Categotry Archives: Education


Jack Horkheimer

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Categories: Education

jhorkheimer.jpgFoley Arthur “Jack” Horkheimer, the award-winning astronomer who entertained millions as the host of the PBS show “Jack Horkheimer: Star Gazer,” died on Aug. 20 of a respiratory ailment. He was 72.
Born in Randolph, Wis., Horkheimer was always in poor health. As a child, he suffered from severe allergies, depression and numerous phobias, including acrophobia (fear of heights) and agoraphobia (fear of crowds). Throughout his life, he also battled bronchiectasis, a degenerative lung disease.
Horkheimer’s father, the longtime mayor of Randolph, reportedly urged him to be an athlete, and his mother wanted him to become a priest. He preferred to please people, working as a disc jockey, a jazz organist, a playwright and a nightclub entertainer. After dropping out of Marquette University and the Honolulu School of Fine Arts in Hawaii, Horkheimer attended Purdue for six years, where he studied drama and worked as a writer/producer in Purdue’s Repertory Theatre. Once Horkheimer finally earned a bachelor’s degree, he moved to South Florida because the warm, humid air helped his inflamed lungs.
While Horkheimer never took an accredited astronomy course, his future would soon be written in the stars. A meeting with Art Smith, chief of the Southern Cross Astronomical Society, led to a job running the brand new Space Transit Planetarium (also known as The Miami Planetarium). With a $150,000 Spitz projector at his disposal, Horkheimer created multimedia stargazing shows that were a memorable mix of fact and fantasy. He called it “cosmic theater.”
“A planetarium is not for scientists. It’s not for the Ph.D.’s. It’s for the people,” Horkheimer said in a 1982 profile in The Miami Herald. “A planetarium is supposed to mediate between the scientists and the public. It’s to teach, to tantalize. Real astronomers aren’t supposed to be running planetariums. It’s living death for them. They’re supposed to be researching.”
Over the next 35 years, Horkheimer served as executive director of the planetarium, putting on shows and teaching the public about astronomy. He took his message to the masses with “Jack Horkheimer: Star Hustler,” a weekly TV series made available to all PBS stations free of charge. The one- and five-minute episodes offered astronomical lore and advice on what to look for in the night sky. The name was changed to “Star Gazer” in the 1990s to make it easier for children to find the correct Website.
With infectious enthusiasm and over-the-top showmanship, Horkheimer used “Star Gazer” to sell the idea of naked-eye astronomy with a memorable three-word motto: “Keep looking up.” Sky & Telescope Magazine described the show as “arguably the most successful five-minute program in television history.” When “Star Gazer” celebrated its 30th anniversary on Nov. 4, 2006, over 1,500 weekly episodes had been recorded. In recent years, those episodes have been offered on iTunes and YouTube in the form of a video podcast.
Horkheimer was a founding member of the International Planetarium Society, a founding co-editor of “The Planetarian” and a past editor of “Southern Skies.” He won numerous awards, including an Emmy and a Telly, but was most proud of his work encouraging young astronomers to explore the heavens. Each year, The Astronomical League presents The Jack Horkheimer Award for Exceptional Service by a Young Astronomer; the winner receives a $1,000 check and a high-quality telescope.
Horkheimer was a lover of good music, good food and champagne and once collected old Cadillacs and Lincoln Continentals. Although his lifelong contributions to popularizing astronomy were occasionally derided by some in the field for not being more academic, the International Astronomical Union honored his efforts by renaming “Asteroid 1999 FD9” to “Asteroid Horkheimer.”
Long before his death, Horkheimer penned a fitting epitaph:
“Keep looking up was my life’s admonition,
I can do little else in my present position.”


Randy Pausch


Categories: Education, Extraordinary People

Randolf Frederick Pausch, the Carnegie Mellon University professor whose final lecture about the importance of achieving one’s childhood dreams became an Internet sensation and best-selling book, died on July 25 of pancreatic cancer. He was 47.
The Baltimore native wanted to do many things with his life. As a child, he wrote a list of the dreams he hoped to someday achieve including: walk in zero gravity, write an entry in the World Book Encyclopedia, win stuffed animals, be like Captain Kirk and become an Imagineer for Disney. Pausch accomplished all but the Star Trek-inspired dream, though he did get to meet William Shatner, the actor who played Kirk. “It’s really cool to meet your boyhood idol,” Pausch once said. “But it’s even cooler when he comes to you to see what cool stuff you’re doing…That was just a great moment.”
Pausch graduated from Brown University and earned his doctorate in computer science from Carnegie Mellon. After teaching at the University of Virginia, he joined the faculty of Carnegie Mellon in 1997. For the next decade, Pausch taught popular classes in computer science, virtual reality and world building. He also helped launch the Alice project, an innovative 3-D environment that teaches computer programming through stories and games.
Pausch first came into the public eye in September 2007 when he gave his final lecture at Carnegie Mellon in front of 400 students and colleagues. Wall Street Journal columnist Jeffrey Zaslow wrote a feature article about “the lecture of a lifetime,” and a video version of the inspirational speech soon appeared on YouTube. Millions of people sat in front of their computers and watched the 76-minute lecture, then shared it with others in e-mails and blogs. Pausch later gave an abridged version of his speech on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” ABC News named him as one of its three “Persons of the Year,” and Time magazine listed him in its “100 Most Influential People” issue.
At the urging of his wife, Jai, Pausch decided to compile his advice into a book, titled “The Last Lecture.” He didn’t want the writing process to take away time spent with his three children, however, so he dictated the chapters to co-author Zaslow while riding his exercise bike each day. Fifty-three bike rides/conversations turned into a manuscript, which was published this spring.
In March, Pausch spoke before Congress on behalf of the Pancreatic Cancer Network. He shared a picture of his family and urged lawmakers to help fund research needed to fight pancreatic cancer, which is considered by the medical community to be the most deadly form of the disease. Pausch was diagnosed with it in August 2007. Although doctors predicted Pausch had about six month to live, he made it five months past that deadline.
Pausch’s final lecture shall serve as his true obituary:

Read the chapter left out of Pausch’s book.


Charles L. Remington

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Categories: Education, Scientists

cremington.jpgCharles Lee Remington, a renowned naturalist and educator who was considered the father of modern lepidoptery, died on May 31. Cause of death was not released. He was 85.
Born in Reedville, Va., Remington spent much of his childhood in St. Louis chasing and collecting butterflies with his father, P. Sheldon Remington. His passion for butterflies continued into adulthood; he studied biology at Principia College in Illinois and served as a medical entomologist during World War II. Remington’s work in the Pacific involved researching the insect-borne epidemics the servicemen experienced. Remington even suffered from the “fiery pain” of a centipede bite in the Philippines when one of the creatures made a snack out of his armpit. After extracting the insect from his sleeping bag, Remington preserved the specimen and later shared it with his students.
Upon his return to the states, Remington received his Ph.d from Harvard University, where he worked on the systematics of bristletails (silverfish) and other primitive arthropods. In 1947, he co-founded The Lepidopterists’ Society, an organization dedicated to fostering collaborative research and exchange on butterflies and moths. The society, which has thousands of members in over 60 countries, publishes the Journal of the Lepidopterists’ Society. Remington served as president of the society and editor of its journal.
In 1948, Remington took a teaching position in the department of zoology at Yale University. Over the next 44 years, he taught a variety of courses on ecology, evolution, entomology, bioethics, endangered species and the biodiversity crisis, and became a mentor to several generations of scientists and amateur collectors, including author Vladimir Nabokov, monarch biologist Lincoln Brower and nature writer Robert Michael Pyle. In 1958, he was a Guggenheim Fellow at Oxford University.
Remington’s research outside the classroom focused on evolution, specifically a theory he developed called the “biological species concept.” Remington believed that plants, insects and mammals in certain isolated areas, called suture zones, tended to interbreed, or hybridize, with close relatives. This biological phenomenon was originally discredited by others in the field, but has since been revived and reconsidered.
Although Yale didn’t have an insect collection when he arrived, Remington became curator of the entomology division at the Peabody Museum of Natural History and created one from scratch. His collection eventually contained 2.5 million specimens, including the world’s largest collection of insects that are gynandromorphs (part male and part female).
In his free time, Remington founded the New Haven Entomological Society, a group that promotes entomology in Connecticut, and the Xerces Society, a nonprofit environmental organization that focuses on invertebrates which are essential to biological diversity. He also co-founded Zero Population Growth, a grassroots organization dedicated to controlling overpopulation.
In 1996, Remington created the first U.S. preserve for the Magicicada, a cicada that appears by the millions once every 17 years. The cicada’s arrival in the summer of that year brought Remington a unique form of fame; he discussed the creature at length with numerous media outlets, and described the insect as a culinary treat. To prove his point, he cooked and ate several boiled and fried cicadas on camera.
Listen to a Tribute From NPR


Don Herbert


Categories: Actors, Education, Hollywood, Media, Scientists

mrwizard.jpgScience is fun for everyone. That’s the message Donald Jeffry Herbert tried to convey to millions of children as “Mr. Wizard.”

Herbert made the subject of science seem both mysterious and magical. His weekly, half-hour educational program, “Watch Mr. Wizard,” which aired in black and white on NBC from 1951 to 1964, introduced young viewers to the joys of conducting experiments with simple household items. With the help of his young assistants, Mr. Wizard explained what makes a cake rise, how water comes out of a kitchen tap and why seashells sound like the ocean. He even showed kids how to cook a hot dog with a battery.

“Watch Mr. Wizard” won a Peabody Award and three Thomas Alva Edison National Mass Media Awards, and was reinvented on Nickelodeon in the 1980s as “Mr. Wizard’s World.” In both programs, Herbert eschewed a lab coat and professorial attitude. Instead his informal approach to teaching made science accessible, and instilled a sense of wonder in his audience. “Over the years, Don has been personally responsible for more people going into the sciences than any other single person in this country,” George Tressel, a National Science Foundation official, once said.

Born in Waconia, Minn., Herbert always had a passion for the theatre. In high school, he played the lead role in the school play; in college, he was the director of the Pioneer Players. He graduated from La Crosse State Teacher’s College with a degree in English and science, then spent the next several years honing his acting skills. He worked as a stage hand and actor for the Minnesota Stock Co., did summer stock with Nancy Davis (Reagan) and performed as magician and master of ceremonies in Winnipeg, Canada. He had just moved to New York City to break into the big time when World War II put a hold on his show business plans.

Herbert enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1942, and graduated from his training as a pilot and second lieutenant. He was shipped overseas, where he completed 56 bombing missions over northern Italy, Germany and Yugoslavia. For courage under fire, he earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with three oak-leaf clusters.

Upon his return to the states, Herbert moved to Chicago, where he worked as an actor, model and writer. He taught radio writing at the Chicago Radio Institute, and developed programs based on interviews he captured on his portable audio tape recorder. Many of those interviews ended up on the radio show “It’s Your Life.”

When Herbert created an early version of his “Mr. Wizard” show and presented it to potential advertisers, none of them were interested. Once he turned the program over to producer Charles Power, however, “Watch Mr. Wizard” found both a sponsor (The Cereal Institute) and a home (WMAQ, Chicago’s NBC affiliate). During its first year on the air, Herbert produced 28 live episodes. The following year, 1952, he produced 39 “Watch Mr. Wizard” episodes and began appearing on CBS as a progress reporter for “General Electric Theater.” After profiles of Herbert appeared in American Boy magazine, Science Digest and TV Guide, thousands of Mr. Wizard Science Clubs formed in the United States.

NBC canceled “Watch Mr. Wizard” in 1965, but Herbert continued his campaign to educate the youth of North America. He went to Canada and produced “Mr. Wizard,” a TV show that was carried on the CBC nationwide. He received grants from the National Science Foundation and The Arthur P. Sloane Foundation and used the money to make the “Experiment Series.” Herbert wrote/illustrated articles for the “Science for the Classroom From Mr. Wizard” series, and penned several books, including “Mr. Wizard’s 400 Experiments in Science” and “Mr. Wizard’s Supermarket Science.” He also created more than 100 “How About…” reports that were freely distributed to television stations.

In 1986, Herbert received a Golden Anniversary Award from Ohio State University, and a “Distinguished Television Science Reporting” honor from AAS/Westinghouse Science Journalism Awards. Five years later, he was given the Robert A, Millikan Award from the American Association or Physics Teachers for his “notable and creative contributions to the teaching of physics.” When he received the Council for Elementary Science International’s Science Advocate Award in 2000, an audience of 1,000 science teachers gave him a standing ovation.

Herbert died on June 12 of bone cancer. He was 89. Less than a week after his death, the U.S. House of Representatives honored him for his “profound public service and educational contributions.”

Watch the Opening Credits for “Mr. Wizard’s World”


James Richards

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Categories: Education, Medicine, Writers/Editors

jrichards.jpgDr. James Robert Richards, a renowned veterinarian who dedicated his life to helping cats, died on April 24 from injuries he sustained in a motorcycle accident. He was 58.

Although he was born in Richmond, Ind., Richards grew up on a farm in Preble County, Ohio. There were no children his age living nearby so he befriended stray cats. The kinship he formed with these felines would affect him for the rest of his life.

Richards earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Berea College in Kentucky, and a doctorate in veterinary medicine from Ohio State University. He practiced at several small-animal clinics in Ohio before joining Cornell University in 1991 as the assistant director of the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Feline Health Center, a leading facility for feline medical research and treatment. Richards was named director six years later. During his tenure, the center conducted research into feline cardiac disease, coronary thrombosis, hyperthyroidism and cancerous growths called sarcomas. Richards was also the director of the Dr. Louis J. Camuti Memorial Feline Consultation and Diagnostic Service, which answers calls from vets and cat owners at 1-800-KITTY-DR.

A past president of the American Association of Feline Practitioners, Richards regularly appeared on television and radio programs to discuss the best ways to raise and care for cats. He lectured to cat owners’ clubs around the country and served as an adviser to Alley Cat Allies, a trap-neuter-return program to manage populations of feral cats.

Richards served as editor-in-chief of CatWatch, a monthly newsletter published by the Cornell veterinary school, penned the column “Ask Dr. Richards,” and wrote and/or edited numerous books and articles, including the “ASPCA Complete Guide to Cats,” “The Well-Behaved Cat: How to Change Your Cat’s Bad Habits” and “The Cornell Book of Cats.”

In his spare time, he enjoyed motorcycling, bicycling, hiking and kayaking. Richards was riding his motorcycle in Willet, N.Y., on April 22 when he saw a cat in the middle of the road. In an effort to avoid hitting the animal, Richards was thrown from his bike and severely injured. He died two days later. The cat died in the accident as well.

“Jim didn’t know how to say no to a good cause, and was always talking about how there was never enough time to do all the things we wanted to do for cats,” said Lila Miller, ASPCA vice president of Veterinary Outreach. “He was an incredible man — brilliant, compassionate, funny, humble, kind, generous, gracious and dedicated. He was a good friend to the ASPCA, and we all are heartbroken.”

The 19th annual Feline Symposium, scheduled for July 27-29 at the College of Veterinary Medicine, will serve as a public tribute to Richards.

Listen to an Interview on Steve Dale’s Pet World

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