In Praise of Peter Koch (1920-1998)

I recently read “Forty Years a Forester, 1903-1943” by Elers Koch (1880-1954).  Elers was Peter Koch’s father.  Elers completed the manuscript in 1949 but the book was not published until 1998.  It contains a 19 page introduction by Peter.  As all wood scientists know, Peter was a renowned wood scientist.

I knew Peter well. We were both active in the Forest Products Society, SWST, and we both were Fellows in the Society of American Foresters, as was Peter’s father.  I saw Peter nearly every year at meetings.  But I did not know until recently that Peter’s father had been a forester.  In his very interesting Introduction Peter tells what it was like growing up with a a forester for a father.  If there are young wood scientists who do not know about Peter, here is just a little information.  Peter has perhaps published more than any other wood scientist.  Agriculture Handbook 605 “Utilization of Hardwoods Growing on Southern Pine Sites” is a three volume, 3710 page summary of virtually everything known about southern hardwoods.  Agriculture Handbook 420 “Utilization of the Southern Pines” is a two volume, 1663 page summary of virtually everything known about southern softwoods.  Peter gives credit to the many contributing authors to these massive compilations. More than just a compiler, Peter’s own research in wood machining led to the chipping headrig.  His research on adhesives helped enable the Southern Pine plywood industry.  His research improved drying of Southern Pine.  And on and on.

Peter directed the Southern Forest Experiment Station’s Timber Utilization Laboratory at Pineville, Louisiana from 1963 to1982.  He served as President of the Forest Products Society 1972-1973.  Those of you who are fans of Peter Koch should read Elers Koch’s book.  You will become a fan of Elers as well.


By Donald Nelson