About Andrew Fraknoi
Foothill's full-time astronomy professor, Andrew Fraknoi, is an award-winning science educator who is known for his skill in interpreting astronomical discoveries and ideas in everyday language. Fraknoi teaches courses on "astronomy and physics for poets" attended by 900+ students each year. 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 on such topics as "What Were the Atoms in Your Body Doing 8 Billion Years Ago?"
For 14 years, Fraknoi served as the executive director of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, an international scientific and educational organization founded in 1889. He was also editor of 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 (now in 12 regional sites throughout the U.S.). An offshoot, called Family ASTRO, brings hands-on astronomy events and games to families around the country. After retiring as executive director, he worked as senior educator for the Society, developing educational materials and leading workshops.
A prolific author, Fraknoi has edited two collections of science articles and science fiction stories for Bantam Books and is the lead author of Astronomy, a new, free, electronic textbook from OpenStax Publishing, a non-profit project (supported by the Gates and Hewlett Foundations) to offer free textbooks in introductory college courses across the nation. He is also the editor of a teaching and activity guide called The Universe at Your Fingertips — one of the most widely used astronomy education resources (and now available as a DVD-ROM on Amazon). His children's book on astronomy, Disney's Wonderful World of Space, was published in 2007 and is also available in paperback. With Dr. Sidney Wolff, he was the founding editor of Astronomy Education Review, an on-line journal/magazine about astronomy education.
Fraknoi has had a long interest in astronomically correct science fiction, which he uses in his teaching and writing. Recently, he has begun writing science fiction himself. His first science fiction stories have now been published in two anthologies: "Building Red: Mission Mars," edited by Janet Cannon, and "Science Fiction by Scientists," edited by Mike Brotherton.
Fraknoi has also served as the chief organizer and moderator of the Cosmos in the Classroom conference on teaching introductory college astronomy to non-science majors. This national meeting, which he founded, brings together about 200 astronomy professors from all levels of higher education to discuss how to improve the teaching of this general education class that is taken by over 250,000 students per year.
Radio listeners know Fraknoi as a frequent guest on local and national news and talk programs. In Northern California, he appeared for over 25 years on the Jim Eason Show and The Pete Wilson Show on KGO. He is now a regular on The Gil Gross Program on KKSF. He has also been one of the most regular guests 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. He is also a Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, specializing in debunking astrology. A few years ago, he was elected a fellow of the California Academy of Science, the first such honoree from a community college in the Academy's history. In 2009, he served as national secretary for the U.S. program committee for the International Year of Astronomy, celebrating the 400th anniversary of Galileo's first use of the telescope. 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 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.
In 1994, 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.) In 2007, he received the Gemant Prize of the American Institute of Physics for his work in making connections between physics and culture (Stephen Hawking and the Producer of NOVA on PBS were previous winners.) His "Physics for Poets: Everything You Wanted to Know about Einstein but Were Afraid to Ask" course received the 2005 Innovation of the Year award from the League for Innovation.
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 (but he wants to reassure everyone that it is a very boring asteroid in the main asteroid belt and is not in any danger of hitting the Earth.)