Education, Science.

Thanks to my favorite professor, Dr. Kenneth Krane

-CC BY-ND 2.0, Shaylor

OSU, Weniger Hall 116. Attrib: Shaylor, CC BY-ND 2.0.

I recently stumbled across the path of my favorite professor from my college years, Dr. Kenneth Krane, after lo these many years; he was describing his approach to writing Physics textbooks.  I was happy to discover that he has been given awards for teaching excellence, and has written textbooks of his own. (note 1) In particular, he was invited by the authors of the best general physics textbook, Halliday and Resnick, to co-author their extended version of General Physics so as to include those topics of modern physics that he taught me so long ago; this version is also held in high regard.

I first encountered Dr. Krane while attending Oregon State University as a science major after completing my service in the U.S. Army. In the fall of 1977, I began the PH 211-213 General Physics course of study, intended for engineering and physics majors; the text was the aforementioned Halliday and Resnick.  In my first session of the accompanying laboratory, the lab instructor turned out to be a professor, Dr. Krane!  This was clearly a very unusual situation, as undergraduate labs were run by teaching assistants, not professors.  He introduced himself, and then noted that this particular section of the lab was intended to be a physics honors lab, for physics majors, but it had not been correctly identified as such in the class schedule, so that there were probably many in the lab who had inadvertently signed up for something they did not intend to; for those who wanted the regular sections, he would help them reschedule, but . . . if they wanted to stay anyway, they were welcome, understanding that:  The honors lab would do exactly twice as many experiments as the regular lab, for no additional credit, and the lab writeups would be more rigorous, particularly in their treatment and analysis of experimental error.  I was one of many who had not intended to sign up for the honors section, but I liked him immediately; he had an unassuming and supportive manner, and I thought, perhaps I will try it for the first week, and see.  One week turned into two, and two into the entire term.  The extra work was a burden, but Dr. Krane was an excellent teacher, and the error analysis training alone served in good stead for the remainder of my science training. 

I was quite happy to find out that the next term, PH 212, Electricity and Magnetism, was to be taught by Dr. Krane.  His instruction was clear and patient.  Once, perplexed by an equation that described the motion of the electron beam in a cathode ray tube (CRT), and wondering whether it was an idealized equation, or whether it produced accurate predictions in ordinary applications (in the Army I repaired electronic circuitry, including CRT circuits, hence the question), I dropped by his office and interrupted him at the chalk board with a graduate student, both discussing something beyond my ken. He graciously stopped and entertained my question, confessing that he was immediately unfamiliar with the equation and its origins, and then without hesitation derived it from first principles, noting at the end that it should be accurate for the application it was being used for, all within a matter of five minutes!  At the end of the course, he gave an all-qualitative final exam which was comprised only of conceptual questions, rather than the usual content of computationally rich problems to solve; this had the engineers in the class highly exercised, so to speak, and is the only time I can remember such an approach in a college science course; it made studying for the final more difficult, but resulted in a more thorough understanding of the material.

Concepts of Modern Physics, by Arthur Beiser

I ended up taking PH 214, Introduction to Modern Physics, from Dr. Krane, although it wasn’t on any but the physics curricula, because he was teaching it.  He used a sweet text, Concepts of Modern Physics, by Beiser, which for me had a wonderful narrative, and although light on derivation, did not stint from the mathematics when called for.  He was especially clear in describing special relativity, and the basics of nuclear physics.  He also taught a class for non-science students on the Physics of Sound and Music, which I took, and which I  also found thoroughly enjoyable.

Most college professors primarily focus their energies, understandably, on their research and their graduate courses, but Dr. Krane was one of the few in my own humble education, who, besides his focus on research, put serious emphasis on the training of all of his students.  Thank you, Dr. Krane, for your dedication to the teaching of physics, particularly introductory physics; you brought physics alive for me.



1. Three textbooks Dr. Kenneth Krane has written or co-written:

Modern Physics, by Kenneth S. Krane

Introductory Nuclear Physics, by Kenneth S. Krane

Physics, Volume 2, by David Halliday, Robert Resnick, Kenneth S. Krane

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