By Patricia Daukantas
Alfred C. Webber of Chadds Ford, Pa. (U.S.A.), became an OSA Fellow in 1972. And tomorrow (October 10), he’s celebrating his 102nd birthday.
A native of Lisbon Falls, Maine, Webber graduated from Bates College in 1928 with a degree in physics. He earned a master’s degree from Boston University and worked as a high school science teacher before joining DuPont in Wilmington, Del., in 1942. During the next 30 years he published several articles in JOSA on measuring the color and transparency of plastic materials. He served on a number of committees for the American Society for Testing and Materials (now ASTM International), including a term as chair of ASTM”s board of directors in the early 1960s. He also headed the technical committee on plastics for the International Organization for Standards (ISO).
And he is an OSA Fellow Emeritus. In fact, when I phoned him today to wish him a happy birthday, he quickly volunteered that he still has his OSA Fellow certificate on his wall. It was signed by his good friend Mary Warga, who served as OSA’s executive secretary from 1959 to 1972.
Webber retired the same year as he was designated an OSA Fellow, but he has never stopped pursuing the activities that he loves. “The great fun of retirement is that there are so many things you can play at and do,” he said.
Although one of his 74-year-old twin sons drives the car now, Webber still attends regular meetings of his lapidary, camera and astronomy hobby clubs. With bird feeders and an observatory in his backyard, he surveys feathered creatures by day and the stars by night.
His longtime friend and neighbor, the late artist Andrew Wyeth, used Webber’s telescope to observe the Moon for some of his paintings, and the Webber and Wyeth children played together while they were growing up. The Mount Cuba Astronomical Observatory in Delaware named Webber a fellow of the observatory for his many years of assistance with star parties and antique telescope refurbishing.
One of Webber’s more unusual hobbies is the study of micromounts – tiny mineral crystals viewed under a stereo microscope. He collected more than 2,600 of these small specimens, each fitting into a 2- by 2- by 2-cm box, and he has gone to conferences in Canada to trade crystals and photographs of crystals with fellow enthusiasts. He recently donated the collection to Bates so that students can study the gemstones.
Last year, he traveled to Lewiston, Maine, to celebrate his 80th class reunion at Bates. He was the only representative of the classes of the 1920s at the reunion weekend – in fact, the next oldest alumnus was from the class of 1938. Webber enjoyed leading the 2008 Bates reunion parade, and tomorrow he will celebrate his birthday with a reunion of his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren from as far away as California.
We would like to wish Alfred Webber a happy birthday. Also, if you know of any other OSA Members or Fellows who are marking their 100th or higher birthdays, we would love to hear about them.