§ 3.5. Death of Lawrence Braymer
Gregory Gross

§ 3.5. Death of Lawrence Braymer

Questar advertisement, <em>Scientific American</em>, December 1965
Lawrence Braymer received the Master Design Award from Product Engineering magazine on May 19, 1965, and he featured it in an advertisement that ran in Sky and Telescope and Scientific American magazines in December 1965. Questar Corporation

On May 19, 1965, Lawrence Braymer found himself at a lavish banquet hosted by Product Engineering magazine. He was the recipient of the publication’s Master Design Award. Braymer found himself in impressive company. Two other businesses—Boeing for its 727 passenger jet and Mack Trucks for its aerial lift platform fire engine—also won the award that year.[1]

He took the opportunity reflect on nearly two decades of work he had put into designing and producing the Questar telescope. Not long after he first learned about Dmitri Maksutov’s revolutionary design for a catadioptric telescope in 1944, he abandoned his career as a commercial artist to pursue the development of a new kind of telescope. In 1954, the Questar appeared on the market.

It was appropriate that Product Engineering magazine had recognized his accomplishments considering that, by his own admission, Braymer had learned a lot from reading it over the years. After starting out more as an amateur than anything else, he had matured as a “designer, producer and business man” and had replaced “innocence with detailed solid knowledge” thanks in part to Product Engineering. In particular, he remembered that one article “on how to design die castings enabled us to do just that and save $4,500 in die costs. So it was doubly pleasing to find the fruit of our extended labors cited favorably by this old friendly journal.”[2]

Braymer was clearly proud to receive the award. Always keen to mention any late-breaking developments and find anything that would burnish Questar’s reputation, he naturally could not pass up an opportunity to create an advertisement that was centered around the award. In the photograph that accompanied his December 1965 advertisement in Sky and Telescope and Scientific American magazines, he beamed as he received his award from the magazine’s editor, Elmer Tangerman.

In the same photograph, Lawrence Braymer also looked gaunt. He was not in good health. For years, he had smoked three packs of cigarettes a day. In 1959, doctors diagnosed him with throat cancer. Following over fifteen weeks of treatment at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, it seemed at first that he had beaten it, and he was eager to return to work. But the treatments weakened him, and he never regained his full vigor.[3] Later, Braymer developed heart trouble.[4] His health deteriorated further.

Lawrence Braymer finally succumbed on December 1, 1965, when he died at Albert Einstein Hospital in Philadelphia.[5] He was buried at Thompson Memorial Cemetery south of New Hope along the Delaware River.[6]

His passing drew the attention of the obituary writers of the New York Times. They remembered him as someone who “forsook a career in art” to invent the Questar telescope. Along with his receipt of the Master Design Award, they also noted how astronauts aboard Gemini 5 had recently used his telescope to produce seventy detailed pictures of the Earth from an altitude of one hundred miles.[7]

It is hard not to see the irony of Questar’s Master Design Award advertisement appearing the same month as Braymer’s death. In its copy, Braymer told the story of his drive back to New Hope. He spent the time asking himself if his labors warranted more recognition. “Suddenly we wondered if, by the nature of our daily work, we do not get more than our share. For we constantly talk to Questar users in all walks of life for whom the little telescope is solving a problem or doing a good job one way or another. They so often express satisfaction and pleasure that we get the direct reward of feeling useful and being in a very worthwhile business.”[8]

But the wide breath of persons and organizations that had acquired a Questar telescope by the middle of the 1960s was a testament to the influence that Lawrence Braymer and his company had had on amateur astronomy and, more broadly, the history of telescopes. There was really no need for him to worry.

He knew this, too. “What kind of people buy Questars?” Braymer asked in his advertisement. “All kinds do, of course.” On the occasion of the award banquet he attended, he remembered “the waiter who carefully inspected the instrument we were displaying. He said he was saving up to buy one to use with his cameras.”[9]

Lawrence Braymer’s legacy was his creation of the Questar telescope and the way that it had such a positive effect in the lives of many who would come to own and enjoy one.

Next: Chapter 4. The Steady Years

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Notes

1 Questar Corporation, advertisement, Sky and Telescope, December 1965, inside front cover; Questar Corporation, advertisement, Scientific American, December 1965, 83.

2 Questar Corporation, advertisement, Sky and Telescope, December 1965, inside front cover; Questar Corporation, advertisement, Scientific American, December 1965, 83.

3 “Questar Products Index & Overview Page,” Company Seven, n.d., http://www.company7.com/questar/index.html, accessed July 3, 2019.

4 Charles Shaw, “Larry Braymer: ‘In Quest of the Stars,’” New Hope Gazette, March 14, 1985, 32, https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/Questar/files/FAQ/, accessed October 15, 2019.

5 “Lawrence Braymer, Devised a Telescope,” New York Times, December 2, 1965, 41, https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1965/12/02/95917409.pdf, accessed December 2, 2019.

6 “Questar Products Index & Overview Page,” Company Seven, n.d., http://www.company7.com/questar/index.html, accessed July 3, 2019.

7 “Lawrence Braymer, Devised a Telescope,” New York Times, December 2, 1965, 41, https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1965/12/02/95917409.pdf, accessed December 2, 2019.

8 Questar Corporation, advertisement, Sky and Telescope, December 1965, inside front cover; Questar Corporation, advertisement, Scientific American, December 1965, 83.

9 Questar Corporation, advertisement, Sky and Telescope, December 1965, inside front cover; Questar Corporation, advertisement, Scientific American, December 1965, 83.