Richard H. Emmons
Small Planetarium Pioneer
(1919 to 2005)

Dick Emmons receives award in 2002, from the Wilderness Center Astronomy Club, recognition of exceptional achievement in amateur astronomy and astronomy education.
Richard "Dick" Emmons (on the left) receives a Special Achievement Award in recognition of exceptional achievement in amateur astronomy and astronomy education, from the Wilderness Center Astronomy Club of Northeast Ohio. The award was presented to Mr. Emmons on 2002 August 30, as the minor planet (asteroid) 5391 Emmons (named for Mr. Emmons, by the International Astronomical Union, on 2000 June 8) neared opposition, the closest approach to Earth. (Click on the photograph to enlarge the image; press "back" button on browser to return to this page.)

Authored By Glenn A. Walsh *** Sponsored By Friends of the Zeiss
Electronic Mail: < emmonsbio@planetarium.cc > *** Internet Web Site Cover Page: < http://www.planetarium.cc >
2006 May

Richard H. "Dick" Emmons, of North Canton, Ohio, spent nearly his entire life popularizing Astronomy. He became interested in Astronomy at age 12, when he read a Popular Science magazine article about an asteroid that might hit the Earth. He then read every book on Astronomy in the Canton Public Library.

The Canton Public Library was one of the 1,681 public library buildings constructed in the United States by industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. This Carnegie library building opened to the public as the new home of the Canton Public Library on 1905 November 5, after a $60,00 Carnegie grant was given for library construction on 1901 April 15. It is no coincidence that November 5 was chosen as the opening day, as November 5 is celebrated in England as Guy Fawkes Day, for the failed plot to blow-up Britain's Houses of Parliament and kill King James I (originally James VI of Scotland) in 1605 (exactly 300 years earlier). Scottish native Andrew Carnegie considered this event so important that several of the public libraries he built were dedicated on November 5, including The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (1895) and the Carnegie Library of Homestead, Pennsylvania (1898). Although an addition was constructed in 1941 to this Canton Public Library building, it was replaced with a much larger Stark County District Library in May of 1980, which utilizes solar energy to heat and cool the building. The original Carnegie library building, which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on 1982 July 15, has been completely restored and is now home to three law firms.

In his teen years, Mr. Emmons built telescopes, provided sidewalk telescope observing sessions for the public, gave public lectures, wrote newspaper articles, and gave radio addresses, in his effort to educate the public on Astronomy. At age 18, he was the youngest person to ever be nominated for membership in the American Astronomical Society (AAS), receiving the membership appointment two years later. He, then, reamined a AAS member for 66 years until his death.

In 1949, Mr. Emmons became interested in small planetaria, which would give students in college and high school classrooms the same experience as audiences found in the nation's six large planetaria. Five major planetaria were installed in the United States prior to World War II: Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum (Chicago, 1930), Fels Planetarium of Franklin Institute (Philadelphia, 1934), Griffith Observatory and Planetarium (Los Angeles, 1935), original Hayden Planetarium of the American Museum of Natural History (New York, 1935), and The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science (Pittsburgh, 1939).

In 1949, a major planetarium was constructed at the University of North Carolina (UNC) campus at Chapel Hill. As much of the Carl Zeiss planetarium factory in Jena, Germany was bombed by the Allies during World War II, no new Zeiss planetarium projectors would be produced until the mid-1950s (and two German Zeiss companies, one on each side of the "Iron Curtain," would then build planetarium projectors). So, UNC alumnus John Motley Morehead III, a successful businessman and chemist, purchased a Zeiss II Planetarium Projector for the new UNC planetarium, from the planetarium that had operated in Stockholm, Sweden before World War II; Mr. Morehead had previously been the American Ambassador to Sweden. The Morehead Planetarium opened to the public on 1949 May 10. Mr. Emmons was Program Chairman and Head Lecturer of Morehead Planetarium for several months in 1952, returning to Ohio after his father's sudden death.

Prior to his employment at Morehead Planetarium, Mr. Emmons conceived the idea of building a planetarium at the Canton, Ohio branch campus of Kent State University, where he was teaching Astronomy and Physics in 1949. On 1949 May 1, more than 50 students and faculty members, from the Canton campus of Kent State University, took a field trip to visit the closest major planetarium: Buhl Planetarium in Pittsburgh. In the following weeks, several students again visited Buhl Planetarium.

The following Autumn, several of the 15 students enrolled in Mr. Emmons' Introduction to Physical Science 162 course had attended the Buhl Planetarium field trip and were enthusiastic about the experience. Following classroom discussions, and more discussions during non-classroom hours, these students agreed to help Mr. Emmons construct a classroom planetarium at the Canton campus of Kent State University.

The first demonstration of the completed Canton campus planetarium occurred on 1949 December 1. The cost of the completed planetarium was approximately $100 and used a small grain silo as the projection dome. The planetarium was used, not only for the Astronomy courses, but also for Canton campus courses in Geometry, Geography, and even a Children's Literature course for the study of Mythology. During after-school hours, several extra-curricular groups also visited this new planetarium including the Dramatic Club, French Club, German Club, Pre-Engineering Club, and the Future Teachers of America. Early in 1950, it was also decided to extend invitations to public school groups to visit the planetarium; thirty‑two public school groups made field trips to the university to see the planetarium.

Mr. Emmons went on to construct 17 small planetarium projectors, sold as "TSA Planetarium Projectors" to institutions in Ohio, New York, Illinois, Maine, Tennessee, Texas, Minnesota, Kansas, Iowa, and even one in England. Mr. Emmons' son Tom, who recently retired from the Kent State University Physics Department, participated in the production of these projectors. One projector, sold to Gary Likert of Gallatin, Tennessee, led to the establishment of the Home Planetarium Association.

Kent State University Physics and Astronomy Professor Francis G. Graham, who founded the American Lunar Society in the 1980s and was a long-time Planetarium Lecturer at Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium, also purchased one of Mr. Emmons' "star balls." For the first issue of the official newsletter of the Home Planetarium Association, Mr. Graham wrote an article about a small planetarium installation in the Pittsburgh suburb of McKeesport.

For his Kent State University Master of Arts thesis in 1950, Mr. Emmons completely described the construction and operation of the classroom planetarium constructed for the Canton Campus of Kent State University in 1949. With the purchase of a TSA Planetarium Projector, Mr. Emmons also provided Mr. Graham a copy of this thesis and gave Mr. Graham permission to use the thesis for any educational purpose. Hence, Mr. Graham has kindly provided a digital copy of this thesis to Friends of the Zeiss, for inclusion on this web site.

Canton campus closed, North Canton planetarium, then Hoover-Price Planetarium and Jeanne Bishop

Hoover-Price Planetarium, Canton, Ohio.

The Richard H. Emmons Award for Excellence in College Astronomy Teaching
by Jeanne and Alan Bishop--Jeanne a member (former officer?) of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific

Links from e-mail

clean-up thesis copy


Other Internet Web Sites of Interest

History of The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science, Pittsburgh -
Which Housed the Oldest Operable Major Planetarium Projector in the World !

History of The Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum, Chicago -
America's First Major Planetarium !

History of Astronomer, Educator, and Optician John A. Brashear

History of Andrew Carnegie and Carnegie Libraries

The Duquesne Incline, Pittsburgh -
Historic Cable Car Railway Serving Commuters and Tourists since 1877 !

Other History Links


Richard H. Emmons
Small Planetarium Pioneer
(1919 to 2005)

Authored By Glenn A. Walsh *** Sponsored By Friends of the Zeiss
Electronic Mail: < emmonsbio@planetarium.cc > *** Internet Web Site Cover Page: < http://www.planetarium.cc >
This Internet Web Page: < http://venustransit.pghfree.net/bio/emmons.html >
2006 May

NEWS: Planetarium, Astronomy, Space, and Other Sciences

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Internet Web Site Master Index for the History of
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Disclaimer Statement: This Internet Web Site is not affiliated with the Andrew Carnegie Free Library,
Ninth Pennsylvania Reserves Civil War Reenactment Group, Henry Buhl, Jr. Planetarium and Observatory,
The Carnegie Science Center, The Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh/Carnegie Institute, or The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

This Internet, World Wide Web Site administered by Glenn A. Walsh.
Unless otherwise indicated, all pages in this web site are --
Copyright 2006, Glenn A. Walsh, All Rights Reserved.
Contact Web Site Administrator: < emmonsbio@planetarium.cc >.

This Internet World Wide Web page created 2006 April 5 to May 17.
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