carnegie mellon

Astronomy Club

Truman Kohman Observatory

The Truman Kohman Observatory (TKO) is Astronomy Club's very own astronomical observatory, complete with a sturdy elevated platform, alt-azimuth mounted Dobsonian reflector telescope, and rollaway roof. Located in the penthouse of Scaife Hall (above the fourth floor), TKO first opened in 1986. The CMU Astronomy Club has continuously maintained and operated TKO since then.

TKO's namesake is the late professor Truman P. Kohman, who advised the CMU Astronomy Club for many years, officially and unofficially, and taught at CMU. He also worked on the Manhattan Project as a chemist. Jump to Truman's bio here.

Truman Kohman Biography

Professor Truman P. Kohman (1916-2010)

Truman P. Kohman was born in Champaign, IL, the son of a chemist who worked for Campbell Soup. Kohman was fascinated from an early age with astronomy and the cosmos, and though his father steered him more toward a career in chemistry, he maintained his interest in star-gazing and astronomy as a life-long hobby.

Kohman attended Harvard University, earning an undergraduate degree in chemistry in 1938. He earned a doctorate in chemistry from the University of Wisconsin shortly thereafter.

Following the completion of his graduate degree, Dr. Kohman was hired to work on the Manhattan Project as a researcher in the field of radiochemistry. He was not aware at the time that his efforts would be applied to create the atomic bomb, and later became a strong anti-war advocate.

Dr. Kohman taught chemistry at Carnegie Tech and Carnegie Mellon from 1948 to 1981, making significant contributions to several fields. In 1954, he assisted in the discovery of Aluminum-26 (which can be used to find the terrestrial age of meteorites), and coined the term "nuclide" to describe it. He was also given the chance to analyze some of the first lunar specimens returned to Earth following the Apollo 11 landing.

During his time at CMU, he continued to nourish his interest in astronomy. Dr. Kohman was a dedicated member of the Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh. In 1969, he became the advisor for the newly formed CMU Astronomy Club, founded to promote amateur astronomy and an appreciation of the cosmos in and around the Carnegie Mellon campus.

In 1986, Dr. Kohman helped the CMU Astronomy Club undertake one of its most ambitious efforts: creating an observatory on the roof of Scaife Hall. Upon its completion, the CMU Astronomy Club dedicated the Truman P. Kohman Observatory in his honor.

In 2000, the International Astronomical Union named a minor planet (asteroid) in honor of Kohman's contributions to the field: 4177 Kohman (discovered 1987)

Dr. Kohman's children donated one of his telescopes to the CMU Astronomy Club in 2012. This telescope is an 8-inch Celestron C8 built in the mid-1970s and purchased by Dr. Kohman. He used the telescope during his travels around the world to observe, among other events, solar eclipses and the 1997 passage of Hale-Bopp comet. The telescope is left intact with Professor Kohman's unique modifications, including a distinctive shower cap to cover the aperture.

Obituary in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette