John Ross Muntyan, an active and successful field collector in Colorado and elsewhere, and also a talented mineral photographer, was born in Illinois on May 20, 1941, the son of Dorothy Heironymus and Miodrag Muntyan. He grew up in Urbana-Champaign with good role models in his early days. Not only was his father a Professor and Director of the University of Illinois Press, but his neighbor across the street, John Bardeen, was a two-time winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics whose work in inventing and developing the transistor, as well as his unpretentious demeanor, were undoubtedly a large influence on John's own career direction and personality.
John attended both the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville, intermittently from 1958 to 1961. While at the University of Illinois, he performed single-crystal X-ray diffraction analyses, foreshadowing his later mineralogical pursuits. During his time there, he became an accomplished rifle marksman, winning a national-level award. Working with a professional photographer in Illinois led to his developing expertise in architectural, portrait, commercial, and aerial photography (the latter for which he was required to do a parachute jump from a perfectly good airplane in order to become certified). In addition to his many other early activities, John played the oboe, and even designed a novel tool for cutting the reeds.
In the 1960s John took up watch repair, leading to his assisting in the formation of a curriculum on the subject at Parkland Community College in Champaign, Illinois. He was also adept at camera repair. Other interests included the fabrication of optics and optical components, ranging from simple doublet plano magnifying lenses to large astronomical telescopes. John's early professional career began in Illinois at a division of Magnavox, where he worked on defense products and contracts; he moved soon thereafter with the company to Fort Wayne, Indiana.
In the early 1970s he relocated to Colorado where he took a position at Scientec in Boulder, designing and building precision electronic balances. During his early days in Colorado he developed an interest in minerals and spent significant time field collecting with his then wife Barbara and other close friends. Although his travels were far ranging (e.g., Illinois, New Mexico, Hawaii), most of his time was spent in the Crystal Peak/Lake George area, and in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado; John was quite adept at field collecting, and was very successful at both localities. He also prospected numerous other areas of Colorado including Red Feather Lakes, Grand Junction, the Big Four mine, etc., as well as Mt. Antero. He was the first to identify bazzite from Mount Antero based on optical analysis using a polarized light microscope and a homemade spindle stage (see his illustration in Minerals of Colorado, Eckel et al., 1997). Unfortunately after about 2000 his field activities were limited by arthritis.
John was also a co-author, with Barbara, of several well regarded articles on Colorado mineralogy, one published on the minerals of the Pikes Peak Granite (Mineralogical Record, 1985), and shortly thereafter two others on mineral occurrences in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado (Mineralogical Record, 1988; and Rocks & Minerals, 1988).
His interest in minerals led him to extend his photographic skills to the technically demanding realm of mineral photography (both macro- and micro-), one highlight of which was a calendar published for Hewlett Packard that featured high-quality mineral specimens for each month. Numerous mineral specimen photographs taken by him appear both in the Mineralogical Record and in Rocks & Minerals. His meticulous attention to lighting, orientation, and exposure culminated in photos published in the Denver Show poster for 1989 and other high-profile venues. He also excelled at nature photography, particularly the wildflowers in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. Although John preferred the results from large-format film photography, he readily adapted to the digital camera age, embracing focal stacking technology to photograph microminerals.
Following a period of semi-retirement and consulting, John moved to Louisville, Colorado and accepted a position at MKS Instruments (formerly HPS) in the mid-1980s as an engineering manager. His position there entailed metallurgical analysis of failed systems, design and production of test equipment, and IT management, including software development. He retired from MKS ca. 2009, whereupon he continued in a consulting role and engaged in other interests including microminerals, optics, and electronics, and even took up the guitar (along with the banjo and mandolin). John was among the many affected by the floods along the Front Range of Colorado in September of 2013, and remediating the water damage in his second residence in Estes Park occupied much of his time thereafter up until terminal illness surfaced in the late fall of 2014. He passed away April 24, 2015.
John was an enigma, a very private individual who rarely discussed himself or his past. He possessed an uncommon combination of intelligence, knowledge, and artistic talent. He was amazingly versatile, and largely self-taught in many technically demanding subjects, being especially adept at researching challenging subjects and applying a multidisciplinary and analytical approach to solving problems using his wide range of knowledge and experience. His numerous and diverse endeavors are evidenced in part by the organizations of which he was a member: The Colorado Chapter of the Friends of Mineralogy (where he was a founding member in the late 1970s), the Leica Historical Society, the Microscope Historical Society, the Boulder Lens Club, the American Welding Society, and the American Society of Metals (now known as ASM International).
John was generous with not only his time and knowledge, but also with his monetary resources; as examples he often donated considerable funds to support the Journal of the Microscope Historical Society during its years of publication, and he seldom charged for his mineral photography. He inspired and brought out the best in those around him, and never elevated himself at the expense of others or made one feel unimportant despite his remarkable command of many technical subjects.
KILE, D. E. (2015) [Obituary] Died, John R. Muntyan. Mineralogical Record, 46, (5), 668-669.
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WILSON, Wendell E. (2017)
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