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Baldauf, Hans B.

Renaissance Man and Planetarium Champion


In 1966, five months after his death at the age of 73, the Kalamazoo Public Library honored the local scientist Hans B. Baldauf, by naming the museum’s planetarium after the German emigre. At the time of his death, the Kalamazoo Gazette’s obituary of Baldauf describes the Renaissance Man in the following way:

“His death ended a 32-year record of personal contributions to the community’s intellectual, artistic and scientific life.”

“Baldauf was a man of many talents. He was an engineering draftsman who designed the aerial bridge of Chicago’s Wrigley Building; a cellist who toured the country professionally and played in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and with the Kalamazoo Symphony; a sculptor, photographer and mathematician.”

Born in Freiberg, Germany in 1892, Baldauf’s move to Kalamazoo from Chicago in 1933 came about because of his association with music. He and his wife Lillian Pringle Baldauf were both professional cellists who toured with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Music may have brought him and his wife to Kalamazoo during the Great Depression, but it was still necessary to find work outside of the KSO, and so he soon took a position in the art department of the Kalamazoo Vegetable Parchment Company. In 1951, he left KVP for a job at International Paper Company, retiring there in 1958, a year before his dream would be realized.

Hans Baldauf, Museography, Fall 2009

Despite his many areas of interest, he will mostly be remembered for his steadfast efforts to raise public awareness of the importance of science, specifically the study of astronomy, an impassioned focus that later would prompt the library’s director, Dr. Mark Crum, to push the Kalamazoo Board of Education to honor Baldauf’s memory. Baldauf was the community’s most vocal advocate for the creation of the museum planetarium. As president of the Kalamazoo Amateur Astronomical Association, he led the fundraising efforts to pay for the planetarium’s construction, working with “local business and educational leaders for three years in planning the planetarium.” (KG 1-4-66) Finally, on 23 May 1959 the museum’s planetarium opened for public use. Baldauf suggested that his life-long interest in astronomy began when he observed Halley’s Comet in 1910.

 

Written by Ryan Gage, Kalamazoo Public Library staff, December 2022

 

Sources

Articles

“Musician’s sculpture to be exhibited at Art House”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 3 December 1934

“Kalamazoo scientist dies at 73”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 11 November 1965, page 21, column 4

“Planetarium here named after late Hans Baldauf”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 4 January 1966, page10, column 1

“Hans Baldauf: He brought the stars to Kalamazoo”
Museography, Fall 2009, page 8

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