Remembering Fred Lossing

Al Seaman

I have been a member of the Ottawa Centre for only two years, and initially I was quite unfamiliar with a lot of the past history and folklore, and with the role played by many of the early members of the Centre. Very quickly I became aware of Fred Lossing's name, and noticed that it was always mentioned with that degree of respect and reverence reserved for legendary figures. Unfortunately, I never did meet him in those early days.

Then last fall I took on a more official role in looking after the Indian River Observatory, and started looking into the history of the observatory and details of its equipment. It quickly became apparent that Fred was a key person in making it all happen. He played a leading role in the design and construction of the telescope, in establishing the initial observatory at North Mountain, in finding the new site at Indian River, and in reestablishing the observatory at this new location. For many years he was Chairman of the Observatory Committee in both locations.

With some trepidation I contacted this legendary figure by telephone to see if I could pick up any information on the observatory and its equipment that would be of value in operating and maintaining the site. Fred welcomed me with open arms, and a visit to his house was soon arranged. It was a memorable visit. I got a slide show of the telescope and observatories during construction and use, a lot of very useful advice about the maintenance of the equipment, and many interesting insights into the history of the Centre and the observatory, complete with many written extracts from his files. In addition, I got a tour of his basement and garage with assorted telescopes in various stages of operation, construction and repair, several spectrographs and related scientific apparatus, and a demonstration of his Tesla coil with lots of sparks and flames. Through it all, he continued with many interesting and humorous anecdotes covering events in the early life of the Ottawa Centre. The visit was followed up by several enjoyable telephone conversations with Fred on some additional aspects of the observatory.

With Fred's death I feel the loss of a truly great person who has accomplished many things and who was very willing to share his knowledge and experience with others in a very friendly and engaging fashion. He was also an invaluable source of information about the observatory and the history of the Centre. I will miss him.


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