Irwin Mark Pikus died on April 6 at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Hanover, N.H. He was 86.

He was born on April 21, 1936 in Philadelphia, Pa., the first child of Harry Pikus and Ida Kolnik. Harry’s army career took the family to Paris, France and Hanau, Germany. In 1949, amidst the wake of World War II, Irwin celebrated his bar mitzvah in Hanau.

He studied physics as an undergraduate at Drexel University and then obtained a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Pennsylvania-Temple University.

On spring break in Miami Beach while in graduate school he met a beautiful young New Yorker, Anita Tolleris, who was also on vacation. Following a brief engagement, Irwin and Anita married on Dec. 20, 1959. The young couple settled in Philadelphia where their son Hal was born in 1964. Irwin worked at General Electric’s space sciences lab.

After receiving his J.D. in 1972 and writing several papers on space law, he accepted an invitation to join the State Department’s new bureau of oceans, environment and science. He became the deputy director of the Office of Advanced Technology, where he oversaw civilian space affairs and assisted in other areas relating to technology and diplomacy. He was a charter member of the senior executive service. He then moved to the National Science Foundation as the head of strategic planning. He ended his government career working at the Department of Commerce’s bureau of export administration.

In addition, he taught the subject of space law as adjunct faculty at Georgetown University and the University of Virginia. He was also a member of President Clinton’s commission on critical infrastructure protection.

Irwin possessed an intellect of tremendous depth and breadth and constant curiosity about the world around him. He encouraged challenging and deep conversations but possessed the rare ability to make his conversational partners feel heard and respected, even in disagreement.

He was also an exceptional fisherman although it is up for debate whether he more enjoyed catching the fish or standing in the surf for hours, staring out at the ocean and pondering or discussing any topic.

He was a passionate photographer with particular aptitude for nature. From his teenage years until the digital photographic age, he maintained a darkroom.

After Anita’s death in 2007, Irwin found the second great love of his life, Sallyann Sack. They married joyfully on Oct. 12, 2008. They moved to Kendal in Hanover, N.H. in 2018 and summered on Martha’s Vineyard. He was the devoted patriarch of his large, blended family and loved following the adventures of his children, grandchildren and brand- new great-grandchild.

Irwin and Sallyann loved the Vineyard and spent every summer of their marriage there, hosting all their children, grandchildren and many friends. Irwin especially loved the Thursday morning Writers Group at the Oak Bluffs library. Other favorites included the Summer Institute at the Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center and the many lectures offered, especially by libraries Islandwide. One summer, he indulged his genealogy passion and photographed all the tombstones in the Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Cemetery and posted them on a Jewish genealogy burial website.

Irwin is survived by his wife Sallyann; his brother Ed and his wife Lisa; his son Hal, his wife Kelly and their children Lia, Hank and Adele; Sallyann’s children Bob and his wife Lori Sack, Beth Felber and her husband Dan, and Kathy Solomon and her husband Greg; grandchildren Benjamin and his wife Laura, Daniel and his spouse Sivan, Matthew, Emily and her husband Eli, Adam, Julia, Olivia and Jacob; and great-grandson Max.

A memorial service will be held at the Roth Center in Hanover, N.H. on Sunday, April 16 at 12:15 p.m.