David John Eicher
is an American editor, writer, and popularizer of astronomy and space. He has been editor-in-chief of Astronomy
Astronomy is a monthly American magazine about astronomy. Targeting amateur astronomers for its readers, it contains columns on sky viewing, reader-submitted astrophotographs, and articles on astronomy and astrophysics that are readable by nonscientists....
magazine since 2002. He is author, coauthor, or editor of 16 books on science and American history and is known for having founded a magazine on astronomical observing, Deep Sky Monthly
, when he was a 15-year-old high school student.
Eicher is also a historian, having researched and written extensively about the American Civil War. He is also active and interested in studying minerals, with a collection of more than 1,000 specimens, and is a drummer who plays with the Astronomy
Magazine Blues Band.
Eicher was born in Oxford, Ohio
Oxford is a city in northwestern Butler County, Ohio, United States, in the southwestern portion of the state. It lies in Oxford Township, originally called the College Township. The population was 21,943 at the 2000 census. This college town was founded as a home for Miami University. Oxford...
on August 7, 1961. He was born into a scientific family, the son of John Harold Eicher (1921– ), a professor of organic chemistry at Miami University
Miami University is a coeducational public research university located in Oxford, Ohio, United States. Founded in 1809, it is the 10th oldest public university in the United States and the second oldest university in Ohio, founded four years after Ohio University. In its 2012 edition, U.S...
in Oxford, who as a young man was a Manhattan Project scientist, and housewife Susan Ann (née Arne) Eicher (1923–1983). His sister Nancy Eicher (1959– ) is a journalist and bookseller. His great uncle was Ethan Nathan Allen (1904–1993), a professional baseball player and baseball coach at Yale University whose players included George H. W. Bush
George Herbert Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 41st President of the United States . He had previously served as the 43rd Vice President of the United States , a congressman, an ambassador, and Director of Central Intelligence.Bush was born in Milton, Massachusetts, to...
. His great-great grandfather Darius Wetzel (1839–1903) fought with the 74th Ohio Infantry in the Civil War, which influenced Eicher more than a century later.
Eicher grew up in a suburb of the small town of Oxford, with relatively dark skies overhead. He attended William Holmes McGuffey Laboratory School (a school for offspring of Miami University employees) and Talawanda High School
Talawanda High School is a public high school in Oxford, Ohio. It is the only high school in the Talawanda School District.Talawanda High School was created in 1956 when three Butler County high schools; Hanover, Stewart and McGuffey, were consolidated into one school...
, where he was involved in band activities, playing snare drum in marching band, drum set in “stage band,” and tympani in orchestra. He was also actively interested in American history, having taken many trips around the United States, and in science, leaning toward a career as a doctor.
This changed in early 1976 when he attended a “star party” in Oxford and Eicher looked at Saturn through a telescope. He was immediately attracted to astronomy and set off exploring the sky with binoculars, joining the local astronomy club, and beginning to write for their publication when another contributor quit. Eicher had significant enthusiasm for writing about star clusters, nebulae, and galaxies — objects in deep space beyond the solar system — and by June 1977 commenced publishing Deep Sky Monthly
, a journal for similar observers. Although the publication began with a tiny circulation and was produced with his father’s office mimeograph machine, Deep Sky Monthly
caught on and soon had a circulation of several hundred among astronomy enthusiasts. By the time Eicher started attending Miami University in Oxford, focusing on physics, he continued producing the magazine, which had gone to a commercial printer with slick paper and offset photo printing, reaching a circulation of 1,000.
Eicher became well known in the astronomy hobby, and was well connected, looking to various professional astronomers as mentors for career advice, Carl Sagan
Carl Edward Sagan was an American astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, science popularizer and science communicator in astronomy and natural sciences. He published more than 600 scientific papers and articles and was author, co-author or editor of more than 20 books...
, Bart Bok
Bart Jan Bok was a Dutch-American astronomer.He was born in the Netherlands, but spent a good deal of his childhood days growing up in what was then known as the Dutch East Indies. He was educated at the Leiden and Groningen Universities. In 1929 he married fellow astronomer Dr...
, and Clyde Tombaugh
Clyde William Tombaugh was an American astronomer. Although he is best known for discovering the dwarf planet Pluto in 1930, the first object to be discovered in what would later be identified as the Kuiper Belt, Tombaugh also discovered many asteroids; he also called for serious scientific...
among them. In the fall of 1982 Eicher left his schooling after three years of college when Richard Berry, then editor of Astronomy
, offered him a position as assistant editor and a continuance of Eicher’s magazine, now retitled Deep Sky
and to be published quarterly. In September 1982 Eicher moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where Astronomy
was based, and began his career in journalism and popularizing his favorite topic, astronomy.
Eicher began his career at AstroMedia Corp., the magazine’s publisher, in September 1982 and immediately became a specialist writing and editing stories about the hobby of astronomy, observing the sky, photographing objects in it, and how to use telescopes. He was assistant editor of Astronomy
and editor of Deep Sky
, and was actively mentored by Berry and by then-Associate Editor Robert Burnham. Eicher wrote many stories about observing deep-sky objects, comets, and other sky targets, and was the publication’s photo editor. Deep Sky
started fast and quickly became influential in spreading the word about the ease of observing many previously little-known sky objects, growing to a circulation of 15,000 over the coming few years. The 1980s were an active time for amateur astronomy with the new space shuttle program and the approach of the celebrated Halley’s Comet, which would be visible in backyard telescopes in 1985 and 1986. Eicher became the point man on observing Halley’s Comet and wrote many stories about it during the middle of the decade.
In 1985 Kalmbach Publishing Co., the Milwaukee publisher of Model Railroader
, and other titles, bought AstroMedia Corp. and the Astronomy
staff moved across town. Eicher’s role in the magazine deepened as he worked on many science stories as well as observing pieces and by decade’s end, the company moved to Waukesha, Wisconsin, 16 miles west of Milwaukee, and by that time Eicher was promoted to associate editor. He also published his first books, The Universe from Your Backyard
(a compilation of deep-sky observing stories first published in Astronomy
), and Deep-Sky Observing with Small Telescopes
, an anthology about clusters, nebulae, and galaxies written by a variety of contributors. Both were received with acclaim in the amateur astronomy community.
In 1992 Editor Richard Berry left Astronomy
magazine and his quarterly Telescope Making
, which had been published alongside Deep Sky
, ceased publication. Kalmbach faced the decision of what to do with Deep Sky
. Time spent on this project limited Eicher’s progression on Astronomy
, and so the company decided to cease publishing Deep Sky
as well. Eicher published four books in 1992 and his role with Astronomy
expanded further. In 1996 Eicher was promoted to be the magazine’s senior editor and within a few weeks Robert Burnham left, Bonnie Gordon was hired as editor, and Eicher became managing editor. Two bright comets, Hyakutake and Hale-Bopp, lifted the hobby into a new burst of activity.
By the middle of 2002 Gordon left and Eicher became Astronomy
magazine’s sixth editor in chief. He has sharpened the title into being the leader in its field in every respect, with the greatest circulation, most influential website (www.Astronomy.com), many successful special publications, and a program of astronomy outreach for the community that outmatches those of competitors. In his tenure at the magazine, Eicher has written or edited more than 500 stories.
Promotion of Astronomy
Eicher has appeared on CNN, CNN Headline News, Fox News Channel, WGN radio, National Public Radio, MSNBC, CNBC, and other media outlets to promote the science and hobby of astronomy.
Eicher frequently travels to speak on astronomy or view solar eclipses with tour groups to such places as Austria, Belgium, China, the Czech Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, England, France, the Galapagos Islands, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Kenya, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Russia, Tunisia, and Turkey.
He is active promoting astronomy outreach to a younger generation and is president of the Astronomy Foundation, the telescope industry’s first outreach organization, founded in 2009.
Eicher’s service to the astronomy world was recognized in 1990 when the International Astronomical Union named minor planet 3617 Eicher
3617 Eicher is a main-belt asteroid discovered on June 2, 1984 by Skiff, B. A. at Flagstaff .- External links :*...
(discovery designation = 1984 LJ) in his honor. The asteroid, a main belt object in orbit between Mars and Jupiter, was discovered by astronomer Brian A. Skiff
Brian A. Skiff is an American astronomer noted for discovering a number of comets including the periodic comets 114P/Wiseman-Skiff and 140P/Bowell-Skiff...
at Lowell Observatory’s Anderson Mesa Station in 1984 and the citation was proposed and written by astronomer David H. Levy
David H. Levy is a Canadian astronomer and science writer most famous for his co-discovery in 1993 of Comet Shoemaker–Levy 9, which collided with the planet Jupiter in 1994.-Biography:...
Civil War History
Eicher has written eight books on the subject, including Dixie Betrayed
(Little, Brown), The Longest Night
(Simon and Schuster), Civil War High Commands
(Stanford Univ. Press), and The Civil War in Books
(Univ. of Illinois Press).
He has also been active in promoting Civil War remembrance and education and was appointed by Wisconsin Governor James Doyle to serve on the state’s Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission in 2009.
Eicher lives near Big Bend, Wisconsin
Big Bend is a village in Waukesha County, Wisconsin, United States. The population was 1,278 at the 2000 census.-Geography:Big Bend is located at ....
, with his wife, Lynda Ann Tortomasi Eicher (1961– ). His son, Christopher David Eicher (born December 18, 1992), is a student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Eicher was baptized a Methodist as a child but has since described his religious and philosophical views as “following science.”
He is an enthusiastic fan of the Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers are an American football team based in Green Bay, Wisconsin. They are members of the North Division of the National Football Conference in the National Football League . The Packers are the current NFL champions...
- Astronomy Magazine: The Complete Collection (DVD), including The History of Astronomy Magazine (Kalmbach, 2011)
- Lincoln the Liberal Strategist (Or, a Good Man is Hard to Find) (The Lincoln Fellowship of Wisconsin, 2011)
- A New Birth of Freedom: Abraham Lincoln’s Bicentennial, 1809–2009) (Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, 2009)
- 50 Greatest Mysteries of the Universe (Kalmbach, 2007)
- Dixie Betrayed: How the Confederacy Really Lost the Civil War (Little Brown, 2006)
- Beginner’s Guide to Astronomy (Kalmbach, 2003)
- Gettysburg Battlefield: The Definitive Photographic History (Chronicle Books, 2003)
- The Longest Night: A Military History of the Civil War (Simon and Schuster, 2001)
- Civil War High Commands (coauthor, with John H. Eicher, Stanford University Press, 2001)
- Mystic Chords of Memory: Civil War Battlefields and Historic Sites Recaptured (Louisiana State University Press, 1998)
- Robert E. Lee: A Life Portrait (Taylor, 1997)
- The Civil War in Books: An Analytical Bibliography (University of Illinois Press, 1997)
- Civil War Battlefields: A Touring Guide (Taylor, 1995)
- Beginner’s Guide to Amateur Astronomy (Kalmbach, 1993)
- The New Cosmos: The Astronomy of Our Galaxy and Beyond (editor, Kalmbach, 1992)
- Galaxies and the Universe: An Observing Guide from Deep Sky Magazine (editor and coauthor, Kalmbach, 1992)
- Stars and Galaxies: Astronomy’s Guide to Observing the Cosmos (editor and coauthor, Kalmbach, 1992)
- Beyond the Solar System: 100 Best Deep-Sky Objects for Amateur Astronomers (Kalmbach, 1992)
- Civil War Journeys calendar (Tide-mark, 1990–2000)
- Deep Sky Observing with Small Telescopes (Enslow, 1989)
- The Universe from Your Backyard (Cambridge University Press, 1988)