Milwaukee Astronomical Society


Bill Albrecht


Bill Albrecht working on the new observatory site.

Bill in 1937 working on the first observatory structure.

A long time Milwaukee Astronomical Society member, Bill Albrecht, passed away on Apr 25, 2009. He was a member of the MAS for 76 years! He is also one of the most significant members in our society's history.

Bill joined the MAS as a high school student in 1933. There he met Ed Halbach and began a friendship that lasted over 75 years. Bill was involved the construction projects at the observatory for many years. He used to joke, "Sometimes, astronomy was something that was done with a shovel and a wheelbarrow." Bill was a talented designer as well as fabricator. The A and B domes along with the MAS portascopes are among the many projects he was involved in. Much of the mount on Z scope is based on designs Bill made shortly after the mirror blank was donated.

After serving in the US Navy during WWII, Bill returned to Milwaukee. He continued to participate in the observing projects with the MAS. Bill spent many nights studying auroras at the observatory, while total solar eclipse expeditions took him to some unusual parts of the world. He participated in most of our grazing occultation expeditions and was always interested in any opportunity to observe any unique event.

1954 Eclipse Expedition led by Bill Albrecht

In 1954 Albrecht led a solar eclipse expedition to Mattice, Canada, but unfortunately was clouded out. The expedition crew is shown above, from left: Bill Albrecht, David Knaup, John Neff, Richard Fink, and Bill Konig.

Gerry Samolyk writes of Bill, "One of the many events that I observed with Bill was the occultation of Epsilon Gem by Mars in '74. It was fascinating to watch the star fade in the atmosphere before the occultation. It was like watching a sunset on Mars."

Bill and Anne Albrecht wedding picture.Much of Bill's life involved the observatory, so it was only fitting that he met his wife, Anne, at one of the public nights held there. Anne latter served as the MAS treasurer and was always at the open house nights. In addition to all the work that Bill did for the MAS, he also provided financial support. When the Z scope project was in it's infancy, Bill and Anne donated a sum of money to get the telescope fund started. Much later on, Bill donated $1000 to start a fund so the MAS can someday purchase a darker sky observing sight. That fund is now called the Albrecht fund. It was a long standing dream of Bill's to move the observatory because of the encroachment of city lights.

Bill Albrecht in Hawaii with his modified Celestron 11 In the late 1970's, Bill and Anne moved to Pahala, HI. Bill had an old 11" Celestron set up in his backyard. Because of his latitude (19 degrees N) Bill had to install a wedge and counterweight so he could reach the southern horizon without the scope hitting the fork. From this location Bill made over 80,000 variable star observations, working both with the AAVSO and the RASNZ. Being located in the middle of the ocean, Bill was often the only observer in position to make a critical observation. Bill did engineering work in support of the CFH observatory and had several nights per month on a 24" scope on top of Mauna Kea allocated for his personal use. In addition to astronomy, Bill spent much of his time in HI doing volunteer work at the volcano observatory at Kilauea.

Bill Albrecht at the Albrecht Observatory Dedication When Anne passed away in 2001, Bill moved back to Wisconsin. At that time, a whole new generation of MAS members got to know Bill as he attended meetings and picnics. That year the Albrecht Observatory (located between the A and B domes) was dedicated to all the service that both Bill and Anne gave to the MAS. Although that structure was built in 2000, the original pier footing, installed by Bill in 1937, is still in place.

Though Bill participated in all the observing programs of the MAS, his passion was variable star observing and he made over 115,000 observations during his lifetime. For this work he received the AAVSO Director's Award in 2002 and the very prestigious Astronomical League Peltier Award in 1999.

For all of Bill's contributions to the MAS, he was made a Founder Member in 1978.

Bill Albrecht receives his AAVSO Directors Award in 2002
Albrecht receives the AAVSO Director's Award in 2002
Bill Albrecht at Kileaua

Bill Albrecht at Kileaua in Hawaii