee University, 1979-1983, and Vice President, 1983-1993.

Kyong Chol Chou was a popular lecturer and science communicator, frequently appearing on Korean television as an expert on astronomy and space science. He served as Director General of the Korea Institute of Science and Technology Information. According to the Korea JoongAng Daily, Chou earned the nickname Dr. Apollo “after he fell from his seat in excitement while he was giving simultaneous translation of a live U.S. broadcast of the Apollo 11’s successful landing on the moon in 1969.”

Chou was awarded the Korean government’s Distinguished Service medal, in 1951, and National Medal of Honor, in 1972. He also received a U. S. Distinguished Service Award in 1973 and an honorary Doctorate of Law from his alma mater Tusculum College in 1978.

He was a member of the American Astronomical Society, American Association for the Advancement of Science, International Astronomical Union, and served as President of the Korean Astronomical Society from 1970 until 1976. He married Hwa Jook Jeon on 18 March 1970 and they had two childen, Suo-Hwa and Suo-Won.

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

BAAS Citation: BAAS, 2017, 49, 027