Friday, January 09, 2015

Good Thing #40: Brian May

Let's get this out of the way: Brian May is best known for his work as the guitarist for the band Queen. He's widely considered by people who rank such things as one of the best guitarists of all time. That's certainly impressive, but it's everything else that Brian does that makes him such an inspiration.

Brian May dropped out of college in 1974 to devote to Queen full-time. In 2006 he returned to college in 2006 and successfully defended his thesis, A Survey of Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud in Sept 2007, gaining his PhD 37 years after he started. Colleges often hand out honorary degrees to the rich and famous just because they're rich and famous, but Doctor May really worked for his, and has continued to prove it. He's already co-authored two astronomy textbooks, Bang! and The Cosmic Tourist.

While in Queen he would give free tickets and backstage passes to dealers who would meet him backstage. Not drug dealers but antique dealers who would bring him Victorian stereo views. Over the years he's amassed a collection of unique and rare stereo views. It's not that unusual for the rich and famous to buy expensive things, but Brian May has been doing something great with his collection. He's published three books so far using stereo views from his collection, A Village Lost and Found, Diableries, and The Poor Man's Picture Gallery. These books are gorgeous coffee table books that feature stereo views painstakingly restored to their former glory. They include a stereo viewer of Dr. May's own design. Given the quality and price of these books, I find it hard to believe anyone made any money from them. They are a labor of love that Dr. May made possible. These aren't the first books on stereo views to be published, but over the past 50 years or so, 3D photography has generally been treated like a novelty item. May's books prove that stereo photography is a serious art form, deserving of scholarship and critical attention. He's also making things that are rarely seen by anyone but private collectors and making them available for all to enjoy. 

He really inspires me. He shows that no matter who you are, you can continue to grow and explore, and share what you discover with the world.

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