John Burnside (inventor)

For the Scottish writer (born 1955), see John Burnside.
John Burnside
Born John Lyon Burnside III
(1916-11-02)November 2, 1916
Seattle, Washington, United States
Died September 14, 2008(2008-09-14) (aged 91)
San Francisco, California, United States
Occupation Gay rights activist, Inventor
Spouse(s) Edith Sinclair
Partner(s) Harry Hay (1962–2002)

John Lyon Burnside III (November 2, 1916 – September 14, 2008) was the inventor of the teleidoscope, the darkfield kaleidoscope and the Symmetricon.[1] Because he rediscovered the math behind kaleidoscope optics, for decades, every maker of optically correct kaleidoscopes sold in the United States paid him royalties. Harry Hay was his life partner from 1962 until Hay's death in 2002. He was living in San Francisco, California,[2] at the time of his death on September 14, 2008 from complications of brain cancer.[3]

Early life

An only child born in Seattle, he was raised by his mother after his father abandoned the family; being poor, she periodically placed her son in the care of orphanages.

He served briefly in the United States Navy, and settled in Los Angeles in the 1940s.

Gay rights activism

Burnside and Hay formed a group in the early 1960s called the Circle of Loving Companions that promoted gay rights and gay love. In 1966 they were major planners of one of the first gay parades, a protest against exclusion of homosexuals from the military, held in Los Angeles. In 1967, they appeared as a gay couple on the Joe Pyne television show.

In the late 1970s, they founded, with Don Kilhefner and Mitch Walker, the Radical Faeries.[4]

Personal life

Burnside married Edith Sinclair in Los Angeles. The pair had no children. Burnside later met Harry Hay in 1962 at ONE Incorporated; the two fell in love and became life partners. Burnside died Sunday, September 14, 2008 at the age of 91.


  1. Timmons, Stuart (1990), The Trouble with Harry Hay: Founder of the Modern Gay Movement, Alyson Publications, ISBN 978-1-55583-175-2
  2. Cusac, Anne-Marie (September 1999), "Interview with Harry Hay", The Progressive, retrieved 2008-09-18
  3. Highleyman, Liz (September 18, 2008), "John Burnside dies at 91", Bay Area Reporter, retrieved 2008-09-18
  4. Hay, Harry (1997), Roscoe, Will, ed., Radically Gay, Beacon Press, p. 254, ISBN 0-8070-7081-5

External links

Published obituaries

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