David J. Eicher
David J. Eicher in 2010
|Born||August 7, 1961 (age 58)|
Oxford, Ohio, U.S.
|Residence||Waukesha, Wisconsin, U.S.|
|Occupation||Editor, author, producer|
|Known for||Astronomy, Civil War history|
|Astronomy magazine, Deep Sky magazine|
|Title||Editor-in-Chief, Astronomy magazine|
David John Eicher (born August 7, 1961) is an American editor, writer, and popularizer of astronomy and space. He has been editor-in-chief of Astronomy magazine since 2002. He is author, coauthor, or editor of 23 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.
Eicher was born in Oxford, Ohio on August 7, 1961. He was born into a scientific family, the son of John H. Eicher (1921-2016), a professor of organic chemistry at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, who as a young man was a Manhattan Project scientist, and housewife Susan Ann (née Arne) Eicher (1923-1983). His sister Nancy Eicher (born 1959) is a journalist and editor. 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. 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. He is of predominantly German, Swiss, and English ancestry, along with a small percentage of Delaware Native American. Eicher's great-great-great grandmother Mary Ann Coover Wetzel (1809-1886) was a full-blooded Delaware Native American.
Eicher's earliest direct relative with his surname in America was Heinrich Joseph "Henry" Eicher (1782-1851), who emigrated from Steinwenden, west of Kaiserslautern, Bavarian State (now Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany, and near the present Ramstein Air Base). In the spring of 1833 Henry Eicher and his family spent a month walking through the French cities Bitche, Nancy, Paris, and Rouen, to Le Havre. They then spent 55 days on a three-masted ship voyage to the United States, arriving in Philadelphia and settling near Hagerstown, Maryland. Two years later they made their way westward, into southwestern Ohio. Another close line of relatives, the Wetzels, emigrated to the United States in the 1790s, also through Philadelphia, resided for a time near Frederick, Maryland, and eventually also settled in southwestern Ohio. They originated from the Electorate of Hanover (now Hanover, Lower Saxony, Germany).
Eicher grew up in a suburb of the small town of Oxford, with relatively dark skies overhead. He attended Hannah House Nursery School (1966), William Holmes McGuffey Laboratory School (1967-1975, a school for children of Miami University employees) and Talawanda High School (1976-1979), where he was involved in band activities. He was also actively interested in American history 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. By the time Eicher started attending Miami University in Oxford, it had a circulation of 1,000. Among the astronomers Eicher started a correspondence with, met and befriended, and who he has cited as early influences on his career, were Carl Sagan, Clyde Tombaugh, Gene and Carolyn Shoemaker, Bart Bok, Brian Marsden, David Levy, Brian Skiff, and Gerard de Vaucouleurs.
In 1979 Eicher began his college studies as a physics major at Miami University. In the fall of 1982 he left 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.
Eicher began his career at AstroMedia Corp., the magazine's publisher, in September 1982 as assistant editor of Astronomy and editor of Deep Sky. In 1985 Kalmbach Publishing Co., the Milwaukee publisher of Model Railroader, Trains, and other titles, bought AstroMedia Corp. 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. In 1992 the company decided to cease publishing Deep Sky. Within a span of six weeks in 1996, Eicher was promoted successively to senior editor and then to managing editor. After six years as managing editor, in 2002, Eicher became Astronomy magazine's sixth editor in chief.
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. In 2013 he was invited to speak about great advances in astronomy and on comets at Harvard University, in the Phillips Auditorium of Harvard College Observatory. He was among the 2014 speakers at the Starmus Festival in Tenerife, Canary Islands, and spoke at Harvard again in the spring of 2016, as well as delivering a public talk at Lowell Observatory, Flagstaff, Arizona, in November 2016. In 2017 he spoke at the Science + Mathematics Think-in at WVIZ-PBS ideastream in Cleveland, Ohio. He also spoke at the America's Darkest Sky Star Party at the Dark Sky New Mexico site near Animas, New Mexico, in April 2017 and October 2017, and in April 2018 delivered the Benson Memorial Lecture in Physics at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.
He has also given memorable lectures for the Webb Society in Cambridge, England (1993); at European Astrofest in London (2001, 2004, and 2019); at Lord Rosse's Birr Castle in Ireland (2001); at the Library of Congress Civil War Symposium in Washington, D.C. (2002); at the Lincoln Forum in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania (2003); the International Planetarium Society in Beijing, China (2014); at several incarnations of the Starmus Festival (see below); and on several book-promotion trips with Brian May (see below).
Among Eicher's astronomical journeys have been a total solar eclipse expedition to Cabo San Lucas, Baja Mexico (1991); an annular eclipse observation from Abraham Lincoln's Tomb, Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield, Illinois (1994); a Caribbean cruise to observe the 1998 total solar eclipse off the coast of Montserrat; a total eclipse from Land's End, Cornwall, England (1999); a 2004 trip to Egypt to observe the transit of Venus; a 2005 total eclipse trip to the Galapagos Islands; a total solar eclipse expedition to the Greek Isles (2006); a trip to see the 2008 total solar eclipse in Russia; the 2009 total solar eclipse in China; a 2010 total solar eclipse in Kenya; a meteorite hunting journey to Tunisia (2011); a Hawaiian trip to see the transit of Venus (2012); a total solar eclipse in Australia (2012); a total solar eclipse from Jackson Hole, Wyoming (2017); and southern sky observing trips to Costa Rica (2018 and 2019).
Eicher is active promoting astronomy outreach to a younger generation. From 2011 through 2017, he was president of the Astronomy Foundation (originally titled the Astronomy Outreach Foundation), the first ever trade association for the telescope industry. The Foundation received 501(c)3 nonprofit status in 2014 and included as officers Joseph Lupica, Vic Maris, and Rick Hedrick; its board consisted of Eicher, Lupica, Maris, Hedrick, and others. After serving a six-year term, Eicher resigned as president of the Foundation in 2017 due to time commitments on other projects.
Eicher's service to the astronomy world was recognized in 1990 when the International Astronomical Union named minor planet 3617 Eicher (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 at Lowell Observatory's Anderson Mesa Station in 1984 and the citation was proposed and written by astronomer David H. Levy.
Eicher's books include COMETS! Visitors from Deep Space (Cambridge University Press).; a book with Brian May, guitarist and singer from the rock group Queen, and astronomer Garik Israelian, constituting the conference proceedings, lectures, and information from the first Starmus Festival, a science and music event held in 2011 in the Canary Islands; and The New Cosmos: Answering Astronomy's Big Questions.
Beginning in 2013, he has been a blogger on astronomy and science topics for The Huffington Post. In 2015 he joined the Asteroid Day movement as a 100x signatory and also serves on that project's board as Editor-in-Chief. 
In May 2015 Eicher was named to the Board of Directors of the Starmus Festival, joining fellow board members Garik Israelian, Stephen Hawking, Brian May, Peter Gabriel, Alexei Leonov, Richard Dawkins, Jack Szostak, Jill Tarter, and Robert Williams.
In 2015 Eicher began producing a video series addressing realities of astronomy and astrophysics. Titled "The Real Reality Show," it appears on YouTube and on Astronomy.com. An audio interview series, "Superstars of Astronomy," features hour-long podcast talks with prominent astronomers, planetary scientists, and cosmologists, including Jeff Hester, Garik Israelian, Martin Rees, Seth Shostak, Debra Fischer, Sara Seager, Heidi Hammel, and others.
In 2016 Eicher edited, along with Garik Israelian and Brian May, the second book of Starmus Festival talks, Starmus: Discovering the Universe, which contains talks from the 2014 Starmus Festival, by Stephen Hawking, Alexei Leonov, Brian May, Mark Boslough, Eicher, Walt Cunningham, John Mather, John Ellis, and others.
In 2017, Eicher started a new audio podcast series "5 Questions with David Eicher," which is hosted on the Astronomy Magazine website and features interviews about current scientific research with well-known astronomers, planetary scientists, and cosmologists. The first to be interviewed was Alex Filippenko of the University of California-Berkeley. Others include Jeff Hester, Phil Plait, Carolyn Porco, Mark Boslough, Dan Hooper, Alfred McEwen, Sara Seager, Robert Williams, and Jill Tarter.
In June 2017, Eicher joined the Advisory Board of Lowell Observatory, in Flagstaff, Arizona, having been asked by Lowell Putnam, Percival Lowell's great-grandnephew, the current observatory trustee.
Also in June 2017, Eicher attended and was a principal actor at the fourth Starmus Festival, which took place in Trondheim, Norway. Eicher served as host on the Festival's opening day, delivered two talks about galaxies, served as moderator and host of a panel discussing science education, took part in a Kaspersky Labs panel on the future of Earth, and provided a short film for another Kaspersky Labs project, "Sound of Safety." 
In late June 2017, it was announced that his book, Galaxies, was bought at auction by Clarkson Potter (Penguin Random House), won by editor Jenni Zellner from agent Laura Biagi of the Jean V. Naggar Agency, and that the book will be published in the spring of 2020. Publishers Weekly reported the sale in its June 26, 2017 "Book Deals" section. Early promotional statements on the book are enthusiastic, with Richard Dawkins writing, "The natural history of the galaxies is majestic and deserves its own David Attenborough. In David Eicher, it may just have found him." Brian May reacted so: "I love this book. It represents a new giant leap in our ability to visualize the universe. Eicher's beautiful new presentation shows us for the first time evidence in pictures of an almost unimaginably vast swarm of galaxies along with their immense diversity, stretching into space, to the limits of our possible view. For me, reading Eicher's Galaxies was a shocking realization that I must now update my mental picture of the known cosmos."
In January 2018, Eicher and his associate Michael Bakich, Senior Editor of Astronomy, produced the first of a series of DVD and streaming video products, Astronomy Backstage Pass: Chicago. In this three-hour film, Eicher and Bakich provide a behind-the-scenes visit to four major scientific institutions in the Chicago area. They are Adler Planetarium, the Field Museum, Fermilab, and Yerkes Observatory. In September 2018, Eicher and Bakich filmed their second such DVD, aiming at a spring 2019 release, Astronomy Backstage Pass: Northern Arizona, which centered on Flagstaff and included behind-the-scenes, detailed overviews of Lowell Observatory, the U.S. Naval Observatory, the U.S. Geological Survey Astrogeology Science Center, and Meteor Crater. Eicher's friend Brian May was along for that excursion, on leave from playing with Queen in Las Vegas, and the group rented a helicopter and filmed Meteor Crater from above.
In late 2017 and early 2018 Eicher wrote Mission Moon 3-D, a book containing stereoscopic views of the Moon and with a text covering the Apollo missions, the space race, and the Soviet space program, in partnership with Brian May and his 3-D imaging collaborators. The book has a foreword written by Apollo 16 astronaut Charlie Duke, and an afterword by Apollo 8 and 13 astronaut Jim Lovell. The book was published in October 2018 by the London Stereoscopic Company and MIT Press, and includes Brian May's celebrated OWL viewer, made for appreciating 3-D images. In October, in London, Eicher gave a book launch lecture with Brian May at the Science Museum, and the authors were joined via Skype by Duke, who spoke about what it was like to walk on the Moon. Eicher also was a guest of May's at the world premiere of the Queen movie Bohemian Rhapsody, at an arena adjacent to Wembley Stadium, the following evening.
In February 2019 Eicher traveled to London, Bath, and Amsterdam to give a series of talks with Brian May about their book Mission Moon 3-D. May and Eicher delivered a public lecture on the space race and their book at European Astrofest at the Kensington Town Hall in London, and at Christ Church in Bath. Eicher delivered a lecture about the book at an auditorium in Amsterdam, an event sponsored by the John Adams Institute for American Studies. He was joined by a guest, Dutch astronaut André Kuipers. Further, Eicher spoke at Astrofest about his book Galaxies, and in Bath, Eicher and May visited the house of William Herschel, where the great astronomer discovered the planet Uranus in 1781. May is the Herschel Museum's patron.
In June 2019 Eicher was a primary actor and participant in the fifth Starmus Festival, in Zurich, Switzerland. This event was largely focused on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo Moon landings, and featured Apollo astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Walt Cunningham, Rusty Schweickart, Al Worden, and Charlie Duke. Also prominent in the festival were musical stars such as Brian May, Peter Gabriel, Rick Wakeman, Brian Eno, Steve Vai, and Hans Zimmer. Along with his coauthor Brian May, he delivered a talk on their book Mission Moon 3-D, and held a press conference focused on the book as well. Eicher also acted as host for the Festival on its fourth day, introducing and moderating astronauts and Nobel Prize laureates, including the introduction of Buzz Aldrin's talk about the space program.
At a press conference at the fifth Starmus Festival, Eicher and Brian May announced their next book project, a stereoscopic work titled Cosmic Clouds 3-D: Where Stars are Born, which is scheduled to be published by the London Stereoscopic Company and MIT Press in early 2020. It will feature a visual tour of nebulae, stellar birthplaces and the cocoons left from dying stars, and a narrative about the lives and deaths of stars in our Milky Way Galaxy.
In June 2019, The Marquis Who's Who Publications Board recognized Eicher as a recipient of the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award, for "Marquis Biographees who have achieved career longevity and demonstrated unwavering excellence in their chosen fields," a recognition made in Eicher's case at a relatively young age.
Eicher has written eight books on the subject, including Dixie Betrayed (Little, Brown), The Longest Night (Simon and Schuster),Civil War High Commands (written with his father John; Stanford Univ. Press), and The Civil War in Books (Univ. of Illinois Press).
Of the Eichers' Civil War High Commands, James M. McPherson wrote, "Here is the reference work that Civil War historians have been waiting for. All arguments about confusion about full vs. brevet rank, seniority, jurisdiction, and dozens of other matters concerning military commanders and civilian officials in the Union and Confederacy are cleared up in this volume, which would have been as useful to Civil War contemporaries, if it had existed then, as it will be to modern students of the Civil War." Gary W. Gallagher wrote, "It is difficult to imagine the staggering amount of research that must have gone into the creation of this highly valuable reference work. All students of the military side of the Civil War, and especially those interested in the organizational structures and leading figures of the Union and Confederate high commands, should keep this volume near at hand."
Of Eicher's The Longest Night, James M. McPherson, in his foreword, described the book as "almost unique among Civil War books: it is both a narrative and a reference work. Here the reader will find engrossing accounts of all the battles, large and small, linked together in a manner so lucid and logical that the cause-effect relationships among events taking place in several theaters of war in chronological succession -- sometimes even simultaneously -- emerge with new clarity."
In his foreword for Eicher's Robert E. Lee: A Life Portrait, Robert E. Lee IV, the general's great-grandson, wrote, "I am truly glad that Dave Eicher's book, which brings together all of the important images of the General and offers a valuable glimpse of Lee the commander, has arrived to help celebrate my great-grandfather's life."
In the foreword for Eicher's Mystic Chords of Memory, John Y. Simon wrote, "Whether viewed as fields of death or fields of glory -- and they were both -- Civil War sites retain a powerful hold on the American imagination. In words as well as photographs, Eicher captures the drama of America's greatest conflict."
For his The Civil War in Books, Eicher assembled an all-star academic board to advise on book review choices, consisting of his father John H. Eicher, Gary W. Gallagher (who wrote the foreword), James M. McPherson, Mark W. Neely, Jr., Ralph G. Newman, and James I. Robertson, Jr.
Between 1988 and 2004 Eicher and his father John made 16 extensive research and photographic trips to Civil War battlefields and historic sites, as well as libraries and research institutions, and created more than 15,000 photographs of Civil War sites, as well as maps and other analyses.
In 2008, Eicher, his father John, and his son Christopher studied World War II history during a long summer trip to France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland, and England.
In 2013 Eicher donated his Civil War library of more than 4,000 volumes, collected since 1982, to the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library and Ulysses S. Grant Association at Mississippi State University.
Eicher lives near Big Bend, Wisconsin, with his wife, Lynda Ann Tortomasi Eicher (born May 25, 1961). His son, Christopher David Eicher (born December 18, 1992), is a journalist and videographer.
Eicher has been a drummer since grade school days in Ohio and currently plays with his band, the Astro Blues Band, in Wisconsin, which consists mostly of people who work with Eicher on Astronomy Magazine. The current lineup consists of singer Micki Gebel, guitarist Keith Bauer, guitarist Steve Perales, bassist Mike Soliday, and Eicher on drums and occasional vocals.
As hobbies go, Eicher is a mineralogist and mineral collector, and has assembled a collection of more than 1,500 aesthetic specimens, mostly assembled between 2004 and 2018. This interest was inspired by the gift of his father's self-collected ore mineral group, assembled on western trips in the United States between 1926 and 1952. He also is an avid book collector and reader of American and ancient history, as well as other scientific subjects such as archaeology, paleontology, and zoology.
Eicher's interest in American history has led him to collect original documents of interest, including papers written and signed by Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison, Ulysses Grant, Andrew Jackson, and others.