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John Seaman ’56

Author and life photographer John Seaman, a devoted Swarthmore alumnus who rarely missed a reunion, died in New York City on Feb. 3 at age 83.

A prodigy and a 12-year-old winner of the prestigious Westinghouse Research Scholarship that would bring him to the White House to meet President Harry Truman, John entered Swarthmore at age 16—too young, he would say. But he made the experience work for him, academically and socially, including being elected president of the Outing Club, a post he embraced with enthusiasm, leading groups all over the Northeast and Southeast mountain ranges.

John was born June 28, 1936, in Providence, R.I. In 1942, his father, a rubber chemist, got an editorial job writing for India Rubber World and the family moved to Merrick, N.Y., and later Baldwin, Long Island, where John’s mother taught school. John graduated from high school second in his class.

John lived by the credo “Be bold.” After Swarthmore graduation, he suffered a severe psychic break that he wrote about movingly in his memoir Bloody but Unbowed.  He quotes poet William Henley: “Out of the night that covers me, black as the pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be for my unconquerable soul.” Although harrowing, his remarkable recovery and enormously productive life was a testament to his unique will, intellect, sense of humor, and deep humanity.

John was the chief science editor at the Columbia University Press at age 23. He later wrote layman’s versions of Physical Review and Letters Articles for the American Review of Physics. He wrote and traveled all over the world (many trips to Western Europe, two trips to the USSR, one to Japan) for The Data Communications User, Electronics Products, and Computer Decisions magazines.

A talented photographer, he authored a collection, John Seaman Classic Nudes, published by Artspan, and was a lifelong member of the Art Students League.