Canadian astronomer, professor and numismatist Harvey B. Richer, who wrote two authoritative books on Newfoundland gold coins and on Canada’s top 100 coins and tokens, died on Monday, Nov. 13, 2023.
A long-time numismatist whose day job included groundbreaking research in astronomy and physics at the University of British Columbia (UBC), Richer has published more than 175 scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals, including Nature and Science. His first numismatic book came in 2017 with The Gold Coins of Newfoundland, 1865-1888. His second book, 100 Greatest Canadian Coins and Tokens, was released in 2022 by U.S.-based Whitman Publishing.
“Harvey Richer brought the same intellectual curiosity to 100 Greatest Canadian Coins and Tokens that he gave to Gold Coins of Newfoundland – asking questions, laying the groundwork, and always looking for the human element,” Whitman publisher Dennis Tucker wrote in the latter book’s Publisher’s Preface. “His writing is embellished with personal asides … and he’s not afraid to push boundaries in his exploration of what defines a ‘coin’ or ‘token.’”
In the obituary notice on Paperman & Sons, the family writes:
“Harvey was born and raised in Montreal but relocated to British Columbia in the early 1970s. Harvey was a Professor of Physics and Astronomy at UBC for over 50 years and passionately devoted his time to exploring the cosmos. He revelled in collaborating with his peers both locally and globally to further our understanding of the evolution of stellar astrophysics. An avid lover of the arts, numismatics, astronomical outreach programs and the pursuit of athletics, Harvey had a profound impact on the lives of everyone he encountered.”
In the messages of condolences, fellow author Rob Turner reflected on the great discussions and fellowship he had with Prof. Richer.
“Harvey and I were kindred spirits as numismatic authors,” writes Turner, who has written five books since 2007, including his most recent release in 2020, entitled Past & Nearly Perfect. “We routinely compared notes when we saw each other at coin shows and occasionally reviewed tricky sections of each other’s work. Beyond that, he was a terrific guy, and I really enjoyed our conversations. I considered him a friend and shall very much miss our dinners together at the shows.”
David Bergerson, curator of the National Currency Collection at the Bank of Canada Museum, called Prof. Richer “a valued member of the numismatic community. ”
“I had the pleasure of working with Harvey on his last book on the 100 Greatest Canadian Coins and Tokens,” Bergeron writes in his condolence message. “ I first met him when he was working on his book of Newfoundland gold coins and he came to visit the Bank of Canada to examine pieces in the National Currency Collection for his book. From his research on Newfoundland gold coins, I invited Harvey to become a member of the Canadian Numismatic Research Society in 2018.”
Another prominent researcher and author in Canadian numismatics, Ron Cheek, reflected on Prof. Richer’s outstanding contributions.
“Harvey was such an energetic and enthusiastic man – we in the numismatic world enjoyed his friendship and appreciated his wonderful contributions through his remarkable books and as a Fellow of the Canadian Numismatic Research Society.”
According to the “About the Author” profile in his second book, Prof. Richer “was one of Canada’s largest users of the Hubble Space Telescope over the past 20 years. In 2014, he was named the recipient of the Carlyle S. Beals Award of the Canadian Astronomical Society, given for lifetime achievement. He was also named a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the foremost academic society in Canada and of similar stature to membership in the National Academy of Sciences in the United States.”
His biography states he began collecting at age 8 when he and his brother discovered a large one-cent coin of Queen Victoria under a rock in a vacant lot near his home in Montreal.
“He has continued the collecting tradition by introducing his two grandchildren to the joys of numismatics through taking them to local shows, buying them vintage Whitman Blue Folders of Canadian Coins, and supplying them with bags of circulated coinage,” the bio states.
Survived by his wife, Klara, daughter Samantha, son Aaron, and grandchildren Lillian, Mira and Asher, a funeral service took place on Thursday, Nov. 16, in Vancouver, B.C.