Andrew Fraknoi

Foothill College — San Francisco, CA

Andrew Fraknoi is an award-winning science educator who is known for his skill in interpreting astronomical discoveries and ideas in everyday language. Fraknoi is the Chair of the Astronomy Program at Foothill College near San Francisco, where he 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 “How Pluto Got Kicked out of the Planet Club and What New Horizons is Showing Us about It.” 

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 its newsletter for teachers, The 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.). The National Science Teachers Association has recently published his book “Solar Science: Exploring Sunspots, Seasons, Eclipses, and More.”

A prolific author, Fraknoi has edited two collections of science articles and science fiction stories for Bantam Books, and is the lead author of Voyages through the Universe (1997-2004, now in its 3rd edition from Brooks-Cole), which has become one of the leading astronomy textbooks in the world.  He is also the editor of a two-volume teaching guide called The Universe at Your Fingertips – one of the most widely used astronomy education resources. His children’s book on astronomy, Disney’s Wonderful World of Space, was published in 2007. With Dr. Sidney Wolff, he is the founding editor of Astronomy Education Review, an on-line journal/magazine about astronomy education.

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 and now is a regular on the Gil Gross Program on KGO. He has also been one of the most regular guests on the Forum program (with Michael Krasny) on KQED, and is 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. Currently, he is the Vice-chair of the Lick Observatory Council and serves on the national task force of the American Astronomical Society for the August 2017 Total Eclipse of the Sun. 

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 Scientific Inquiry, specializing in debunking astrology. A few years ago, he was elected a Fellow of the California Academy of Science. In 2009 he serves as national secretary for the program committee for the International Year of Astronomy, celebrating the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s turning the telescope to the heavens.

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 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.

Andrew can be reached via e-mail at fraknoiandrew [at] fhda [dot] edu.  


Astronomical pseudoscience
Critiquies of astrology
UFOs and Life in the Universe
Catastrophes with Astronomical Causes
The Moon Landing Hoax
Science Fiction and Science
How to approach pseudoscience and critical thinking in the classroom 
Black Holes: Separating the Science from the Science Fiction.

Topic(s): Education, Science (General)

Sub-topic(s): Science education