Joseph A. Schwarcz
Joseph A. Schwarcz
Dr. Joe giving a presentation for the Trafalgar School for Girls
|Residence||Montreal, Quebec, Canada|
|Education||PhD chemistry McGill University (1973)|
|Occupation||Teacher, Science communicator, Author|
Joseph A. Schwarcz is an author and a professor at McGill University. He is the director of McGill's Office for Science and Society, which is dedicated to demystifying science for the public. He hosts a weekly radio show and is known, via his science popularization efforts as Dr. Joe. He is the only non-American to receive the Grady-Stack Award for Interpreting Chemistry for the Public.
Schwarcz is an only child, born in Sopron, Hungary to Jewish parents. During the Hungarian uprising in 1956, when he was age 9, the family escaped over the border to Austria and migrated to Canada and settled in Montreal, Quebec. Schwarcz attended Logan school on Darlington and went on to McGill University, Montreal where he received a BSc (1969) and PhD (1973) in chemistry.
Schwarcz became interested in magic and chemistry at the age of 9 when he saw a magician perform a rope trick at a school friend's birthday party. "Instead of using the usual magic words like Abracadabra, he said that he was going to sprinkle a ‘Magic Chemical’ on the ropes." Schwarcz was so intrigued that he went to the library and looked up chemistry; he has had a keen interest in both since that day.
Schwarcz started his teaching career at Dawson College before moving to Vanier College serving as chair of the Department of Chemistry at both colleges. He then returned to McGill University where he teaches in courses in the Department of Chemistry and Faculty of Medicine with an emphasis on alternative medicine.
In 1999 Schwarcz became the founding director of the McGill University Office for Science and Society (OSS) with Ariel Fenster and David N. Harpp. The OSS "...is a unique venture dedicated to the promotion of critical thinking and the presentation of scientific information to the public, educators and students in an accurate and responsible fashion." As director. he takes on health fads and the celebrities who promote them. He has used his knowledge of magic to show how supernatural feats can be done by ordinary means.
Even as a university student Schwarcz found chemistry to be a dry subject, so he established a series of courses designed to bring chemistry to the general student, and later to the public through a series of lectures. The lectures include magic and spontaneity to keep the audience interested.
"A good lecturer is also an actor. A lecture should seem spontaneous, even if it's been given many times before... You capture the audience's attention. Then, without their realizing it, you pump a little scientific information into their brains. Before they know it, they've learned something."
In 2010, 2012, and 2016/17 Schwarcz was nominated by McGill as one of the USA Science and Engineering Festival's Nifty Fifty Speakers. .
Schwarcz began his media career in 1980 after meeting Montreal Gazette reporter Ted Blackman at the Man and His World exhibition when he was demonstrating how to make polyurethane from two liquids. Blackman reported on the demonstration and made a significant error. Schwarcz wrote to the Gazette , pointing out the error, and in Blackman printed a retraction. Radio station CJAD picked up the story and called Schwarcz to talk about it on air. The following week another scientific issue arose and he was called on again; this led to regular collaborations and to his own weekly radio show (The Dr. Joe Show), which also ran on Toronto's CFRB for about two years.
Schwarcz has appeared hundreds of times on Canadian television and radio, including his single-season show about common foods called Science to Go on the Canadian Discovery Channel. He wrote a weekly column for the Montreal Gazette called The Right Chemistry and a monthly column in the Canadian Chemical News.
In 1999 Schwarcz was awarded the Grady-Stack Award for Interpreting Chemistry for the Public. He is the only non-American to win the award. He was the joint winner of the 2014 Center for Skeptical Inquiry Robert P Balles Prize for skeptical thinking for his book Is This a Fact?
- Royal Society of Canada, McNeil Medal for outstanding ability to promote and communicate science to students and to the public within Canada. (shared with David Harpp & Ariel Fenster) (1992)
- American Chemical Society, James T. Grady-James H. Stack Award for Interpreting Chemistry (1999)
- Honorary Doctorate of Science, Athabasca University (2003)
- Royal Canadian Institute, Sandford Fleming Medal (2005)
- Society of Chemical Industry, Purvis Memorial Award (2010)
- Chemical Institute of Canada, Montreal Medal (2010)
- In 2014 the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSICOP) presented Schwarcz the Robert B. Balles Prize in Critical Thinking for Is That a Fact? which "unflinchingly takes on all manner of popular misinformation."
- Outstanding Achievement Award, Principal’s Prizes for Engagement Through Media, McGill University (2018)
- A Feast of Science: Intriguing Morsels from the Science of Everyday Life (2018, ISBN 978-1-77041-192-0)
- Monkeys, Myths, and Molecules Separating Fact from Fiction, and the Science of Everyday Life (2015, ISBN 978-1-77041-191-3)
- Is That a Fact?: Frauds, Quacks, and the Real Science of Everyday Life (ReadHowYouWant, 2014, ISBN 978-1-770-41190-6)
- Dr. Joe's Health Lab: 164 Amazing Insights into the Science of Medicine, Nutrition and Well-being (2011, ISBN 978-0-385-67156-9)
- Dr. Joe's Brain Sparks: 179 Inspiring and Enlightening Inquiries into the Science of Everyday Life (2010, ISBN 978-0-385-66930-6)
- Science, Sense & Nonsense (2009, ISBN 978-0-385-66604-6)
- Brain Fuel: 199 Mind-Expanding Inquiries into the Science of Everyday Life (2008, ISBN 978-0-385-66602-2)
- An Apple A Day: The Myths, Misconceptions and Truths About the Foods We Eat (HarperCollins, 2007, ISBN 978-0-00-200764-1)
- Let Them Eat Flax: 70 All-New Commentaries on the Science of Everyday Food & Life (2005, ISBN 1-55022-698-3)
- The Fly in the Ointment: 70 Fascinating Commentaries on the Science of Everyday Life (ECW Press, 2004, ISBN 1-55022-621-5)
- That's the Way the Cookie Crumbles: 62 All-New Commentaries on the Fascinating Chemistry of Everyday Life (Ecw Press , 2004, ISBN 1-55022-520-0)
- Dr. Joe and What You Didn’t Know: 177 Fascinating Questions about the Chemistry of Everyday Life (2003, ISBN 9781550225778)
- The Genie in the Bottle: 68 All New Commentaries on the Fascinating Chemistry of Everyday Life (Palgrave Macmillan, 2001, ISBN 1-55022-442-5)
- Radar, Hula Hoops, and Playful Pigs: 67 Digestible Commentaries on the Fascinating Chemistry of Everyday Life (2001, ISBN 0-8050-7407-4)
- "Honorary Degree Recipients - Joseph A. Schwarcz". cbu.ca. Archived from the original on 17 October 2017. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
- ""Dr. Joe" – everyone's favourite scientist". themontrealeronline.com. 1 November 2007. Archived from the original on 17 October 2017. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
- Judy, Howard (16 October 1998). "Canadian Wins Top Chemistry Reporting Award". American Chemical Society. Archived from the original on 18 October 2017. Retrieved 9 December 2011.
- Kerr, Ellyn (5 November 1998). "Casting spells for scientific literacy". mcgill.ca. Archived from the original on 17 October 2017. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
- Schwarcz, Joe. "Silly Stuff". The Genie in the Bottle. ECW Press. p. 271. ISBN 1-55022-442-5.
- "Past Speakers for the USA Science & Engineering Festival X-STEM Symposium and Nifty Fifty Program" (PDF). USA Science and Engineering Festival. Archived (PDF) from the original on 17 October 2017. Retrieved 18 October 2017.
- "The Dr. Joe Show". iheartradio.ca. Archived from the original on 18 October 2017. Retrieved 18 October 2017.
- "James T. Grady-James H. Stack Award for Interpreting Chemistry for the Public". acs.org. Archived from the original on 18 October 2017. Retrieved 18 October 2017.
- "Dr Joe Schwarcz PhD - Office for Science and Society - McGill University". mcgill.ca. Archived from the original on 17 October 2017. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
- "Cosmos, Joe Schwarcz Win Skeptics' Critical Thinking Prize". Skeptical Inquirer. CSICOP. Retrieved 18 August 2016.
- "ATHABASCA UNIVERSITY – HONORARY DEGREE RECIPIENTS" (PDF). athabascau.ca. Archived (PDF) from the original on 19 October 2017. Retrieved 19 October 2017.
- "Joe Schwarcz". acs.org. Archived from the original on 19 October 2017. Retrieved 10 October 2017.
- "Obituary Alice Schwarcz". legacy.com. 29 March 2016. Archived from the original on 19 October 2017.
- The McNeil Medal for the public awareness of science, Royal Society of Canada, 2011, retrieved 9 December 2011
- "Joe Schwarcz.(Distinction)(2005 Sanford Fleming Medal from the Royal Canadian Institute)", Canadian Chemical News, 1 October 2005, retrieved 9 December 2011
- Canada annual awards ceremony and dinner, Society of Chemical Industry, 25 March 2010, retrieved 9 December 2011
- Montreal Medal Award Recipients, Chemical Institute of Canada, 2011, retrieved 9 December 2011
- "Celebrating researchers who help spread the word". McGill Reporter. March 27, 2018. Archived from the original on June 4, 2018. Retrieved June 4, 2018.