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Columbia’s Smithsonian connection September 6, 2017

Posted by diannaobrien in Charles W. Gehrke General.
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Sometimes Washington, D.C., with its amazing Smithsonian museums and political glitz and glitter can seem far away, but a bit of Columbia has made its way to the National Air and Space Musem — and soon copies of the book, “From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks,” will be on their way there, too.

In 1986, Charles W. Gehrke donated to the Smithsonian a Varian 4 2100 series column gas chromatography, Cat. 1987 0137000. The instrument was literally used to analyze out of this world substances — all the moon samples returned from the 1969-1972 Apollo moon missions.

Don’t rush to Washington to see the instrument. It’s in storage like millions of other items at the Smithsonian, but knowing a bit of Columbia is there is thrilling.

I’ve been in touch with Matthew Shindell, of the Space History Department at the National Air and Space Museum, and he said the museum would be happy to receive copies of the book and will keep them in the research library for the use of curators and visiting researchers. Shindell said, “I am sure they will help us to understand Gehrke’s work and the instrument in our collection.”

In addition, it turns out Shindell is writing a book about Dr. Harold Urey, a scientist man who influenced Gehrke and who is mentioned in the book I’ll be sending to Shindell.

But now I’m curious about other Smithsonian connections from Columbia. Do you know of any other items from Columbia that have found their way to the national museums?

Are you curious about the book that’s heading to Washington? You can get a copy of the book about the life and scientific adventure of Gehrke at the downtown bookstore, Yellow Dog Bookshop, 8 S. Ninth St., the Columbia Mall bookstore Barnes & Noble and the shop at Boone County Historical Society at 3801 Ponderosa St.

You can get it electronically from Barnes & Noble, amazon.com or buy it via this website and I’ll mail you the book for $20 plus tax and shipping.Buy Now Button

Now, what else do you know that hailed from Columbia, Missouri and in a national museum?

 

Five reasons to buy this book July 3, 2017

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OK, maybe six reasons, but really, you should buy From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks, because, like carrots, it will be good for you.From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks cover 032917

  1. 1. Let’s face it, no matter what side you are on, the news can be depressing. Take a break from that with this feel-good biography of Charles W. Gehrke, a man who started out as a poor kid, peddling radishes door-to-door with his brother and then went on to became a successful husband, father, scientist and entrepreneur. His success was due to things all of us can celebrate: family support, education, networking, friendship and an unwavering belief in himself.
  2. 2. Enjoy a reading stroll through history with this book, through a time when wheat was stacked in the fields, pest management meant trapping rats in a barn, college professors joined bowling leagues, kids spent summers swimming in a local quarry swimming hole and no knew whether there was life on the moon or not.
  3. From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks highlights the best of the USA, a place where someone could get an education, find a life partner, develop a career in biochemistry devoted to helping other scientists make discoveries and turn that knowledge into a successful firm that employed 300 people before it was bought out in 2015 by a global firm.
  4. Let’s be blunt here. Buying this book will support the local economy including me, the author Dianna Borsi O’Brien, and the local venues where it is for sale, Yellow Dog Bookshop, 8 S. Ninth St., Barnes & Noble in the Columbia Mall and the Boone County Historical Society at 3801 Ponderosa St.
  5. This book will also increase your own and the world’s peace and quiet. We all know you might have neighbors who will be firing off fireworks starting last week and for the next week or so to celebrate the Fourth of July. Really? We need more noise in this world? No, we don’t. So grab this book, settle down for a nice read of a sweet story of a poor boy who made good and enjoy the holiday.

What? Don’t want to get our of your stay-at-home clothes to get the book? No worries. You can get it electronically from Barnes & Noble, amazon.com or buy it via this website and I’ll mail you the book for $20 plus tax and shipping.Buy Now Button

Steve Weinberg and From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks June 21, 2017

Posted by diannaobrien in ABC Labs, Charles W. Gehrke General, Events.
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Steve Weinberg, a Columbia-based investigative journalist and author of six books, will be introducing Dianna Borsi O’Brien at the Thursday, June 22 reading/signing of From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks.

The event will be 5 to 7 p.m. in the Boone County Historical Society at 3801 Ponderosa St. If you can’t attend, the book will continue to be on sale at the BCHS as well as Yellow Dog Bookshop at 8 S. Ninth St.

Of course, all books are works of many hands, but in this case, Weinberg literally helped the book get started.

In 2007, Jon Gehrke called Weinberg about possibly working with Charles W. Gehrke to write his biography but Weinberg didn’t have space in his schedule. So Weinberg suggested Jon Gehrke call his former graduate student and fellow journalist O’Brien — and as they say, the rest is history.

From 2007 to 2009, O’Brien and Charles W. Gehrke worked on the book that outlines Gehrke’s childhood, from his childhood poverty growing up in Canal Lewisville, Ohio, near Coshocton, to his education at Ohio State University to his arrival at the University of Missouri, his NASA work analyzing the moon rocks of the Apollo mission, founding of ABC Labs, which employed 300 people prior to its 2015 buyout, and his family life along the way.

Yet, the book was more than the product of Gehrke and O’Brien’s efforts. The University of Missouri Archives office found crucial materials including a recording of a radio show from the 1970s that featured Gehrke speculating that scientists might actually find life on the moon, something we scoff at today.

Dozens of people gave their time during interviews, replied to email queries and helped during the reporting process for the book. Then when the manuscript was ready, the first edit was done by Karen Pojmann, a fellow journalist who has worked as an editor with several publications. The manuscript went through several other edits as well as the design process by Ginny Booker and publishing processes by Yolanda Ciolli of Compass Flower Press.

And along the way, Weinberg was there with suggestions, support and guidance. Now, he’ll get to give the introduction before the reading and book signing of the author of a book he literally started.

Other options

Can’t attend?

  • Come to see O’Brien at 11 a.m. on Saturday at Barnes & Noble in the Columbia Mall for local author’s day.
  • Yellow Dog Bookshop at 8 S. Ninth St. has the book on its shelves.
  • Contact O’Brien via this website and receive the book by mail for $20 plus tax and shipping.  Buy Now Button
  • The book is on amazon.com as well.

 

 

 

Learn the hows and whys of a fine pairing June 20, 2017

Posted by diannaobrien in ABC Labs, Charles W. Gehrke General, Events.
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On Thursday at a book signing and reading, author Dianna Borsi O’Brien will be talking about how and why the book From the Melon Fields to Moon Rocks came about.

The signing and reading will be 5 to 7 p.m. on June 22 in the Boone County Historical Society at 3801 Ponderosa St.

The book is a biography of a man, entrepreneur and scientist, a result that came about through a fine pairing of a determined man, Charles W. Gehrke, and a persistent, determined journalist. Yes, a fine pairing.

It all started when Jon Gehrke called O’Brien and said he was looking for a writer to help his father write his life’s story. He said they already had a title for the book. O’Brien asked why his father deserved a book. Yes, journalists ask those kind of rude questions.

From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks cover 032917

Jon said his father was an internationally known scientist. In Columbia, with the University of Missouri and two other colleges, the journalist said, those kinds of experts are fairly common. Jon said his father was an entrepreneur as well, having founded ABC Labs, now EAG Laboratories.

O’Brien noted again that in Columbia, Missouri, there are many entrepreneurs. Finally, the journalist noted something unusual about this interchange. The son of a well-known scientist and entrepreneur was calling. Not all successful scientists and business people manage to maintain close, warm family ties that would spur a son to call a cranky, questioning journalist like O’Brien.

Finally, O’Brien said she’d take the job if and only if Charles Gehrke called her. She had no interest in working with someone who wasn’t as determined about the project as she would be.

Several months later, Gehrke called O’Brien to set up a lunch meeting. During that first meeting, the last crucial hurdle came when O’Brien asked Gehrke if he wanted a biography that glossed over anything unpleasant or would she have the freedom to tell about whatever she found? The answer was tell it the way it was.

A fine pairing indeed. The two worked together from 2007 until Gehrke’s 2009 death. Then O’Brien continued to finish the book, using archival materials Gehrke had had stored in his basement, documents from the University of Missouri archives and family archives. Research for the book included interviews with dozens of Gehrke’s family members, friends, associates and former scientist colleagues.

The book, said John Bucksath, an employee of ABC Labs from 1989-2015, including three years as president and CEO, is accurate and concise, and reveals the chemistry that made Gehrke special. He noted, “Anyone who thinks they know Dr. Gehrke’s story should read this book to truly understand the man’s contribution not only to science, but his legacy to his family, the Columbia, Missouri community and beyond.”

The book signing and reading will include a more prosaic pairing. It will include light refreshments and soft drinks and wine for adults. The book will be for sale with or without the signature of the author.

Come and learn how the book went from a son’s suggestion to a biography of a man who rose from poverty to scientific stature that led to his opportunity to analyze moon rocks and start a company that employed 300 people prior to its 2015 buyout by EAG Laboratories.

 

 

 

Yellow Dog and Moon Rocks June 9, 2017

Posted by diannaobrien in ABC Labs, Charles W. Gehrke General, Events.
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So what does Yellow Dog Bookshop have to do with moon rocks? The bookshop at 8 S. Ninth St., Columbia, is now selling the book, “From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks.”

The book is about Charles W. Gehrke, who analyzed for life the moon rocks brought back from the NASA Apollo moon missions from 1969-1972. Gehrke also founded Columbia-based ABC Labs, which employed 300 people prior to its 2015 buyout by global firm EAG Laboratories.

The book, "From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks", now for sale at Yellow Dog Bookshop on Ninth Street, Columbia, Missouri.

The book, “From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks”, now for sale at Yellow Dog Bookshop on Ninth Street, Columbia, Missouri.

If you’d like a signed copy, author Dianna Borsi O’Brien will be signing and reading from the book from 5 to 7 p.m. on June 22 at the Boone County Historical Society at 3801 Ponderosa St., Columbia, Missouri. RSVP to dobrien387@gmail.com

Or you can buy a signed copy of the biography and have it shipped to you directly for $20, plus tax and shipping.

Buy Now Button

So what’s From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks about?

Charles W. Gehrke was unflinching. Determined. Persistent.

He grew up among the poorest of the poor, yet carried only happy memories of those early years. Out of necessity he learned the value of hard work, as he and his brother helped support their family even as children — but he never complained and never stopped working even during his final days on this earth.

In the 1960s, his work searching for amino acids, the building blocks of life, drew the attention of NASA which would soon launch missions to the moon. Charles was tapped to investigate the lunar samples for signs of life. Spoiler alert: He didn’t find any — but a transcript I uncovered of a radio program from that time shows that he thought he would.

In 1968, he did something else unusual at the time and brought his research to the marketplace, launching ABC Labs, a firm that was the first tenant of Columbia, Missouri’s research park, Discovery Ridge. The company employed 300 people before it was purchased by EAG Laboratories, a global scientific services company headquartered in San Diego.

The book, From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks highlights the adventurous life of Charles W. Gehrke, a biochemist, entrepreneur and family man.

Published by Yolanda Ciolli’s firm, Compass Flower Press, and designed by Ginny Booker, the book was published March 2017.

Buy it here now:

Have a signed copy shipped to you directly for $20, plus tax and shipping.

Buy Now Button

 

 

June 22 signing of From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks June 7, 2017

Posted by diannaobrien in ABC Labs, Charles W. Gehrke General, Events, Publications.
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Come and enjoy light snacks, wine and a reading from the newly published book, “From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks.” The event will be from 5 to 7 p.m. on June 22, 2017 in the Boone County Historical Society at 3801 Ponderosa St., Columbia, Missouri.

The book follows Charles W. Gehrke from his poor childhood in the foothills of the Appalachians to his success as a scientist who analyzed the moon rocks brought back from the Apollo moon landings and an entrepreneur who founded with two colleagues ABC Labs, which employed 300 people before its 2015 buyout by a global firm.

The book will be for sale at the Boone County Historical Society at the event and then in the BCHS’s shop from then on.

What? Can’t make it to this event? More events are coming!

The book is also available directly from the author, Dianna Borsi O’Brien, via this website.

Now available — the biography of Charles W. Gehrke, From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks.

You can buy a signed copy here by clicking the PayPal button below.

The book is also available through  amazon.com and Barnes & Nobel.

A signing and book launch is planned for 5 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 26, 2017 in Orr Street Studios, 106 Orr Street, Columbia. RSVP to Dianna O’Brien at dobrien387@gmail.com

Have it shipped to you directly for $20, plus tax and shipping.

Buy Now Button

So what’s From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks about?

Charles W. Gehrke was unflinching. Determined. Persistent.

He grew up among the poorest of the poor, yet carried only happy memories of those early years. Out of necessity he learned the value of hard work, as he and his brother helped support their family even as children — but he never complained and never stopped working even during his final days on this earth.

In the 1960s, his work searching for amino acids, the building blocks of life, drew the attention of NASA which would soon launch missions to the moon. Charles was tapped to investigate the lunar samples for signs of life. Spoiler alert: He didn’t find any — but a transcript the author uncovered of a radio program from that time shows that he thought he would.

In 1968, he did something else unusual at the time and brought his research to the marketplace, launching ABC Labs. The company thrived and before its buy out in 2015 it employed about 300 people. Today, ABC Labs now part of EAG Laboratories, a global scientific services company headquartered in San Diego.

The book, From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks highlights the adventurous life of Charles W. Gehrke, a biochemist, entrepreneur and family man.

Published by Yolanda Ciolli’s firm, Compass Flower Press, and designed by Ginny Booker, the book was released in April 2017.

Have it shipped to you directly for $20, plus tax and shipping.

Buy Now Button

 

Melon Fields book launched April 27, 2017

Posted by diannaobrien in Publications.
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With a headline of “From Columbia to the moon: Charles Gehrke’s biography charts his path, the Columbia Missourian published an article about the book “From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks.”

Written by Marta Payne and published April 27, 2017, it provides an excellent summary of the book and Gehrke’s accomplishments. It also notes that the inaugural book launch was held on Wednesday, April 26.

If you missed the event, another book signing will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. on June 22, 2017 in the Boone County Historical Society. If you want to read the book now, you can buy it here or from Yellow Dog Bookshop at 8 S. Ninth St., Columbia Missouri.

You can also buy it here now by clicking the PayPal button below.From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks cover 032917

The book is also available through  amazon.com and Barnes & Nobel.

Have it shipped to you directly for $20, plus tax and shipping.

Buy Now Button

Here’s more about  “From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks.”

Charles W. Gehrke was unflinching. Determined. Persistent.

He grew up among the poorest of the poor, yet carried only happy memories of those early years. Out of necessity he learned the value of hard work, as he and his brother helped support the family even as children — but he never complained and never stopped working even during his final days on this earth.

In the 1960s, his work searching for amino acids, the building blocks of life, drew the attention of NASA, which would soon launch missions to the moon. Gehrke was tapped to investigate the lunar samples for signs of life. Spoiler alert: He didn’t find any — but a transcript the author uncovered of a radio program from that time shows that he thought he would.

In 1968, he did something else unusual at the time and brought his research to the marketplace, launching ABC Labs. The company thrived and before its buy out in 2015 it employed about 300 people. Today, ABC Labs now part of EAG Laboratories, a global scientific services company headquartered in San Diego.

The book, “From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks” highlights the adventurous life of Gehrke, an MU biochemist, entrepreneur and family man.

Published by Yolanda Ciolli’s firm, Compass Flower Press, and designed by Ginny Booker, the book was released in April 2017.

Have it shipped to you directly for $20, plus tax and shipping.

Buy Now Button

The story behind melon fields and moon rocks at book signing April 26, 2017 April 23, 2017

Posted by diannaobrien in Charles W. Gehrke General, Events.
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“From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks,” the book about Charles W. Gehrke will be officially launched with a book signing from 5 to 7 pm. on Wednesday, April 26, 2017 in Orr Street Studios in Columbia, Missouri.

Perhaps you’re wondering what melon fields have to do with moon rocks? Dianna Borsi O’Brien will talk about that and the man behind the science at the book launch and signing.

Charles W. Gehrke eats a water melon on the fields he worked in Canal Lewisville, Ohio, circa 1928.

Charles W. Gehrke eats a water melon on the fields he worked in Canal Lewisville, Ohio, circa 1928.

Can’t make it? Here’s the connection: Gehrke, an MU biochemistry professor and founder of ABC Labs, literally worked his way up to those positions. He spent his youth working as a field hand to help support his mother and four siblings. Here’s a photo of Charles, circa 1928, taking some time off.

You’ll be able to buy a signed copy on Wednesday or buy it here now by clicking the PayPal button below.From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks cover 032917

The book is also available through  amazon.com and Barnes & Nobel.

Have it shipped to you directly for $20, plus tax and shipping.

Buy Now Button

Here’s more about  “From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks.”

Charles W. Gehrke was unflinching. Determined. Persistent.

He grew up among the poorest of the poor, yet carried only happy memories of those early years. Out of necessity he learned the value of hard work, as he and his brother helped support the family even as children — but he never complained and never stopped working even during his final days on this earth.

In the 1960s, his work searching for amino acids, the building blocks of life, drew the attention of NASA, which would soon launch missions to the moon. Gehrke was tapped to investigate the lunar samples for signs of life. Spoiler alert: He didn’t find any — but a transcript the author uncovered of a radio program from that time shows that he thought he would.

In 1968, he did something else unusual at the time and brought his research to the marketplace, launching ABC Labs. The company thrived and before its buy out in 2015 it employed about 300 people. Today, ABC Labs now part of EAG Laboratories, a global scientific services company headquartered in San Diego.

The book, “From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks” highlights the adventurous life of Gehrke, an MU biochemist, entrepreneur and family man.

Published by Yolanda Ciolli’s firm, Compass Flower Press, and designed by Ginny Booker, the book was released in April 2017.

Have it shipped to you directly for $20, plus tax and shipping.

Buy Now Button

Available now — From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks March 30, 2017

Posted by diannaobrien in ABC Labs, Charles W. Gehrke General, Events, Publications.
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Now available — the biography of Charles W. Gehrke, From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks.From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks cover 032917

You can buy a signed copy here by clicking the PayPal button below.

The book is also available through  amazon.com and Barnes & Nobel.

A signing and book launch is planned for 5 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 26, 2017 in Orr Street Studios, 106 Orr Street, Columbia. RSVP to Dianna O’Brien at dobrien387@gmail.com

Have it shipped to you directly for $20, plus tax and shipping.

Buy Now Button

So what’s From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks about?

Charles W. Gehrke was unflinching. Determined. Persistent.

He grew up among the poorest of the poor, yet carried only happy memories of those early years. Out of necessity he learned the value of hard work, as he and his brother helped support their family even as children — but he never complained and never stopped working even during his final days on this earth.

In the 1960s, his work searching for amino acids, the building blocks of life, drew the attention of NASA which would soon launch missions to the moon. Charles was tapped to investigate the lunar samples for signs of life. Spoiler alert: He didn’t find any — but a transcript the author uncovered of a radio program from that time shows that he thought he would.

In 1968, he did something else unusual at the time and brought his research to the marketplace, launching ABC Labs. The company thrived and before its buy out in 2015 it employed about 300 people. Today, ABC Labs now part of EAG Laboratories, a global scientific services company headquartered in San Diego.

The book, From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks highlights the adventurous life of Charles W. Gehrke, a biochemist, entrepreneur and family man.

Published by Yolanda Ciolli’s firm, Compass Flower Press, and designed by Ginny Booker, the book was released in April 2017.

Have it shipped to you directly for $20, plus tax and shipping.

Buy Now Button

NASA and Charles W. Gehrke September 14, 2011

Posted by diannaobrien in Uncategorized.
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Today’s NY Times article about NASA announcement about developing a powerful rocket to take astronauts into deep space could make it easy to forget how uncertain space travel even to the moon once was.

The history of NASA’s early plans to land on the moon is part of the still to be published autobiography of Charles W. Gehrke, From the Melon Fields to the Moon.

In researching for the book, I found a recording of an interview of Charles for a University of Missouri radio program called “University Up-Close.” The program is archived and made available by University Archives, Division of Special Collections, Archives and Rare Books of the MU Libraries at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

In the program, Charles says,

“I doubt there’s much question that what we might find will be either one of two things: We’ll find absolutely nothing except for a bunch of rocks with all the inorganic material in them or it will be at the other extreme, that there will be considerable organic materials in these samples as well as even the possibility as rather complex organic molecules. I really believe we will find these molecules.” (Material provided by the University Archives, University of Missouri-Columbia.)

Today, we take it for granted there’s no life on the moon and no danger of killer germs from our nearest space neighbor, but at the time, when the first person walked on the moon on July 20, 1969, things weren’t as certain.

But what’s important is that Charles and his team of scientists — like those at NASA today — persevered despite the unknowns at the time. That’s a powerful lesson Charles’ autobiography can still teach us, that it is persistence that makes the difference between success and failure.