Uncle Garabed’s Notebook (Sept. 1, 2012)

Biography of a Notable Man

Haroutioun Hovanes Chakmakjian (born Oct. 20, 1878, in Adana, Ottoman Empire; died May 22, 1973, in Jamaica Plain, Mass.) was a published scientist, as well as the father of American composer Alan Hovhaness.

Family/early background

Chakmakjian was of Armenian background. His surname means “gunsmith,” a name given to one of his ancestors who had been skilled in creating finely engraved and decorated firearms. Born in 1878, his parents were Hovanes L. Chakmakjian and Cohar Garabed Janbazian, both farmers. He studied at the Abcarian (Apcarian) High School in Adana, then studied for just over one year at the Antoura French Missionary College in Beirut.

Teaching background

Chakmakjian was teaching in Beirut in the early years of the 20th century, during the time of one of the early Ottoman massacres of Armenians. Rather than return to his birthplace of Adana, he decided to take a ship to France. He eventually arrived in Boston, Mass., where he studied at Harvard University from fall 1905 to spring 1908, then entered Harvard again in February 1912, obtaining an A.B. degree in June 1913 (as a member of the Class of 1909).

He later served as a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Tufts College, and was affiliated with the Tufts Medical School on Huntington Avenue in Boston. He retired from the Medical School in 1949.


On May 28, 1910, in Somerville, Mass., he married Madeleine Scott (d. Oct. 3, 1930), an American woman of Scottish and English descent who had graduated from Wellesley College.


In addition to his scientific work, beginning in 1908 he edited the Hairenik newspaper, remaining in that position until February 1912. He also authored an English-Armenian dictionary of approximately 1,600 pages (published under the name H. H. Chakmakjian around 1920 or 1922 by Yeran Press) and other scholarly articles regarding chemistry, biochemistry, and the Armenian language. He was a member of the American Chemical Society, was a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a member of the New England Association of Chemistry Teachers.


Chakmakjian died of bronchopneumonia in Jamaica Plain on May 22, 1973, at the age of 94.

(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

CK Garabed

CK Garabed

Weekly Columnist
C.K. Garabed (a.k.a. Charles Kasbarian) has been active in the Armenian Church and Armenian community organizations all his life. As a writer and editor, he has been a keen observer of, and outspoken commentator on, political and social matters affecting Armenian Americans. He has been a regular contributor to the Armenian Reporter and the AGBU Literary Quarterly, “ARARAT.” For the last 30 years, Garabed has been a regular contributor to the Armenian Weekly. He produces a weekly column called “Uncle Garabed's Notebook,” in which he presents an assortment of tales, anecdotes, poems, riddles, and trivia; for the past 10 years, each column has contained a deconstruction of an Armenian surname. He believes his greatest accomplishment in life, and his contribution to the Armenian nation, has been the espousing of Aghavni, and the begetting of Antranig and Lucine.
CK Garabed

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