|Born||August 24, 1948|
|Fields||astronomy, astronomy education|
|Institutions||Foothill College & Astronomical Society of the Pacific|
|Alma mater||Harvard College, The University of California, Berkeley|
|Known for||astronomy popularization|
|Notable awards||2007 California Professor of the Year
2007 Richard H. Emmons Award
2007 Gemant Prize
1994 Annenberg Foundation Award
1994 Klumpke-Roberts Award
2011 Elected Honorary Member, Royal Astronomical Society of Canada
2013 Faraday Science Communicator Award
Andrew Fraknoi is an astronomy professor at Foothill College and the 2007 California Professor of the Year awarded by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. Fraknoi also won the Astronomical Society of the Pacific's 2007 Richard H. Emmons award, the American Institute of Physics's 2007 Andrew Gemant Award (given for a lifetime of contributions to the intersection of physics and culture), and the American Astronomical Society's 1994 Annenberg Foundation Award (for a lifetime of contributions to astronomy education.) The International Astronomical Union has named Asteroid 4859 Asteroid Fraknoi to recognize his contributions to science education and to the public understanding of astronomy. In 2013, he was elected to the Board of Trustees of the Friends of the Lick Observatory.
Fraknoi served as the Executive Director of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific from 1978 to 1992, edited its popular-level magazine, Mercury, and founded its newsletter for teachers, called The Universe in the Classroom. He was the founder and director of a program called "Project ASTRO," which sets up partnerships between volunteer astronomers and 4th - 9th grade teachers; each astronomer "adopts" one classroom for a year, visiting at least four times and working with the teacher to do hands-on activities in astronomy. The program is still operating in 12 sites around the country. Later he founded and directed "Family ASTRO"—a project to design activities, kits and games to help families share the excitement of astronomical discovery. Fraknoi now works at the Society as Senior Educator, and edited an on-line column for its members, called "Astronomy Beat". Every three years, he has organized a national symposium for the Society called "Cosmos in the Classroom," which brings together 150 to 200 instructors of introductory college astronomy courses to learn and talk about how such courses can be made even more effective.
In addition to astronomy, Fraknoi also teaches courses in the area of "physics for poets." His interdisciplinary course on Einstein's life and work, Physics 12, won the 2005 “Innovation of the Year” award from the League for Innovation. In the course, students learn about some of the areas on modern physics that Einstein had a role in creating or changing, and then read novels, stories, and poems, and hear music influenced by Einstein's work and ideas. Fraknoi frequently writes articles on interdisciplinary topics, such as using music, poetry, or science fiction to teach science. He has listed science fiction stories with good astronomy in them and also astronomically inspired music.
Fraknoi is the lead author of "Voyages through the Universe", an introductory college astronomy textbook, now in its third edition, published by Brooks-Cole. In 2007, his first children's book, entitled Wonderful World of Space, was published by Disney. When D.J. Grothe asked about the book Fraknoi replied, "Well this has been a fun project. My son, who was 13 at the time, and I got a chance to write a picture book on astronomy for Disney and the challenge was how can we convey some of these modern ideas including the Big Bang; some of the things we talked about to kids who are in 4th or 5th grade." In the 1980s, he co-edited with Bryon Preiss two collections of science articles and science fiction stories, published by Bantam Books, called "The Universe" and "The Planets." With Sidney Wolff, Fraknoi founded and is co-editor of the first on-line journal devoted to astronomy education, "Astronomy Education Review".
Since 1999, Fraknoi has organized and moderated the Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series, where noted astronomers from around California and the nation give nontechnical public talks on new developments in our exploration of the universe in the large Smithwick Theater at Foothill College. Cosponsored by NASA's Ames Research Center, the SETI Institute, and the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, the talks—attended by 400 to 900+ people each time—have featured Nobel laureates, members of the National Academy of Sciences, and many other distinguished scientists. In recent years, the lectures have been taped and many are now available on YouTube
In a 2008 interview for Point of Inquiry Fraknoi discusses with D.J. Grothe the history of the atoms that our bodies are composed of and concludes that we are all composed of 'star stuff'. "As astronomers look further into the universe, Fraknoi explains that we are looking further back in history, because of the time light takes to reach us". Fraknoi goes on to consider that essentially atoms are only 'on loan' from the universe. We have borrowed them to use while we are alive and once we have finished with them they will eventually return to the universe. Carl Sagan, amongst others, has said, so Fraknoi continues, that humans are one way of the universe becoming self-aware because our consciousness is supported by 'the stuff' of the universe, a point that Fraknoi supports. When asked if they believed in the Big Bang theory: that the universe was created in a large explosion only 43% of Americans concurred whereas if the question was changed slightly to, "Do you agree that scientists believe that the universe was created in a Big Bang?" some 62% of Americans agreed with this. Fraknoi went on to explain this saying that people were more comfortable agreeing to someone else believing something rather than themselves. Fraknoi went on to discuss education and emphasised the importance of an astronomy education, not least because it leads to a more realistic cosmic perspective.
Fraknoi has served on the Board of Trustees of the SETI Institute—a scientific and educational organization devoted to the search for life in the universe—since its inception in 1985. From 2010 to 2012, he was vice-chair of the Board. He was also on the program committee planning the first and second SETIcon—national weekend public conferences devoted to the scientific quest for our counterparts among the stars, in 2010 and 2012. In 2013, he was elected to the Board of Trustees of the Friends of the Lick Observatory.
Awards and honors
The International Astronomical Union has named Asteroid 4859 Asteroid Fraknoi to recognize his contributions to science education and to the public understanding of astronomy.
- Andrew Fraknoi
- ASP: Former ASP Executive Director Andrew Fraknoi Named 2007 California Professor of the Year
- 2007 ASP Annual Award Winners
- "The Universe in the Classroom".
- "Project ASTRO".
- "Family ASTRO".
- "Astronomy Beat".
- "Cosmos in the Classroom".
- "League for Innovation".
- "Science Fiction Stories with Good Astronomy & Physics: A Topical Index".
- "Music Inspired by Astronomy" (PDF).
- "Andrew Fraknoi - Your Body’s Cosmic History".
- "Astronomy Education Review".
- "Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series".
- "SV Astronomy Lectures".
- Andrew Fraknoi's Page at Foothill College
- Andrew Fraknoi's AstroProf Facebook Page
- Articles on the Web by Andrew Fraknoi