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Professor R.L. Coble Dies

A memorial service will be held for Professor Emeritus Robert L. Coble on Saturday, Sept. 19, at 11am in the MIT Chapel.

Dr. Coble, widely known for his research into the properties of ceramics, died Thursday, August 27, in a drowning accident on the island of Maui in Hawaii, where he lived. He was 64.

Dr. Coble's studies on sintering, while at the General Electric Research Laboratory in Schenectady, N.Y., before he came to MIT, led to the development of "Lucalox," a dense aluminum-oxide ceramic used in the sodium-vapor highway lamps that give off an orange glow. Sintering is the process that causes material to become a coherent mass by heating without melting. The new ceramic transmitted light, withstood high temperatures and could be pressed into any shape desired.

His research and teaching at MIT focused on physical ceramics and the kinetics of ceramics processes.

Dr. Coble was born in Uniontown, Pa., in 1928. He received a bachelor of science degree at Bethany College in 1950 and a doctor of science degree from MIT in 1955. He worked as a researcher for General Electric until 1960 when he was appointed to the MIT faculty as an assistant professor of ceramics in the Department of Metallurgy, now the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. He became associate professor in 1962 and full professor in 1969. He became professor of ceramics, emeritus, on his retirement in 1988.

His honors included election to the National Academy of Engineering in 1978. He was a Fellow of the American Ceramic Society and a member of the Ceramic Education Council and the National Institute of Ceramic Engineers. He was awarded the Institute's Professional Achievement Award in 1960 and the Raytheon Award for "Outstanding Ceramist of the Year" in 1976.

In 1974, he went to Japan as a visiting scientist and lecturer under an appointment by the Japan Society for the promotion of science. He took a year's leave from MIT in 1975-76 to program planning for materials sciences with the United States Energy Research and Development Administration.

Dr. Coble leaves his wife, Joan, of Lexington, Mass.; five children who are all Massachusetts residents, David W. of Townsend, Eric R. of Acushnet, Stefan G. of Lexington, Catherine Galdi of Billerica and Janet Diodati of Boxboro; and 10 grandchildren.

A version of this article appeared in the September 16, 1992 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 37, Number 5).

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