Irvin M. Winer

Irvin M. Winer The Irvin Marvin Winer Memorial Mobile Observatory, Inc. was named upon its incorporation in 1983 after Irvin M. Winer. The Winer Scientific Director, Mark Trueblood, met Irv at Wesleyan University in 1971, when Mark had just begun his graduate studies in physics and Irv had just completed his Ph.D. and was staying on as an assistant professor. Irv had a fresh and honest approach to all matters in life that truly impressed Mark, and when Irv died in 1982 at the age of 46 after a long illness, Mr. Trueblood decided that the best way to memorialize his friendship with a great human being was to name the observatory after him.

Irvin Marvin Winer was born April 7, 1935 in Sinai Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. He graduated from Baltimore City College (high school) in 1953, and obtained his B.A. in physics from Johns Hopkins University in 1957. He was elected to the Phi Beta Kappa honor society while at Johns Hopkins. He spent another year there as a graduate physics instructor in the optics laboratory, but his interest in astrophysics took him to Indiana University, where he was a graduate student and astronomy research associate concentrating on binary stars during the years 1958-1960. Although he left Indiana University in 1960 without obtaining an advanced degree, he remained interested in astrophysics throughout his brief life, serving as a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society during the years 1962-1974, and leading a group of undergraduate and graduate students to the solar eclipse in Canada in 1972 and another group including Mark Trueblood and mutual friend and Wesleyan graduate Andy Tomer to the solar eclipse in North Dakota in 1979. It was Andy who later suggested that Mr. Trueblood's new observatory corporation be named to memorialize Irv.

In 1960, Irv became an instructor in mathematics and physics at Western Maryland College in Westminster, Maryland, staying until 1963 to join the Laser Physics Laboratory of Korad Corporation in Santa Monica, California. Irv left Korad in 1967 to return to graduate school in physics, this time at Wesleyan University. In 1970, Irv earned his Ph.D., writing his thesis on the Eotvos experiment, a test of the Principle of Equivalence in Einstein's theory of General Relativity. Laboratory tests of General Relativity are some of the most difficult in all of modern experimental physics, requiring a thorough understanding of the theory of, and intricate subtleties in mechanical, electrical, and optical engineering.

Irv married Mercedes Bueno in 1962; they were later divorced when they moved back out to the west coast. They had one child, a son Ernest Albert born March 29, 1963.

After obtaining his doctorate degree, Irv was appointed an assistant professor in the physics department of Wesleyan University and served in that role until 1973. In that year, he joined International Laser Systems, Inc. of Orlando, Florida and moved there, taking with him Andy Tomer as an assistant. Irv's work with lasers carried him to the Centre de Recherche Nucleaire in Strasbourg, France where he designed, managed the development, and installed a Nd:YAG mode-locked laser system capable of second and fourth harmonic generation. Later, he was transferred to Kirtland Air Force Base near Albuquerque, New Mexico where he was Manager/Scientist of the Developmental Optical Facility. There he worked on optical component fabrication, optical thin film coatings, and optical metrology in support of high energy laser work in various laboratories throughout the country.

Irv left International Laser Systems in 1976 and joined the Missile and Space Systems Division of Douglas Aircraft Company, working in the Avionics and Guidance Section in San Diego, California on cruise missile navigation and on theoretical problems in laboratory fusion initiation and containment. While working on the west coast, Irv became ill, and in the winter of 1982 drove back to the east coast to die in his home town of Baltimore on March 1. While he was at Douglas Aircraft, Irv was a member of the Optical Society of America, serving as President of the Optical Society of San Diego in 1979-1980. Irv viewed defense work as an opportunity to work with lasers and on projects that had the potential to have a major positive social impact, such as fusion electric power generation.

In May 2001, the International Astronomical Union honored Irv by naming asteroid number 15606 'Winer' upon the recommendation of the asteroid's discoverer, Charles W. Juels, MD of Fountain Hills, Arizona. Dr. Juels discovered the asteroid on April 11, 2000 whereupon the Minor Planet Center gave it the provisional designation 2000 GU122 and announced the official name in Minor Planet Circular 42675. When the orbit was known with sufficient accuracy that it was unlikely to be lost, it was given the number 15606 and Dr. Juels was given the right for the next 10 years to propose a name. The Winer Observatory is indebted to Dr. Juels for his recognition of Irv's accomplishments and his importance in the lives of those around him. Click to see a diagram of the orbit of 15606 Winer

Some of Irvin M. Winer's publications include:


The opinions expressed below by Irv's friends do not necessarily represent those of the Winer Observatory or its staff.

A remembrance of Irv from a friend, Prof. Antony Shermoen:

"Irv and I arrived in the same week to Middletown. He, as a grad student in physics, me as a grad student in biology. We lived across the street from one another and our wives spent some time together because our son was about Ernie's age. ... I used to come down to visit Irv in the Physics Dept. and he would occasionally fabricate things for me to use in my research . I would also go to Irv to have conversations about understanding biological phenomena from a physics perspective. While I don't remember the specifics of these discussions, we did talk about gradients in biology and how they might form. (Irv was very patient with me and my rudimentary knowledge of physics.) My past searches for Irv usually gravitated around fusion physics because he was quite devoted to the idea of that bringing a real change to our planet. I remember Irv as being a very serious guy about not only physics, but humanity as well. In fact, I couldn't remember whether his son's middle name was after Albert Einstein, or Albert Schweitzer - probably both. He very nicely mixed this serious nature with a real kindness toward others. I was also sad to learn through your memorial that Irv and Mercedes (I don't remember whether we had a nickname for her) were divorced. Our two families were picknicking together and Mercedes and Irv told us that they met while Irv was driving out to California to take a job. He stopped at a diner to eat and there met Mercedes, who was a waitress at the diner. Irv continued on to California, but, in that serious way of his decided that she was someone with whom he would like to share his life. They were married a short time later. Their unlikely, but charming, story of their meeting on Irv's first drive to the west coast warmed our hearts and fit in with your description of him as having a fresh and honest approach to all things in life. I remember Irv for being quiet and serious, but someone who loved to talk about physics and cared very much about those around him. A good man to know."

A remembrance of Irv from another friend, Gene Cross:

"One of the two most brilliant people I have known was Irv Winer (aka, Irvin Marvin Winer).Looking back at his career, he was a technical gypsy, moving to where interesting work took him. But at least twice, he was 'canned' (fired) because (1) he was principled and would obey no orders that brought harm to people, (2) because of professional jealousy of his peers. [He was no 'ordinary genius'. An important electro-optical (E-O) problem, heretofor 'solvable' only by numerical analysis, he solved via a closed form solution, eclipsing the previous work of hundreds of fellow Ph.D.'s and decades of E-O history. I knew him between 1977 and 1980, as a colleague, friend, and mentor.] Some of his most important innovations were 'secret ones', not done on his 'day job'. Irv might have had a happier life if he had done even more 'in secret'. But Irv was so brilliant (some might say 'scary' brilliant), that any technical subject discussed in his presence was likely to achieve 'new understanding' in 10-30 minutes. Irv could not contain his creativity, nor his happiness at finding something new. [The application of the Fast Fourier Transform to electro-cardiogram analysis for heart-attack prediction/diagnosis was one of his 'hobby' innovations done when he was chief scientist at Kirkland Directed Energy Weapons Center(Kirkland AFB, Albuquerque, NM), before I knew him. (The analysis was done on a Texas Instruments calculator having a magnetic strip recordable media; Irv wrote the analysis code. That was around 1976.) The commanding general eventually canned Irv for not devoting 100% of his energies [24 hours per day, 7 days per week] to weapons. The American Medical Association gave Irv a medal for a diagnosis technique that would save hundreds of lives.] - March 10, 2015, EWC-
Much later [1977] I worked with Dr. Irvin Winer on many projects. He had figured out [1969] in mere hours why the Lunar Ranging Experiment was failing. He quickly found a way to co-align the laser resonator to [eliminate boresight error] to the optical axis of the Shane 3-m telescope at Lick Observatory. Bingo-! Tranquility Base corner cubes detected-! First light for Lunar Ranging Experiment. A few phone calls later, McDonald Observatory and Mauna Kea Observatory were able to mimic Irv's alignment and achieve success with ranging Tranquility Base. - August 31, 2010 - EWC
[webmaster: 'Principles of Optics' by Max Born and Emil Wolf remains today a standard text on optics] Emil Wolf was the 'Presidential Speaker' for the Optical Society of San Diego (OSSD), about 1979 or 1980. Wolf's talk was something like 'Contributions to Optics by Albert Einstein.' Superb talk! The intro to Wolf was done by Irv Winer, who was the OSSD president at the time, a General Dynamics colleagure of mine, and one of the two most intelligent human beings I have encountered in my travels on Earth. Irv noted that Emil Wolf had performed a great service to the optics community by keeping 'Principles of Optics' in print. And, Irv also noted that 'Principles of Optics' was perhaps the single greatest impediment to making new optics engineers! - July 24, 2009 - EWC

Page last updated on: March 13, 2015