Bob Rood

By Phil Plait | November 3, 2011 3:15 pm

Chances are, you didn’t know Bob Rood, and that’s too bad. A professor of astronomy at the University of Virginia, he was one of the good guys. He taught stellar interiors, a class I still look back at fondly. I learned a lot about astrophysics that semester, though I do recall an oral exam where I did, um, less than well… yet Bob was generous, supportive, and helpful to an extremely nervous grad student who was on the verge of throwing up during the exam.

Bob died yesterday. I dithered on what to write; it’s so hard to say the right thing. But then Nicole Gugliucci wrote a wonderful post about Bob, and there’s not much I can add to it. When I found out last night he had died, I told my wife about one of my favorite memories of Bob — it involves a coffee mug he had, one that I told Nicole specifically to look for when she talked to Bob a few years ago. I was glad to see Nicole wrote about that too; I think it sums him up pretty well.

One of the very few really positive things we can do that has a lasting effect is to shape the minds of those around us, teach them about the Universe, and instill a love for knowledge. Bob did all that. We could use a lot more like him.


Comments (23)

Links to this Post

  1. In Memoriam « Observatories and Instruments | November 4, 2011
  1. Dan

    Thanks for using the appropriate term: “Died.” My pet peeve is people who say, “passed” or “passed away.”

  2. Elmar_M

    I am very sorry for your loss, Phil.
    Good teachers are hard to find. I sometimes think that they are a dying breed :(

  3. Tod R. Lauer

    Dear Phil,

    Thanks for this note. I only knew Bob in passing, but I had just interacted with him last week concerning his immense photo collection of astronomers. I had a wonderful exchange with him by email just last week about using one of his images for a conference that I’m working on. His death is a very nasty surprise…

  4. Stephen

    He gave a talk at the banquet for the 50th anniversary of the Richmond Astronomical Society. I was there, and was maybe 15 at the time. All I remember is that he discussed the Drake Equation in terms of how little there was in West Virginia for Drake and his colleagues to do except drink alcohol…

  5. Matt

    Phil, I am sorry to hear about the loss of your friend and teacher. It is truly amazing the impact good teachers and professors can have on us, not only in their particular field of study, but in our approach to life as a whole. We hear a lot of stories about “bad” teachers and professors, and a lot of demonization of them from those with a partisan axe to grind, but we don’t hear anywhere near enough about the wonderful educators that are making a positive difference in our country and infusing our students with a passion for learning. Thank you for sharing your remembrance of one such educator.

  6. Anchor

    My fond condolences to Bob Rood’s folks and friends…

    He was one of us indeed.

  7. Rob P.

    Boy Dan, that seems like a pretty petty thing to get peeved about. Especially when someone’s just died. People say passed or passed away because it softens it for them. It doesn’t have to be about you.

  8. Dr. Rood will be missed by all of us, those here in Charlottesville and many, many all around the world. I wish I’d had him as a teacher. I’ve used his photos many times in announcements for speakers at our monthly CAS meetings.
    I’ll attend any funeral or memorial service that they have.
    He left us too damn soon!

  9. My condolences to you, Phil, and to all the others who knew him and valued him as a friend and colleague.

  10. Was very sad to hear this. I have fond memories of drinking wine on the deck of Bob’s house.

  11. Brian

    Once upon a time I took the life beyond earth class with him as one of my electives. I remember riding along with him on a field trip to the Green Bank observatory. It was a very small group of us that went and it was delightful and fascinating to talk with him at length while wandering the grounds of the observatory.

  12. Infinite123Lifer

    I never knew Dr. Bob Rood in Life. Now upon his passing I draw inspiration. From a tiny seed comes a great Oak. It feels like Dr. Rood has an inevitable forest planted already. As do all great teachers.

  13. Messier Tidy Upper

    My condolences to those who knew him. I wish I could say I was one of them though I can’t. Sounds like he was a great bloke who was funny, intelligent and kind. The world can ill do with losing such people and could always do with more like him. Sounds like he made the world much better by his presence upon it and will be fondly remembered.

  14. I am so sorry. I know how you feel. 1 of my dogs just died. ¡I hurts so much!

  15. Joseph G

    My condolences to his family and friends. I think you eulogized him wonderfully, Phil. As you say, one of the highest compliments you can give a person is that they instructed and inspired others. He sounds like a wonderful man and mentor.

  16. Bob spoke to our astronomy club from time to time – the last time being the September meeting. He was one of the good guys!

  17. I still have the mug. He had passed it on to me a couple of years ago, saying that a new generation needed to be amused by it.

    Thanks, Phil. *hug*

  18. JUST as I saw this post, one of Rood’s daughter’s left this comment on my blog…

    “We have setup a public facebook page where family, friends, students, and colleagues can post stories, thoughts, memories, and pictures:

  19. Kelsey Johnson

    Phil, thanks so much for posting this. Bob was most certainly “one of the good guys” in so many ways. We can all aspire to “be more like Bob” in how we interact with others, explore the unknown, keep a sense of humor, and always a love of life.

  20. rws3n

    I have two lasting impressions, other than the ones Phil and Nicole wrote. One is in the class on stellar evolution, and solving the Lane-Emden equation. First of all (for those who don’t know) this is a hideous equation to solve–perhaps not these days with numerical integrators, but it was hard in 1990. It would take two days to work through the problem on the board in class. Bob (and us) would keep tripping over the “xi” pronunciation. He eventually just called it “squiggle.” So someone going past the classroom door would overhear things like “dee by dee squiggle” or “squiggle squared.” Zeta by extension became “squaggle.”

    The second impression was discussion of possible manifestations of Cold Dark Matter…be they MACHOs or WIMPs or hot neutrinos or what. At the time, the Astronomy department was on the third and fourth floors of the Math-Astronomy Building and the Math department had the lower floors. Ranking probabilities on the chalkboard, I forget what ranked high in his mind as what CDM actually is, but I remember he ranked WIMPs very low…so low, in fact, he said “WIMPs are down in the Math department.” I was never sure if that accurately reflected his opinion of CDM theories or if it was just a chance to get in a dig at the mathematicians.

    Either way, fond memories of Bob.

  21. darryl davis

    I was in elementary and high school with Bob from 1950 thru 1960. I have so many fond memories of him. We played basketball together in his back yard (1954 thru 1960) along with jimmy heater, ralph jones, dent McManus, jacky jonhson, bruce stephens, jimmy copeland, johhny phillips etc. Bob was the “little guy” who never got upset or yelled at the other players. No, he just kept shooting his “2-handed set shot from around 40 feet from the basket and making them with an uncanny consistency. There are so many more great memories but that could fill a book. I will share one more which I thought was funny and one of my favorites. When bob graduated from high school he was about five feet eight inches tall and had a rather high pitched voice. Around 5 years later I was home on leave from service and decided to go to one of our high school football games. Standing on the sideline, I heard this very deep voice say “hello Darryl”. I turned to my left and saw this unbelievely tall bearded man (and I mean tall!). I asked him in a surprised voice, “Do I know you”? “Yes” he spoke. “I,m Bob Rood”. I could not believe my eyes” He had grown in heigth around 8 inches. Bob was liked by everyone that knew him.He was the real deal. I last saw bob at our high schools 50 year reunion in 2009. It was so wonderful getting to see and talk to him. He will be missed by many, many, people. I am blessed with so many great memories of us growing up together in Cary, nc. I,m so sorry for the familys loss. Darryl

  22. Travis

    Very sad to hear this. His classes at Virginia were some of my favorite and certainly most memorable.


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


See More

Collapse bottom bar