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January 29, 2001

Astronomer Frank Drake honored with new education prize

By Tim Stephens

The American Astronomical Society (AAS) has awarded the first AAS Education Prize to Frank Drake, professor emeritus of astronomy and astrophysics. The prize recognizes outstanding contributions to the education of the public, students, and the next generation of professional astronomers.

Frank Drake Photo: Courtesy of SETI Institute
Drake, a pioneer in the search for intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, is chairman of the board of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, CA. Drake originated the famous "Drake Equation," used to estimate the probability of detecting radio signals from extraterrestrial civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy. In 1960, as a staff member of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, he conducted the first radio search for extraterrestrial intelligence.

In honoring Drake as the first winner of its new education award, AAS issued the following citation: "Dr. Frank Drake is awarded the AAS Education Prize in recognition of his inspiration and leadership in many areas of education and public outreach in astronomy. His wide-ranging popularizations, his tireless help for journalists, and his championship of education and public information through the SETI Institute have helped scientists, educators, and the world at large to think rationally about life in the cosmos. His innovative courses in astronomy for non-science majors, his mentorship of undergraduate and graduate astronomy students, and his development of the science of SETI through Project Ozma, the Drake Equation, and now Project Phoenix have brought the excitement of the cosmic quest to several generations. In the process, he has educated us all."

Drake is a member of both the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He served as dean of natural sciences at UCSC from 1984 to 1988. He also served as president of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.

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