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Member News

OSSC Remembers Darrel Eugene Burch

Published on 3/10/2015

Darrell Eugene Burch

(10/3/1929- 1/12/2015)



OSSC Member Dr. Darrell E. Burch passed away peacefully on January 12, 2015 after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.  Darrell was born on October 3, 1929 and raised in rural Ohio.  After becoming the first in his family to go to college, Darrell received his Ph.D in physics at the Ohio State University and had a distinguished career as a research physicist at Ford Aeronutronics in Newport Beach.  His principal interest centered on optical transmission in the atmosphere, with a particular interest in carbon monoxide and dioxide absorption.  It was this interest that led to his lead authoring of a famous paper in 1962 that made detailed measurements of CO2 absorption in the atmosphere, measurements that would later be used to support the theory of global warming1.  His work at Ford Aerospace centered on infrared transmission of the atmosphere, particularly in the 3-5 um and 7.5-12 um wavelength regions.  I (TSR) worked with him on one project where we studied the transmission of C12O2 and C13O2 laser wavelengths through rocket engine plumes.  His work was well known throughout the international optics community, and as a result he was often invited to give lectures and papers at major international conferences, including within the (then) Soviet Union, where a special exception was made for him to be able to travel there, due to his security clearances within Ford.



Curt Deckert also remembers…

“I knew Darrell at Ford and we worked with some of the same people. Later he helped me on several consulting projects involving smoke stack gas sensing, very high speed semiconductor wafer inspection, and a medical device involving glucose detection. I believe this was all before 2005.  During that time he was very helpful to me and several of my clients. On another project I had used one of his retired technicians with very good results. He impacted many people with his optical and theological knowledge.  I remember him telling of an early device that could sense exhaust gases from a motorcycle while traveling down a road. He was certainly one of the pioneers in gas detection for automobile exhaust detection. I had lost contact with him the last few years—we lost a good man!”


Darrell loved to share his knowledge and provide opportunities for education to others.  In 1977 and 78 Darrell co-taught the first physical/geometrical optics course ever to be offered at UCI, a remarkable class that spawned my interest in optics.  Darrell and his co-instructor Dr. Peter Adachi personally graded every assignment by every student in the course, often making detailed notes in the margins on where the student got off track!  I still have those notes, a treasured document from that time.


Darrell also loved his family, friends and church and showed that devotion through his sense of humor, hard work and by always being there for others in times of need.  Darrell is survived by children Mary Heistand, David Burch and Jerry Burch; daughters-in-law Vickie Burch and Jinsong Zhang, son-in-law David Heistand, grandchildren Laura Burch and Husband Jonathon Carlos, Brian Burch and wife Jessica Burch, and Kevin Burch; great-grandchildren Stella Burch and Brooklyn Burch.


It was a true privilege to have known, studied under and worked with Darrell, one of my earliest mentors in optics.


T. Scott Rowe, P.E.

Fellow, OSSC

Past President, 2011-12.


  1. 1. D. Burch, D. Gryvnak, and D. Williams, "Total Absorptance of Carbon Dioxide in the Infrared," Appl. Opt.  1, 759-765 (1962).

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Updated: 4 September 2020
Added 8 September VOSA Meeting