Robert D. Chapman ’59 attended Penn State Behrend for his first year of studies before earning a degree in physics at University Park. He completed graduate coursework in astronomy at the University of Michigan and earned a doctorate in astronomy from Harvard University.
Chapman enjoyed a varied career in astronomy. He worked as a research scientist for NASA, and as section head of the Laboratory for Solar Physics and Astrophysics at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Beltsville, Maryland. He taught astronomy at the University of California, Los Angeles, and authored four books on astronomy: Discovering Astronomy, Introduction to Comets, The Comet Book: A Guide for the Return of Halley’s Comet, and Comet Kohoutek: 1973-1974. Chapman’s book on Comet Kohoutek was honored at the time of its publication for being a scientific work that is also accessible to a nontechnical audience, and The Comet Book remains a staple in elementary and middle school classrooms.
He retired as a program manager at Honeywell International, Inc. In 1982, Chapman was named Penn State Behrend’s first Alumni Fellow. He continued to be involved in the life of the college as a contributor to the School of Science’s popular Open House Nights in Astronomy lecture series. He also supported the fall 2008 installation of the NASA ViewSpace exhibit in the lobby of the Otto Behrend Science Building. Using an internet-connected computer and large-screen display, ViewSpace displayed the latest images, movies, animation, and news from the Hubble Space Telescope and other NASA observatories.
Chapman passed away on February 5, 2021. Prior to his death, he lived with his wife, Susan, in Columbia, Maryland.
(Updated February 2024.)