Friday, February 17, 2012

Former Buhl Planetarium & Observatory Lecturer Bestowed as Kent State University Professor Emeritus

Francis G. Graham, Director, Christine Alley Observatory, East Pittsburgh PA
Former Planetarium Lecturer Francis G. Graham is shown at the
Planetarium Control Console, for the historic
Zeiss II Planetarium Projector of Pittsburgh's original
Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science, in September of 1982.

Former Planetarium and Observatory Lecturer, of Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science, Francis G. Graham has been bestowed the title, Professor Emeritus of Physics of Kent State University. The Kent State University Board of Trustees approved the designation on 2011 December 13, shortly after Professor Graham's retirement from the University. This Board of Trustees action is documented in the "Kent State University Summary of Board Actions from Dec. 13":

The University Faculty had unanimously recommended this action, without receiving a request from Professor Graham. Professor Graham was honored by this designation and said, "I was just doing my thing. I love explaining stuff and dreaming up new stuff. It's a love that was nurtured by the environment at Buhl Planetarium."

Explaining stuff and dreaming up new stuff is something Professor Graham has been doing his entire life. While in high school, in December of 1964, Professor Graham was one of the key founding members of the Tripoli Science Club, which grew into a national organization known today as the Tripoli Rocketry Association. You can learn more about the history of this organization at this link:

Professor Graham received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Science and a Master of Science degree in Astronomy from the University of Pittsburgh. Before joining the faculty of Kent State University, Professor Graham taught at the Community College of Beaver County Pennsylvania. During his years at Kent State University, he was based at the University's East Liverpool Campus, although he did teach at other campuses including the main campus. Professor Graham is the author of a book titled, Monocopters (Apogee Components, 1999), as well as numerous professional research papers.

Professor Graham served as a Planetarium and Observatory Lecturer at Buhl Planetarium from 1979 to 1988. He provided expert commentary to the public during special Buhl Planetarium events, such as the live coverage of the Voyager 2 encounter with Planet Uranus, in January of 1986, when live images from the NASA satellite channel were piped into Buhl's Little Science Theater.

The photograph of the waxing crescent Moon, below, was taken by Professor Graham using the rather unique 10-inch Siderostat-type Refractor Telescope, in the third floor astronomical observatory of Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science. Photographs, similar to this one, were compiled by Professor Graham to assist with a national research project to better map the area near the Moon's South Pole. Although the original Buhl Planetarium Observatory was primarily used to show the public the Moon, planets, stars, and sunspots and granulation on the surface of the Sun, this was one of the rare instances when the Siderostat Telescope was used for scientific research.

During his time at Buhl Planetarium, Professor Graham founded the American Lunar Society in 1984. This actually started as a spin-off of, what was then known as, the Tripoli Rocket Club. However, with many new members from around the nation, the American Lunar Society quickly grew to an organization dedicated to professional lunar research.

Ten years ago, Professor Graham joined the steering committee of a new organization, Friends of the Zeiss, which is dedicated to promoting the history and preservation of Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science, including the historic Zeiss II Planetarium Projector and 10-inch Siderostat-type Refractor Telescope. In addition to a complete history of The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science on the Friends of the Zeiss web site, the web site also provides links to current news in the topics of Astronomy and Space Sciences, as well as a monthly Astronomical Calendar:

During a Friends of the Zeiss special event, in June of 2004, when several members used telescopes to show the general public the extremely rare Transit of the Planet Venus across the image of the Sun, Professor Graham used his 7-inch f/15 refractor telescope for a superb view of the event:

He usually uses this telescope at a private observatory near his suburban Pittsburgh residence. And, once the transit event concluded at 7:26 a.m. EDT, Professor Graham turned his telescope to the southern sky to show the public the Moon. This Friends of the Zeiss event was the only such event in the City of Pittsburgh open to the general public.

You can learn more about Professor Graham at this link:


Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director,
Friends of the Zeiss < >
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Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
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* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
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* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
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* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
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* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
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* Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
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* Public Transit:
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