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Dr. John D. Kraus
June 28, 1910 - July 18, 2004
(W8JK, Silent Key)
Photo of John Kraus


[The following obituary is from The Delaware (Ohio) Gazette It was published on July 22, 2004.]

John Daniel Kraus

John Daniel Kraus, 94, of Delaware, Big Ear radio astronomer, died Sunday (July 18, 2004) at his home.

He was born June 28, 1910 in Ann Arbor, Mich., to the late Edward and Lena Hoffman Kraus. He graduated from Ann Arbor High School in 1926. He received a Bachelor of Science in 1930, a Master of Science in 1931 and in 1934, at age 24, a Ph.D. in physics, all from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor [sic; the Ph.D. was received in 1933 at the age of 23]. At Michigan, he was involved in atomic particle accelerator research. An avid radio amateur, his call sign was W8JK and he developed such innovative antennas as the "W8JK flat topbeam" and the "corner reflector." In this period, he first became fascinated by the recent discoveries of radio noise from space and the potential to use radio waves rather than visible light to "see" the universe.

In 1941 he married Alice Nelson and they lived in Washington, D.C., where John was a civilian scientist with the U.S. Navy responsible for "degaussing," or neutralizing, the electromagnetic fields of steel ships to make them safe from magnetic mines. He also worked on radar countermeasures at Harvard University's Radio Research Laboratory. In 1946 they moved to Columbus, where John took a faculty position at Ohio State University. He designed and directed construction of the "Big Ear" radio telescope which discovered some of the most distant known objects at the edge of the universe and conducted sky surveys mapping the radio stars. He was closely identified with efforts and activity related to the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, or SETI. In this endeavor he edited and published Cosmic Search, the first magazine about SETI. The now-famous "WOW" signal, of possible extraterrestrial origin, was detected by "Big Ear" in 1977.

Professor Kraus spent his entire career at Ohio State, where he was the McDougal professor of electrical engineering and radio astronomy. He was awarded the Sullivant Medal from Ohio State "for outstanding contributions to radio astronomy and electrical engineering." He was the author of many articles and the following widely used texts: Antennas, Electromagnetics, Radio Astronomy and popular books Cosmic Search and Big Ear [sic; Our Cosmic Universe, Big Ear and Big Ear Two], which have variously appeared in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Russian, and Portuguese. His professional memberships included the National Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, of which he was a fellow. He received the Centennial Medal, the Edison Medal and the Heinrich Hertz Medal from IEEE. The Antenna and Propagation Society of IEEE twice awarded him its Distinguished Achievement Award, the last in 2003 "for a career of outstanding innovation and invention in the field of antennas, and for the many students he has taught and inspired to excel in electromagnetics."

Mentally active and vital to the very end, he was a last living link to many of the astonishing scientific discoveries of the 20th century. He was of a bygone era of empirical and observational research and hands-on invention.

A committed environmentalist, in 1976, with his wife Alice, he donated the 80-acre Kraus Wilderness Preserve to Ohio Wesleyan University with scholarship endowment to enhance learning opportunities for Ohio Wesleyan students. Environmental scholarships also were established for Ohio State University students.

He is survived by two sons and daughters-in-law, John D. Kraus Jr. and Janice of Durham, N.H., and Nelson H. and Susan Kraus of Indianapolis; five grandchildren, Kurt Kraus of Durham, N.H., Heidi Kraus of Memphis, Tenn., Erich Kraus of Berlin, Germany, Amanda Kraus of Chicago and Daniel Kraus of Columbus.

He was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Alice Nelson Kraus.

A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. July 31 in the Benes Room of the Hamilton-Williams Campus Center of the Ohio Wesleyan University. Rodman Bennett Brown Funeral Home and Crematory assisted the family.

Memorial contributions may be made in John's or Alice's name to any of the following: the Ohio State University Alice Nelson Kraus Undergraduate Scholarship in Environmental Biology, the Kraus Wilderness Preserve Scholarship Endowment Fund, Ohio Wesleyan University, the Stratford Ecological Center, Delaware, or the Ohio Wildlife Center, Columbus.

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