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John Louis Perdrix (1926–2005)

Published onDec 01, 2006
John Louis Perdrix (1926–2005)

John Perdrix, astronomical historian and co-founder of the Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage, died on 27 June 2005.

John Louis Perdrix was born in Adelaide, Australia, on 30 June 1926. After studying chemistry at Melbourne Technical College and working in industry, he joined the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation's Division of Minerals and Geochemistry. In 1974 the Division relocated to the Western Australian capital, Perth, and John spent the rest of his working life there involved in geochemical research.

From his teenage years John had a passion for astronomy, which he fine-tuned through the Astronomical Society of Victoria and the Victorian Branch of the British Astronomical Association. He was very active in both groups, serving as President of the former and Secretary/Treasurer of the latter. He was also an FRAS, and a member of the AAS, the BAA parent body, and the IAU (Commission 41)—no mean feat for an Australian amateur astronomer. Throughout his life, he was a strong advocate of close amateur-professional relations.

John's main research interest was history of astronomy, and over the years he wrote a succession of research papers, mainly about aspects of Australian astronomy. His well-researched and neatly-illustrated papers on the Melbourne Observatory and the Great Melbourne Telescope are classics, and when the Observatory's future was in the balance they played a key role in the State Government's decision to convert this unique facility into a museum precinct. To support his research activities, John built up an amazing library that developed its own distinctive personality and quickly took over his house and garage before invading commercial storage facilities!

Apart from writing papers, John had an even greater passion for editing and publishing. From 1985 to 1997 he produced the Australian Journal of Astronomy, and in 1998 this was replaced by the Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage (JAH2). Both journals appeared under the banner of his own publishing house, Astral Press, until 2005 when JAH2 was transferred to the Centre of Astronomy at James Cook University.

When cancer was first diagnosed, this did not deter John, and he continued to pursue his astronomical and editorial interests. Early in 2005 the cancer was in remission and John decided to make one final overseas trip, a long-anticipated visit to St. Petersburg. It was while he was returning to Australia that the illness aggressively reappeared, and he was taken off the airplane at Dubai and died peacefully in Rashid Hospital three days later. He was just three days short of his seventy-ninth birthday.

Always the consummate gentleman, John Perdrix had a keen sense of humor and was wonderful company. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him. Our condolences go to his six children, Louise, John, Timothy, Fleur, Lisa and Angella.

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