News Release

Outstanding Astronomy Teacher Wins Physics in Culture Prize

Share This


College Park, January 3, 2008---What were the atoms in your body doing eight billion years ago? At least some of them were inside a star that later exploded, says Andrew Fraknoi, a teacher and astrophysicist, who has been answering questions like that for students, on the radio and in books and articles, for over 30 years. It's that kind of excitement about space  — and his ability to share that excitement through his writing—that has won Fraknoi the American Institute of Physics' Andrew Gemant Award, which includes $5,000 cash.

Fraknoi will receive his award in a ceremony starting at 6:30 p.m. on January 9, 2008 at the 211th annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Austin, TX.

The selection committee cites Fraknoi for "his extraordinary contributions as a teacher, a public lecturer, co-author/editor of a syndicated astronomy newspaper column, host/producer of a weekly radio show and numerous guest appearances on national TV." The committee also lauds Fraknoi’s tremendous breadth. "His rare combination of skills has resulted in his being sought nationally and internationally as a spokesperson for physics, astronomy, the history of science and the connection of science to all human activities" the committee notes.

Fraknoi teaches astronomy and physics at Foothill College in Los Altos, CA. His "Physics for Poets: Everything You Wanted to Know about Einstein but Were Afraid to Ask" course received a 2005 "Innovation of the Year" award from the League for Innovation in the Community College. For 14 years, Fraknoi served as the Executive Director of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, which was founded in 1889 and is now the largest general astronomy society in the world, with members from more than 60 nations. He founded and directed Project ASTRO, a national program that creates long-term partnerships between astronomers and local teachers, helping them to teach space science.

Fraknoi has edited two collections of science articles and science fiction stories for Bantam Books. His children’s book on astronomy, Disney Wonderful World of Space, was published in July 2007. He coauthored a leading astronomy textbook, Voyages through the Universe, and a teaching guide called The Universe at Your Fingertips.

With Dr. Sidney Wolff, he is the founding editor of the online journal Astronomy Education Review. He was also editor of the quarterly popular astronomy magazine Mercury, and he founded an electronic educational newsletter for teachers called The Universe in the Classroom.

Fraknoi has written papers, articles, and web guides about astronomy in music, astronomy in poetry, and astronomy in fiction.  His astronomy courses make regular use of interdisciplinary approaches and he teaches a course on modern physics in which students read examples of fiction that has been influenced by Einstein’s work. And he has written and spoken out forcefully against pseudo-science (or fiction science) such as astrology, UFO’s, and the denial of the age of the universe.

In the media, Fraknoi has been a regular guest on talk shows on the Bay Area radio stations and is the astronomer-in-residence on the syndicated Mark and Brian Show. He has also been heard on National Public Radio, and his TV appearances include The Today Show, CBS Morning News, and Larry King Live.

For more information, please contact: 
Media Services
American Institute of Physics
+1 301-209-3090