BAM Biographies:   Len Piszkiewicz


Len Piszkiewicz was born (1940) and grew up in Chicago, Illinois. As a youngster he picked up rocks and wondered where they came from. This led to an interest in chemistry in high school, during which time he grew crystals of copper sulfate and other commonly available chemicals to further his understanding of minerals and crystals. He then attended Loyola University Chicago, from which he received a bachelor's degree in chemistry in 1962, and then the California Institute of Technology, earning a Ph.D. in organic chemistry in 1967.

While at Cal Tech, he explored collecting localities in Southern California, with many trips to noted localities such as the dumps at Boron. Also, while at Cal Tech, he attended as many geology seminars as chemistry seminars, picking up mineral knowledge in an unorganized fashion. Following a two-year stint working in Colorado and collecting in various locations in the Rockies with fellow members of the Colorado Mineral Society, he moved to Northern California.

Len met Dick Erd in the early 1970s, and since at that time he worked at Stanford Research Institute, "next door" to the USGS in Menlo Park, Len and Dick would spend lunch hours in DickÕs office talking minerals. Len and occasionally Dick also would attend mineralogy discussion groups that were an offshoot of the Gem and Mineral Society of San Mateo County (now disbanded), and Dick came up with the idea of starting a similar mineral group open to everyone interested in minerals in the Bay Area. Together with Kurt Servos, they started the Bay Area Mineralogists in June, 1972, as an "advanced mineralogy group." The concept flourished and thrives to the present.

Over the years, Len has engaged in field collecting around the southwestern U.S. with fellow BAM members, occasionally finding those "once in a decade" pockets of crystals that are part of the allure of the hobby. Occasional trips to Tucson for the annual February "event" also punctuate his "advanced amateur" interest in mineralogy. Aside from earth sciences, Len also has significant interests in antique automobiles, collecting antique Chinese porcelains and other Asian art objects, and also currently edits and publishes two periodicals in the stamp collecting hobby, and he has written two books on postal history published in 2006 and 2009.

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