Kansas University will establish a new professorship in physics, thanks to a $1.8 million gift from the estate of an alumnus who — shortly after earning his master’s degree from KU — worked at Los Alamos on the project to develop the atomic bomb.
The gift from Ernest D. Klema, who died in 2008, and his wife Virginia Klema, also a scientist, who died in 2015, will create the J.D. Stranathan Professorship of Experimental Physics in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, KU Endowment announced Wednesday.
Carl Lejuez, dean of KU’s College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, said he was “incredibly grateful” for the gift.
“Having the ability to recruit leading researchers in experimental physics enhances our opportunities for innovation and research excellence at KU and continues Ernest Klema’s legacy of scientific discovery,” Lejuez said, in KU Endowment’s news release.
Klema earned his bachelor’s degree in 1941 and his master’s degree in physics in 1942 from KU, according to KU Endowment. While working on his doctorate at Princeton University, his project was transferred to Los Alamos in New Mexico, where he worked on the Manhattan project to develop the atomic bomb.
After World War II, Klema completed his doctorate in physics from Rice University and worked at several universities and labs before becoming a professor and dean of engineering at Tufts University, where he finished his career.
Stranathan was a KU professor and physics department chair, who Klema studied under as a graduate student at KU. Stranathan is known for writing a pioneering textbook, "The 'Particles' of Modern Physics.”