Most recently of Galena, Ill., and Palm Springs, Kahn was born Oct. 14, 1931 in New York City to Bess and Mac Kahn. He received a bachelor's of science in geology from City College of New York, a master's degree in statistics from Pennsylvania State University and a Ph.D. in geophysics from the University of Chicago.
Kahn began his career as a professor of geology at the University of Rhode Island in 1956. He left the university in 1960 to join the chemistry division at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (then the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory). Kahn worked on the Pluto project, an attempt to build a nuclear-powered rocket and the Plowshare program, a project aimed at using nuclear explosives for civil applications. In 1969, he left the Lab for two years to work for Physics International in San Leandro after it acquired a company he and other Lab employees had founded to manufacture synthetic gemstones. Kahn rejoined the Lab in 1971 as the deputy leader of K Division. He next worked to establish the first Human Resources department at LLNL, and became the deputy associate director of Human Resources and Laboratory Relations in 1976. He followed that role as associate director for the nuclear test program in 1978, before moving to his position as the Laboratory associate director in 1980. As the Laboratory associate director, Kahn served as director in then-Director Roger Batzel's absence.
Kahn left the Lab in 1987, moving to Chicago, Ill., to become president and CEO of the Museum of Science and Industry. He led a major renovation and introduced several innovative exhibits at the museum including; a Boeing 727 suspended from the second-floor balcony; the world's first scientific exhibit on HIV/AIDS; an interactive exhibit on the brain and memory; an exhibit on Swedish inventions opened by Queen Sophie of Sweden; and led the museum's effort in the production of the IMAX film, "Antarctica."
Kahn leaves behind his wife of 59 years, Barbara; children, Douglas, Pamela and Randall Kahn; daughter-in-law, Erin Kahn and son-in-law, Henry Hofilena; grandchildren, Emily and Patrick Kahn, and Caroline and Geoffrey Ganzberger.
Kahn traveled the world with his wife. He enjoyed spending time with family and close friends and will be remembered by them for his love, support, mentoring, generosity and zest for life. Services will be private. Online condolences may be left for the family at the Furlong Chapel Website .