Andrew Fraknoi

University of San Francisco, Fromm Program · San Francisco, California

Andrew Fraknoi is an astronomer and educator, known for his skill in interpreting scientific discoveries and ideas in everyday language. Fraknoi retired in 2017 as the Chair of the Astronomy Department at Foothill College and now teaches introductory astronomy at the Fromm Program of the University of San Francisco and through the OLLI Program at San Francisco State University. In 2007, he was selected as Professor of the Year for the state of California by the Carnegie Endowment for Higher Education. He has given more than 400 public lectures over the years, including two at SkeptiCAL (the California convention of skeptics).

Fraknoi served for 14 years as the Executive Director of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, an international scientific and educational organization founded in 1889. He edited its popular-level magazine, Mercury, and started its newsletter for teachers, Universe in the Classroom. He founded and directed Project ASTRO, a program that trains and brings professional and amateur astronomers into 4th – 9th grade classrooms (in regional sites throughout the U.S.) After retiring as executive director, he has worked as Senior Educator for the Society, developing educational materials and leading teacher workshops.

A prolific writer, Fraknoi is the lead author of Astronomy, a nationally-adopted open-source introductory college textbook, published free on-line by OpenStax with support from the Gates Foundation. He is also the editor of two award-winning guides for teachers, The Universe at Your Fingertips and Solar Science. He has written two children’s book on astronomy, Disney’s Wonderful World of Space, and When the Sun Goes Dark. With Dr. Sidney Wolff, he was the founding editor of Astronomy Education Review, an on-line journal/magazine about astronomy education.

Radio listeners know Fraknoi as a frequent guest on local and national news and talk programs. In Northern California, he appeared for over 35 years on the Jim Eason, Gil Gross, and Ronn Owens programs on KGO.  He has also been a regular guest on The Forum Program (with Michael Krasny) on KQED, and was the “astronomer-in residence” on the syndicated Mark and Brian Show out of Los Angeles. Nationally, he has been heard on Science Friday and Weekend All Things Considered on National Public Radio. His TV appearances include The Today Show, MSNBC, CBS Morning News, and Larry King Live.

Fraknoi serves on the Board of Trustees of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute, a scientific and educational organization; as a Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry; as an elected Fellow of the California Academy of Sciences; and as Vice-chair of the Lick Observatory Council. In 2011, Fraknoi was elected Honorary Member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, a distinction bestowed on only 15 living scientists.

Educated at Harvard and the University of California, Berkeley, Fraknoi has also taught astronomy and physics at San Francisco State University, the City College of San Francisco, Canada College, and several campuses of the University of California Extension Division.

He received the Annenberg Foundation Prize of the American Astronomical Society (the highest honor in the field of astronomy education), as well as the Klumpke-Roberts Prize of The Astronomical Society of the Pacific (given for a lifetime of contributions to popularizing astronomy.) He was the 2007 recipient of the Gemant Prize of the American Institute of Physics for his work in making connections between physics and culture. In 2013, the National Science Teachers’ Association gave him the Michael Faraday Award for outstanding contributions to science communication. Asteroid 4859 has been named Asteroid Fraknoi by the International Astronomical Union to honor his work in sharing the excitement of modern astronomy with students, teachers and the public.

For more about his work and writings, see:

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Topics: Education, Science (General)
Subtopics: Pseudoscience, Science denial, Science education

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