Stella Maxwell
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Gay Rights
Activist, Teleidoscope Inventor John Burnside Dead at 91

John Burnside,
noted gay rights activist, partner of the late gay rights
pioneer Harry Hay, and the inventor of a kaleidoscope-like
device called the teleidoscope, died Sunday at his
home in San Francisco. He was 91.

Burnside has
recently been diagnosed with spongioblastoma brain cancer,
longtime friend Joey Cain told the Los Angeles
Times.
His life partner, Hay, died in 2002 at the age of
90.

In his early
career Burnside worked as a staff scientist at Lockheed. His
interest in optical engineering led him to invent the
teleidoscope, a variation on the kaleidoscope that
transforms whatever you’re looking at into a
colorful design without the use of colored glass chips.

That creation led
Burnside to launch California Kalidoscopes, which
became a successful design and manufacturing firm in Los
Angeles.

But it is for his
relationship with Hay that gays and lesbians will
best remember Burnside. Hay had started the Mattachine
Society, a pioneering gay rights organization in Los
Angeles, in the 1950s. The couple was together for 39
years.

Burnside and Hay
were a highly visible activist couple in Los Angeles
throughout the ’60s. Together they formed the
Southern California Council on Religion and the
Homophile in 1965. A year later they took part in one
of the country’s first gay rights demonstrations -- a
15-car motorcade through downtown L.A. protesting the
barring of gay men from serving in the military.

"They were
totally committed to peace-and-justice issues on a wide
spectrum of social concerns, including Native American
rights, women's and labor issues, fair employment and
housing -- they were just good social activists," Mark
Thompson, a well-known writer on gay history and
longtime friend of Burnside's, told the Times.

Information on a
memorial service for Burnside in San Francisco is
forthcoming.

Donations in
Burnside's memory to continue his and Hay's activist work
may be made to the Harry Hay Fund, c/o Chas Nol, 174 1/2
Hartford St., San Francisco, CA 94114. (Ross von
Metzke, The Advocate)

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