His Life

pk.jpgBorn May 8, 1935, in San Francisco, Paul was the second son of Sigmund Max and Alice Alexandrina Strauch and younger brother of Richard Aaron Kahn. His older brother, Richard Aaron, having been named to honor Sigmund's family, Paul Markham Kalanihukeheionamoku was named in honor of his mother's family, who had been born in the Kingdom of Hawaii.  Markham came from William Archeson Markham, Paul's great-grandfather, who married Konale Kapule, a pure Hawaiian from Kipahulu, Hawaii. Their daughter, Paul's grandmother, was a lady-in-waiting to Queen Emma. His Hawaiian name, Kalanihukiheionamoku, which means 'the great chief who gathered together the islands', had been given originally to Kamehameha. By tradition, it is a name which can only be given by one who has been given the name. Paul was given the name by his mother, who had been given the name by her grandmother.

Paul's family moved from San Francisco to Marin County when Paul was young. Even at that age he greatly resented the move, and after attending Stanford and the University of Michigan, never lived outside a major city. In New York City, where he worked after obtaining his Ph.D, Paul met, and married in 1968, Linda Patricia McClure, a fellow actuary from Jacksonville, Florida. In the 1970's they moved to Los Angeles, and in 1976 to San Francisco. Paul's love of collecting, which started with books, progressed to Georgian silver while in New York, and expanded to furniture and decorative arts when they had their own home. On the other hand, Paul never owned an automobile, and his wardrobe had the sheen of fine old friends.

At the age of 61, Paul died in his home in San Francisco on March 10, 1997, of a heart attack, barely 4 blocks from the home of his childhood.

His Work

Summarizing Paul's work is not a simple task. Not only is the range of his accomplishments wide, but the quality of those accomplishments is unique. To everything he did, he brought not only a great intellect and scrupulous attention to detail, but also a love for, and appreciation of, family, history, truth, and humor.

Scholar, Historian and Genealogist

Although his degrees were in mathematics and actuarial science, Paul had a voracious appetite for learning, and developed an awe-inspiring knowledge of world history and fluency in several languages. A long trip to Europe after graduation from Stanford ensured that he would have an international focus for the rest of his life. He saw world history as a big jigsaw puzzle, which was a great challenge to him to complete.

Intensely devoted to his family, Paul included his family history as part of that jigsaw puzzle.  Paul traced and documented his family's genealogy to the 14th century. Though Paul's immediate family was small, his "cousins" covered the globe.

An Actuarial Career

Precocious as a child, excelling at mathematics in high school, the decision that Paul should pursue an actuarial career was determined during a family meeting. Subsequently graduating as valedictorian of his high school class, as Phi Beta Kappa from Stanford, and winning the tri-ennial prize of the Society of Actuaries for his work in collective risk-theory and its application to stop-loss reinsurance while a Ph.D student in Actuarial Science at the University of Michigan, Paul lived up to his family's expectations for excellence.

Commencing his professional career as an actuary at the Equitable Life Assurance Society in New York City, Paul subsequently worked for Beneficial Standard Life Insurance Company in Los Angeles and Fireman’s Fund in San Francisco before going into private actuarial consulting practice, dividing his time between San Francisco and Hawaii. In the 90s, Paul functioned as the senior actuarial officer for Citicorp’s international insurance operations.  At the time of his death, Paul was serving as adjunct professor of mathematics at San Francisco State University helping to develop an actuarial program.

A Fellow of the Society of Actuaries, Paul was an active member of the actuarial associations of Canada, England, Spain, Switzerland, Germany and Italy, as well as several international actuarial associations. Paul participated in all of the international actuarial congresses beginning with the congress in Brussels in 1960 and ending with the Centennial Celebration in Brussels in 1996. He served as editor of several actuarial publications, including the International Dictionary of Actuarial and Life Insurance Terms, Credibility: Theory and Practice and Computational Probability. Combining his love of book collecting with his career, Paul amassed one of the most comprehensive collections of actuarial literature outside of an institution.

Modest as always regarding his work, Paul generally commented that he would have preferred to be a lawyer when asked about his profession.

The Kahn Collection: "A Proud Collection for Hawaii"

At the age of six or seven, accompanied by his sister-in-law, Paul made the first of many book purchases from Warren Howell, owner of a bookshop specializing in fine, rare and important works. Seeing a large atlas, Paul asked its price.  When told the price was $8, Paul offered $6, all the money he had. Warren accepted the offer, and a long-term relationship began.

The combination of his love for collecting, for history and for his family resulted over time in the Paul Markham Kahn Collection of Hawaiiana, one of the world's most important collections of its kind. Assembled over a period of forty years, the Collection preserves a comprehensive body of Hawaiian material, including printed books, manuscripts and periodicals, with particular emphasis on ancient culture, Western contact with the Pacific islands, and the resulting processes of change: cultural, political and ecological.

The scope and importance of the material was recognized when the State of Hawaii acquired the collection for the Hawaii State Archives.  Extremely pleased that the collection would reside in Hawaii, Paul felt nonetheless that the acquisition imposed on him a continuing obligation.  Paul continued to expand the collection and investigate ways in which it could be safely preserved yet accessible to scholars and historians.  In honor of Mamoru Yamasaki, retired Hawaii State Senator and ILWU leader, Paul and Linda contributed six extremely rare early drawings of Hawaii to the Honolulu Academy of Arts in 1993.  In 1996, they contributed five original manuscript laws signed by King Kamehameha III in 1852 to the Hawaii State Archives.

In the words of his long time friend, Monsignor Charles Kekumano, "[Paul's] contributions to Hawaii cannot be counted".  Through his lifelong efforts to preserve the history of Hawaii, Paul was truly "Kalanihukiheionamoku".

Friend and Advisor

A picture of Paul would be incomplete without understanding the importance of friendship in his life.  It is in the words of tribute and memory from a few of the people who knew him that Paul’s essential character can be felt. 

      "To people who didn't know him, Paul may have seemed aloof, forbidding and prickly.  But to those who knew him, what seemed aloofness was a strong sense of propriety; the forbidding manner, the attention of a scrupulous intellect; and the prickliness, a low tolerance for foolishness.  Paul was a man of great integrity, devotion and sly (indeed sometimes utterly obscure) humor.  His devotion to what he considered to be the essentials of a fully civilized life - family and its history, the world of books, his profession and his friends - was absolute... 

As a friend he was the soul of patience and understanding, always ready to listen empathetically and offer support - especially when this could be done over a good meal....No matter how bleak I might have felt, he would always cheer me up and get me to laugh at his jokes, Some of whose historical allusions to minor German Princelings I even recognized...At the same time, no matter how he felt, or what his physical condition, he never complained about himself.  Of course, he did complain about some things - the deterioration of Golden Gate Park, the decline of civility, the fact that the Hawaiian monarchy was no more...

I would be proud indeed were I able to claim that I had succeeded in emulating him, and been as good a friend to others as he was to me over many years.  His death leaves a gap in all of our lives; but his example remains.  He was a gentleman, a friend, and, in the many nuances of the word, a mensch.  May he rest in peace."
Alan D. Biller, friend of 20 years:

    "I've known Paul three years.  I came to him looking to broaden my budding interest in Actuarial Sciences.  ....By taking me under his wings, he gave me something that I think everyone would do well to have once in his life: encouragement and wisdom from a wise old friend - no nags, no strings attached - simple observations, conversations, stories and advice from a good company who's been places, a good company who kept good company.  ...
      I've come to know Paul as a caring, wise friend - sometimes temperamental and melodramatic, frequently sentimental...I want to thank you, Paul, for your encouragement, appreciation, wisdom and love. I know I'll mourn the loss of a good friend.  But I'll also recall what you've told me in conversations - that you've had a fortunate and good life.  For that I am  glad, and I will be happy for you."


    Franklin Phan (student and friend)
      "His assistance and positive outlook pervaded every meeting.  He has helped nearly all of us at one time or the other - unconditionally, with no strings attached.  I shall always remember his unconditional generosity and encouragement.  ...Paul, we really miss you. You have taught us much about what one can achieve through aloha, goodness and optimism.  We will do our best to live up to the standards that you have set."


    Jim Mussells, fellow book collector and friend

The Paul and Linda Kahn Foundation

Paul Markham Kalanihukiheionamoku Kahn had an abiding belief in generosity, and a love and respect for history, education, art and religion. The Paul and Linda Kahn Foundation has been created to continue Paul's work.