I. M. Levitt
A.D. 1907 August 21 - 2004 January 2 (Gregorian, Earth)
M.Y. 3519 July 14 - 3570 October 5 (Levitt, Mars)
On January 2, we lost one of the great early pioneers of Martian time. Dr. Levitt's "Mars Clock and Calendar" article in the May 1954 issue of Sky and Telescope was published the very month I was born. It was one of the first Martian calendars that I discovered after having my first article on Martian timekeeping published in 1986, and I was at the same time both astounded and pleased to learn that he had designed some of the same features into his calendar that I did 32 years later. My "new idea" turned out not to be so new after all. Despite the dozens of Martian calendars that have been invented in the 50 years since, Dr. Levitt's work has stood the test of time. It remains one of the best Martian calendars ever devised. More than simply being cognizant of the astronomical aspects of calendar design, he also understood the human factors requirements of timekeeping: social, economic, cultural, et cetera.
What a shame that he missed seeing Spirit land on Mars by only a day. Spirit is being renamed the Columbia Memorial Station. It might be too much to hope, that should Opportunity land successfully in Meridiani Terra, it will renamed the I. M. Levitt Memorial Station. Yet this would be a fitting tribute, to name a station near the prime meridian of Mars in honor of the designer of the first Martian clock ever built. It has always been my position that the prime meridian of Mars ought to be named the Meridian of Levitt.
With regard to Dr. Levitt I would just repeat what I said in one of our correspondences about his clock:
Levitt was an interesting character. He was a small man who usually wore a dour expression, but when he lectured on astronautics his face would light up. He was a man of strong intellect and broad imagination. I got the impression that his head was in the stars and he was unhappy that his feet were planted on the Earth.
I may have also mentioned that during one of his lectures - this was 1972 - he stated that water would be found on the moon. Since this was just as the Apollo program was wrapping up and all the evidence seemed to indicate that the moon was bone dry I remember thinking to myself that he is a very optimistic person! Then many years later Clementine found evidence for water and that moment in the Franklin Institute lecture hall came back to me and I thought, "no, Levitt was just ahead of his time!"
Anyone who knew Dr. Levitt or knew his work is invited to send his or her reflections to Thomas Gangale for posting on this page.