A Brief  Biography

I was born in 1924, educated in the California public schools and earned degrees from the University of California, Berkeley, Stanford University, and Harvard University. In the last six months of WWII, I served as a radar officer on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific.

In 1949, I began my career in science education as a teacher of general science, algebra, chemistry, and physics in a high school in which the students were mostly children of first-generation Greek and Italian immigrants. In 1951, another school district recruited me to participate in the creation of its first post-WWII high school. Starting with a vacated golf course, some Quonset huts, and enough brave ninth-graders to get underway, in four years the school was serving over 1200 students, had become well-known in the Bay Area. During that period, I served as chair of the curriculum committee, consulted with the architects in the design of the science facilities, and created and taught non-traditional chemistry and physics courses.

In developing the latter, I drew heavily on Gerald Holton’s groundbreaking undergraduate textbook, Introduction to Concepts and Theories in Physical Science, which in due course led to a collaboration that still continues. I became assistant, then associate, professor of education at Harvard in 1964, there joining Gerald Holton and Fletcher G. Watson as co-directors of Harvard Project Physics (later simply the Project Physic Course). Over the course of the project, I served as its executive director and senior author and editor.

From 1971 to 1977, I was professor of science education and head of science and mathematics education at New York University. There I taught doctoral seminars and a series of graduate courses for education and science majors that included the public understanding of science, the scientific enterprise, history of science, and science and the humanities. I also initiated and directed Project City Science, a federally-funded effort engaging graduate students (education and science) in cooperating with the junior-high science teachers to improve instruction. In 1975 I was elected president of the National Science Teachers Association.

I then held positions in two federal agencies. In 1977, I was appointed assistant director of the National Science Foundation responsible for all science, mathematics, and engineering education programs, preschool through postdoctoral, and for informal science education programs.  When the new U.S. Department of Education was launched, I was appointed assistant secretary with responsibilities for the Office of Education for Research and Improvement, the National Institute of Education, the National Center for Educational Statistics, the Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education, and the federal programs supporting libraries and the development of educational technologies.

My last position before retiring was as chief education officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C. At AAAS, I started a variety of projects reasserting the role of the AAAS nationwide science education reform. The most important of these was Project 2061, begun in 1984 as a long-term, comprehensive effort of the scientific community to foster nationwide reform in science, mathematics, and technology education. As director during its first decade, I was responsible for a series of  landmark publications—“intellectual reform tools”—the most influential being Science for All Americans, Benchmarks for Science Literacy, and Atlas of Science Literacy. The last of my Project 2061 books, written with the late Andrew Ahlgren, was Designs for Science Literacy.

In retirement, I am currently a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley, and have served on committees of the National Academies of Science. I created the Website Science Education Encore, produced Radioactive Waste and other environmental teaching modules for middle and high school science courses, co-authored Understanding Physics, an undergraduate textbook, with David Cassidy and Gerald Holton, and established and serve as curator of the Project Physics Collection (www.archive.org/details/projectphysicscollection).  My views on science education reform are summarized in  “The 2005 Brandwein Lecture: Is Our Past Our Future? Thoughts on the Next 50 Years of Science Education Reform in the Light of Judgments on the Past 50 Years.

Among my awards are the Robert H. Carleton Award for National Leadership in Science Education of the National Science Teachers Association, the Distinguished Service Medal of the National Science Foundation, the Joseph H. Hazen Education Prize of the History of Science Society (shared with Professor Gerald Holton, Harvard University), the Oersted Medal of the American Association of Physics Teachers, and the first University of California Lawrence Hall of Science Award for Outstanding Contributions to Science Education.