George Reber

George Reber

Grote Reber was a pioneering figure in radio astronomy. His mapping of the radio sky revolutionized our understanding of the universe.

In 1939, Reber and Karl Jansky made a breakthrough discovery: galactic radio noise at 160 MHz. Unfortunately, the astronomical community was skeptical, leading Reber to struggle for publication of his results.

Early Life and Education

On March 15th 1858, George Reber was born in Peoria, Illinois to Charles Bright Reber and Mary E. (Shirk) Reber.

His father was a successful paper merchant, offering an extensive selection of wallpaper and accessories in his store. Additionally, he ran a large paint shop as well as doing extensive frescoing and decorating work.

The family were Lutherans and members of Zion Church. Elias married Elizabeth Kline and lived in Bern township; William had two marriages; Jacob passed away at their old homestead where his descendants still live today; John married David Rauch; Samuel M.; and Lovina wed Daniel Yeager among others.

Professional Career

George Reber was an eminent paleobotanist and paleontologist specializing in fossilized cycads. He served as research associate at Yale University from 1906-1935, led scientific expeditions throughout North America, Mexico, and South America, and wrote numerous books and articles related to fossils and petrified forests.

He served as the inaugural dean of Penn State’s School of Engineering from 1990 to 2009, where Atherton suggested Reber spend one year studying mechanical engineering at MIT’s esteemed program before returning home and creating their newest engineering curriculum.

He rose to the challenge, masterminding a transformation of the college’s two-year mechanic arts curriculum into a four-year baccalaureate program while maintaining growth in student demand while keeping expenses low and facility constraints at bay. As only engineering dean in Penn State history to be elected to the National Academy of Engineering, his achievements deserve special recognition.

Achievements and Honors

George Reber’s most remarkable achievements included the invention of the first astronomical radio telescope and mapping out radio emission from galaxies. Additionally, he made a significant contribution to engineering science.

At Penn State’s inception, President Reber recognized the College would need to invest in mechanical equipment to outfit its new building. Instead of spending resources on expensive hardware, he sought out free or low-cost machinery from Northeast equipment manufacturers.

He achieved this by drawing upon his expertise on agrarian politics to form relationships with leaders of Pennsylvania’s agricultural industry. These contacts gave him the platform to persuasively argue for a land-grant education program at the College before legislators, ultimately leading to successful outcomes.

Personal Life

George Reber was a Reformed Christian. He was married to Annette Achenbach and had one daughter.

At the tender age of twelve, his family immigrated to America from Germany. As a prominent farmer in Bern Township, he owned vast amounts of land and operated a mill for many years.

Many of his children died, but the remainder lived to adulthood and became members of the Reformed church.

He is interred in the historic homestead burial ground, along with his son Conrad, grandson William and great-grandson John – all of whom are buried there.

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