Died, Erich Offermann, 89.
When Erich was eight years old his father, a professional electrical engineer, took him to see the mineral collection at the Technical College in Zurich. Smoky quartz crystals taller than he was greatly impressed him, and soon he began collecting Swiss minerals in the field, and buying Austrian specimens through the mail. By the age of 12 he was studying serious mineralogical textbooks. But sadly, his first fledgling mineral collection was discarded by his mother when World War II broke out.
At the age of 38 Erich experienced a renewed enthusiasm for his childhood interest in minerals and began collecting again. Soon thereafter, around 1959, he began trying to take photographs of mineral specimens using relatively primitive equipment. Werner Lieber's 1972 book Kristalle unter der Lupe ("Crystals under magnification") and Alex Kipfer's Der Micromounter (1972) provided further inspiration, and Erich eventually concluded that the perfection of microcrystals rendered them the most interesting. He developed an extensive correspondence over the years with other collectors, photographers and micromounters throughout Europe and America, and made many friends.
Over the decades he assembled a collection of over 5,000 micromounts plus many larger specimens, the selection focusing on beauty and morphology. At the same time he worked diligently on his mineral photography, often utilizing bright daylight on a cloudy day as his light source; eventually he accumulated over 10,000 photos (about half of them depicting Swiss minerals), over 1,000 of which have been published. In 1976, my first year as editor, I invited him to join the board of Associate Photographers of the Mineralogical Record, and he served happily in that capacity for over 30 years.
In 1980 I began experimenting with mineral stereophotography; wanting to introduce my friend to this exciting twist on mineral photography, I sent him a homemade viewer designed for slides, and a few 35-mm stereopair slides of minerals I had taken. As soon as he took the viewer out of the mailing envelope and unfolded it, before even reading my explanatory letter, he immediately figured out in a flash what I was doing and soon became the leading proponent of mineral stereophotography in Europe. He even donated $8,000 to the Mineralogical Record in 1983 so we could send a stereo viewer to each of our subscribers, allowing them to view stereo pairs in the magazine.
In 1990 Erich began experimenting with the SHAPE crystal drawing program and became totally involved, including in the generation of stereopair crystal drawings. Over the years he published over 30 articles illustrated with his photos and crystal drawings, mostly in German and Swiss journals (Lapis, Mineralien Magazin, Magma, Schweizer Strahler, Mineralienfreund, and Der Aufschluss, and also in the Mineralogical Record), but his major contributions were his many photos that were published in articles by other authors.
Erich died December 10, 2009, after a long illness and having gone almost completely blind in his later years. His extensive mineral collection has been donated to the Basel Museum of Natural History, where he had been a Museum Associate since 1989.