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Lester A. Barrer

Lester Aaron Barrer was born in Brooklyn, New York on March 25, 1923, the son of Eva and Aaron Barrer, a Russian immigrant and pharmacist. He was a decorated veteran of World War II; as a medic he was awarded three Bronze Stars and three Purple Hearts for being wounded while tending the wounded under direct enemy fire.

Barrer received his undergraduate degree in Biology from Rutgers University in 1947, his Masters Degree in Sanitary Science from Yale in 1950, and his PhD in Sanitary Science from NYU in 1956. In the 1950s he worked as Senior Engineer for the Department of Public Health in Rutherford, New Jersey, and was Project Director for the New Jersey Radium Research Project from 1957 to 1963. He was involved in the 1960s in several important reports on chemical engineering for nuclear reactors, reactor safety, and disposal of nuclear waste for the American Public Health Association. In 1970 he published a study of "The level of radium in human blood forty years after ingestion" in the journal Radiation Research.

Barrer and his wife Myra later moved to Washington, DC and published the first national commercial newsletter to serve the women's movement: Women Today. He also published Adult & Community Education Organizations & Leaders Directory 1981, and was the editor of Documentation Index to the Richard M. Nixon Impeachment Proceedings - Including the Watergate and Related Investigations, Hearings, and Prosecutions (1982).

Unfortunately his wife and long-time professional collaborator died of cancer in 1978, and his publishing company was not a financial success; in 1981 his personal home was sold at a tax sale by the Internal Revenue Service because of his inability to pay certain employment taxes. The taxes were owed by Barrer's closely-held corporation, Today News Service, Inc.

Barrer began collecting gems and minerals in childhood, but his collection did not really take off until after college. He enjoyed making jewelry, specializing in custom work with semi-precious stones. In his home, he displayed his larger mineral specimens, many of which he had self-collected. His favorite was a meteorite which he found (actually two pieces), then mounted to show its make-up.

He had given a few specimens to his children while he was alive, but the bulk of his collection was confiscated after his death. Following the tax sale of his house in the 1980s, Barrer remained there under a rental agreement until the time of his death. In his final months, he was unable to pay rent, and as a result the property was seized by the owner, who probably had no idea of the value of the "rocks." There were many fine specimens among the 1,000+ pieces in his collection, which were removed during the emptying of the house. His daughter Susan received only two pieces, one large crystal and a smaller stone in a ring made by her father. Her sister has one piece of the meteorite; the other was donated to the Smithsonian. There was nothing distributed among his two daughters following his death, and, in fact, he had no estate. So the whereabouts of his collection remain unknown today.

Lester A. Barrer died in Silver Spring, Maryland on June 2, 1988.

Social Security Death Index.
ASSOCIATED PRESS (1957) Chemists explain fast "paint job." Stars and Stripes, June 29, p. 6.
Barrer vs. Women's National Bank (1985), 245 U.S.App.D.C. 349, No. 83-2206.
Robert Schwab (son in law), Personal Communication, 2011.
Susan Barrer Ware (daughter).
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WILSON, Wendell E. (2019)
Mineralogical Record
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