RCA has learned of the sudden passing of our friend and colleague, Peter Abrahams, on March 4. He was in Los Angeles visiting family and had a heart attack from which he did not recover. We are shocked and greatly saddened at this news. Peter has been a dedicated member of RCA for more than thirty years, making him one of the founding members of the club. He served as president of RCA for five years, and he was a popular president. He began the tradition of the monthly Night Sky Report at each meeting, giving a short review of the latest in astronomical news. Peter's passing is all the more shocking because he was our speaker at last month's RCA meeting, where once again we were treated to his wit, intelligence, depth of understanding, his research and knowledge. He died just two weeks after giving that speech.
Peter's scholarship was deep, his knowledge was wide-ranging, and his dry wit made his talks fun and funny. Peter's passion was the history of scientific instruments. He was a collector and sometimes dealer in historical books, telescopes, microscopes and binoculars. He published for and spoke to a variety of global scientific organizations regarding historical scientific instruments: the Historical Astronomy Division of the American Astronomical Society, Amateur Telescope Making Journal, the Antique Telescope Society, and several others. He spoke at conferences in Europe as well as in the U.S.
When I first joined the club, Peter announced on our old Listserve that he was the go-between agent for the sale of one of the world's very first lunar atlases, a lovely hand-drawn series of portraits of the moon's surface. He offered to let members of the club see it if we made a personal appointment. I signed up. He was set up in OMSI's Classroom One, we came in one at a time and we couldn't touch it. Peter wore white cotton gloves as he handled the atlas. It was such an impressive item that we "spoke in hushed tones."
And he was a friend. When I became president, he offered to advise me or assist me in any way he could, and he meant it. When I needed wise counsel, I asked Peter. I knew I could count on him to have a different way of seeing things and to bring soothing oil to sticky issues. I am personally at a loss with his passing. We were lucky to have him as a member and as a friend.
The family will inform us of a memorial service in the coming months. We will announce it to our members when we know the details. In the meantime, if you have any Peter stories, please add them to the comments section below.