Retired lawyer, 88, looks to the sky for answers

October 5, 2011

In Lynne Hyde’s earliest memory of her father, he is pointing out star formations. The two used to stand on their balcony and watch stars shoot across the night sky.

When her father, Bill Kraham, of Gaithersburg wasn’t looking down at a law book, Hyde said, he was looking up at the sky.

Now, Kraham, 88, spends much of his day looking up.

After working as a lawyer for more than 50 years, spending most of his years in administrative law and representing clients such as the Federal Aviation Administration, NASA and the Department of Defense, Kraham now devotes his time to studying the cosmos. He has directed some of that passion into creating and maintaining his own Web site, www.allenergyandmatter.com.

The Web site simplifies information about planets, stars, nebulae, galaxies, the universe and more for those who want to learn the basics.

As he grows older, Kraham said, he becomes more consumed by life’s big questions.

“I want to find out what’s out there and how we all got here,” he said. “I would like to find out everything while I am on this earth.”

Kraham created the Web site in June and spends between two to three hours a day working on it.

Glen Tigner, Kraham’s friend for more than 35 years, said he’s not surprised that Kraham created the site.

 “He was always an energetic type of guy,” Tigner said, describing Kraham’s site as fascinating and easy to understand.

Kraham has taken every class about the study of the cosmos and consciousness offered by the University of Maryland and the University of Virginia. He reads books and online material on the topics. His studies keep him sharp, he said.

“This is quite a feat for an older gent,” he said.

Kraham learned to fly an airplane when he was 15 in his home town of Cooperstown, N.Y. The sky has always amazed him, and he regrets not pursuing astronomy in his early days of school.

He had been “bitten by the law bug” when he was 17 and worked as a clerk at a firm in New York. During World War II, he served as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force. He was shot down over Germany and lost his left leg below the knee in a crash landing.

After returning home, he went back to college, earning a bachelor’s degree in English and psychology at Columbia University and a law degree from Cleveland State University.

After practicing law in Cleveland for about two years, in 1958, he began aviation legal work for the Federal Aviation Administration in Washington.  After that, he returned to private practice, operating his own firm from 1963 to 1988.

Since then, he has begun to phase out the time he spends practicing law and puts more of his time into studying astronomy.

He is a senior member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, a society dedicated to the global aerospace profession. Ann, his wife of 66 years, clips newspaper articles for him about planets outside of the solar system as scientist discover them.

Hyde, his daughter who lives in Montgomery Village, said whenever her father talks about outer space, his face always lights up.

Kraham said he is enthralled by the possibility of life on other planets and the existence of multiple galaxies. The creation of the universe captivates him; it is one conundrum that scientists can agree they know nothing about, he said. Even so, scientists are always discovering more — and Kraham said he wants to know it all.

“People don’t realize that less than 5 percent of the universe is [composed] of . . . mass and energy, and the balance is dark matter and dark energy,” he said.

Looking at a star is like looking back in time, he marveled. If a star is 4.4 light years away, people see it as it was 4.4 years ago.

Kraham said he is trying to understand something bigger than himself. He said that as he falls asleep, he thinks about how little we know about the universe.

 “The thought is, there are billions more galaxies and stars out there. Can you imagine?”

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