An excellent resource of how to research Swiss genealogy is in english at http://www.eye.ch/swissgen/schweiz-en.html
Kohler is a very common german surname in Switzerland, so this presents an initial challenge as all Swiss genealogy relies on the persons "home community" or "gemeinde" being known.
Given his Zurich University connections, e-mail them and maybe their archives might have much of interest: http://www.uzh.ch/about_en.html. In particular ask if they can advise his home community. Once you know the home community, then the church records will be your next step (the era you state pre-dates civil records).
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