Charlie Holbrow, who taught at Colgate for 36 years and is the Charles A. Dana Professor of physics, emeritus, has been awarded the 2012 Oersted Medal for his major contributions to physics education and research.
The prestigious award is presented by the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT).
“Dr. Holbrow’s career exemplifies the outstanding, widespread, and lasting impact on the teaching of physics for which the Oersted Medal was created,” said Beth Cunningham, AAPT executive officer.
Just last year, Holbrow and fellow Colgate physics department faculty members Jim Lloyd ’54, Joe Amato, Kiko Galvez, and Beth Parks celebrated the release of the second edition of Modern Introductory Physics, a Colgate-inspired textbook.
It is the central text for Physics 120, a calculus-level introductory physics class that has set Colgate apart for decades.
Holbrow will receive the Oersted award at the AAPT meeting in February. He will deliver an address titled “Making Physics Make Sense – Narratives, Content, Witz.”
“I am deeply honored to be chosen to receive the Oersted Medal,” he said. “And there is no doubt in my mind that Colgate shares the merit for this honor. I always had freedom to experiment and innovate, and I had colleagues who shared my interests to do so.”
Holbrow earned a BA in history at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 1955. Following the addition of an AM in history and a Certificate of the Russian Institute from Columbia University, he returned to the University of Wisconsin where he earned his MS and PhD in physics.
He came to Colgate in 1967 as an associate professor. He became associate director of the Colgate Computer Center in 1968 and three years later, its director. He was named professor in 1975 and the Charles A. Dana Professor of physics in 1986.
Holbrow also served as chairman of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, director of Institutional Research, and director of the Division of Mathematics and Natural Sciences.
He retired from Colgate in 2003.
Since then, Holbrow has been visiting professor of physics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and visiting scholar at Harvard University.
Harvard recognized him for excellence in teaching during the academic year 2006-2007.
Holbrow joins a distinguished list of previous Oersted awardees, including F. James Rutherford, George F. Smoot, Mildred S. Dresselhaus, Carl Wieman, Lillian McDermott, Hans Bethe, Edward Purcell, and Richard Feynman.