Gerald E. Kron was born in Milwaukee on April 6, 1913 to Letty Dieterick Kron and Edmund Kron. Gerald graduated from Lincoln High School in Milwaukee and the University of Wisconsin at Madison, with an M.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1934. He moved to the University of California at Berkeley, spending two summers as an observing assistant at Mt Wilson Observatory. He received his Ph.D. in Astronomy in 1938, and then joined the research staff of the University of California's Lick Observatory. During the years 1940 - 1945 he first worked as a civilian on radar development at the Radiation Laboratory of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Back in California he continued his wartime duties as head of the Special Devices Group at the China Lake Naval Ordnance Test Station. There in association with the California Institute of Technology his group advanced solid-fuel rocket technology. After the war he returned to Lick and married fellow astronomer Katherine Carson Gordon on April 22, 1946. During his years at Lick Observatory Gerald was instrumental in the planning, design, and construction of the Shane 120 inch telescope. In 1965 Gerald became Director of the US Naval Observatory, Flagstaff Station, Arizona. Gerald made a number of sabbatical visits to Canberra, Australia, where the Mt. Stromlo Observatory provided him access to the skies of the southern hemisphere. From 1974 to 1976 he was a Senior Research Fellow at the Australian National University in Canberra. In 1985 he and Katherine retired to Honolulu, and in 1995 returned to Sedona, Arizona. He is predeceased by Katherine and son Donald. He is survived by brother Robert; children Richard, Jenny Croft, Virginia Newkirk, and Charles; and five grandchildren.
Gerald published 130 papers and book chapters, many related to high-precision measurement of the light from stars and globular star clusters. Using war-era technology, he pioneered the use of photomultipliers in astronomy, a tool that set a standard for many years. He popularized stellar photometry by publishing practical details for construction of photometers. He applied photoelectric photometry at infrared wavelengths to cool stars, allowing them to be more precisely measured. He discovered features on the surfaces of stars like sunspots. With others, he discovered that some of the globular star clusters in the Magellanic Clouds have bluer colors than any such clusters in the Milky Way, and contributed to a revision of the scale of distances outside the Milky Way. He quantified the color of the Sun with respect to other stars, an important reference. Technical achievements include the first automatic guider for a telescope and developing a practical version of an electronic camera. He served as President of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, was twice President of the International Astronomical Union's Commission on Instrumentation, and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society.
His many passions included being an amateur pianist, cultivating cacti and succulents, tinkering with British sports cars, making model steam engines in his home machine shop, and filming and editing 16 millimeter family travelogues.
There are no funeral services planned.
An online guestbook is available at www.westcottfuneralhome.com
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