TITLE: Scanlon, Leo John



Born: April 30, 1903; second born of 12 surviving children (9 boys and 3 girls)

Died: November 27, 1999, Pittsburgh



Father: John Scanlon

Mother: Mary (Knoebel) Scanlon

Married: Yes

Children: Yes

Occupation: Plumber




On June 9, 1929, he co-founded (with Chester B. Roe) the Amateur Astronomers' Association of Pittsburgh. With nearly 550 members, it is one of the largest such clubs in the nation.


On November 23, 1930, his private observatory was dedicated next to his North Side Pittsburgh home, which included the world's first all-aluminum observatory dome! In 1998, a Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission historical marker was dedicated near the site of the original Valley View Observatory, which was the unofficial observatory of the Amateur Astronomers' Association of Pittsburgh for many years.


Following a visit to America's first major planetarium, Adler Planetarium in Chicago, Leo, and other AAAP members, lobbied foundations and government officials to have a planetarium built in Pittsburgh. Their efforts were successful with the opening of The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science on October 24, 1939. This was no small feat, particularly in the middle of the Great Depression. Along with Allegheny Observatory Director Nicholas E. Wagman, Leo was one of the first two planetarium lecturers in the new facility.


Leo, at the urging of Harvard College Observatory Director Harlow Shapley, worked hard to form the Astronomical League, which was officially established in July of 1947, at a meeting at Fels Planetarium, Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. One of the early organizational meetings occurred in the Summer of 1940 at The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science in Pittsburgh; however, World War II delayed the official establishment of the organization.

Photograph Album: Leo J. Scanlon

Buhl Planetarium Assists in Creation of
The Astronomical League

“Leo J. Scanlon Amateur Astronomer, Built First Aluminum-Domed Observatory.” Obituary.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 1999 Nov. 29: A-15.

"Astronomers Await 'Transit Of Mercury'."
The Pittsburgh Press 1940 Nov. 1: 5.
Pittsburgh's Buhl Planetarium to broadcast information program on upcoming Transit of Mercury on KQV radio.
Buhl Planetarium Director Arthur L. Draper credited Pittsburgh's "No. 1" amateur astronomer, Leo Scanlon, with
proposing the radio broadcast of the event.


BIOGRAPHICAL WEB SITE: < http://old.3ap.org/features/leo/leoScanlonBio1.shtml >



Glenn A. Walsh, free-lance writer and Internet web page designer. Former Planetarium Lecturer and Astronomical Observatory Coordinator, Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science, Pittsburgh. Former Treasurer and Trustee, Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall, Carnegie, Pa. The author can be contacted by electronic mail:

< gawalsh@planetarium.cc >.


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