Physics prof dies on Saturday

by Sarah Rubenstein | 11/24/98 6:00am

Physics and Astronomy Professor John Kidder died suddenly Saturday evening following a heart attack at his home.

Physics and Astronomy Department Chair Mary Hudson notified physics students yesterday via BlitzMail that he had passed away.

Kidder, who was teaching Physics 47: Optics this term, was 67 years old.

He taught at the College since 1962 and was chair of the physics and astronomy department from 1983 to 1990.

Kidder specialized in courses that combined physics and the psychology of vision. He researched color science, vision and models of visual response.

In addition to Physics 47, he taught Physics 37: Physiological Optics, Physics 3: General Physics I and was scheduled to teach Science 10: Light, Color and Vision in the Winter.

"He was the chair [of the physics department] for the first six years that I was here," Hudson told The Dartmouth. "He just impressed me from the very first day with his dedication to the teaching of Dartmouth students."

Hudson remembers Kidder's "real devotion to teaching, including extracurricular activities like the outing club, freshman outings," she said. "He was just very kind and generous to junior faculty, to me as the only woman in the department when I came."

She said he spent Saturday afternoon in a laboratory, preparing for Monday's class.

Physics and Astronomy Professor Emeritus William Doyle will teach Kidder's current class until the end of this term. Hudson said the department will assign a different professor to teach Science 10 in the Winter.

Doyle said he has not taught Physics 47 before but has taught "similar material from a different point of view."

He said he will follow Kidder's syllabus and will not any change the class's format.

"He's a dear friend of so many years," Doyle said.

Kidder, born in Boston, received his B.S. from the California Institute of Technology in 1954. He received his doctorate in physics from Duke University in 1960.

He was a physics research associate at Yale University from 1960 to 1962.

Imran Ansari '99, one of four students in Physics 47 this term, said Kidder's death was a "huge, huge shock."

"What was great about him was not only that he was a great professor, but I think he was a great person," he said. "He wasn't particularly interested in the grade we got, but actually that we learned and had fun doing it."

Ansari added, "I think we all got to know him very well, and he got to know us very well too."

Caroline Kaufman '99, another member of Physics 47, called Kidder "the most caring professor I've ever had here."

"He cared so much about us -- just that we were understanding what he was teaching us and that we were enjoying ourselves. He knew what we all wanted to do with our futures, and wanted to help us out with that any way he could," she said.

"The guys in our class would see him at the gym all the time -- he just really had a lot of energy," Kaufman added.

Kidder "was very friendly, and really open to students coming in," former student Sarah Kelmenson '99 said. He tried "getting to know people even though it was a very large class."

Memorial services are tentatively scheduled for 11 a.m. this Saturday at Rollins Chapel.

Surviving are his wife, Joan Kidder of Hanover, two sons, John N. Kidder Jr. of Takoma Park, Md. and James S. Kidder of Eugene, Ore., a daughter, Sarah K. LaBombard of Lebanon, N.H., a brother, George H. Kidder of Concord, Mass. and a sister, Josephine W. Shane of Wayland, Mass.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Upper Valley Humane Society or the American Red Cross.

Funeral arrangements are being made by the Rand-Wilson Funeral Home in Hanover.

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