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INDIANAPOLIS, Sept. 8, 2013 — Alan Alda, actor, writer, director and science advocate, has won the American Chemical Society (ACS) Award for Public Service. The award was presented here today at the 246th National Meeting & Exposition of the ACS, in the Indiana Convention Center.
ACS, the world’s largest scientific society, extends the award to recognize outstanding accomplishments in public service benefiting the chemical sciences. A founding member of the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University, where he is a Visiting Professor, Alda is pioneering the use of improvisational theater exercises to help scientists share their work and their passion with the public. Based on his own experience as a child fascinated by a candle flame, he also originated the Center’s annual Flame Challenge contest, which invites scientists to explain complex material to 11-year-olds.
Alda became famous as surgeon Hawkeye Pierce in the TV series M*A*S*H, won seven Emmy Awards and six Golden Globe Awards and created memorable characters in scores of movies, several of which he also wrote and directed.
Yet, exceptional as his artistic achievements are, they are rivaled by his contributions to improving the communication of science to the public. As host of PBS’ Scientific American Frontiers from 1993 to 2005, he talked with hundreds of scientists around the world and saw that scientists communicate much better when they carry on real, personal conversations about their work. He brought that insight to Stony Brook, inspiring the University to create the Center for Communicating Science in 2009. The Center was renamed in his honor in April 2013.
Alda’s commitment to science communication is long-standing. He is a board member and participant in the annual World Science Festival in New York. He helped launch the play QED, about physicist Richard Feynman, and originated the role of Feynman on Broadway. In 2006, he received the National Science Board’s Public Service Award “for his contagious enthusiasm in fostering wonder and discovery.” In 2010, he won the AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Award for his PBS series The Human Spark. And in 2011, he saw the premiere of Radiance: The Passion of Marie Curie, a play he wrote about the scientist he calls his hero.
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The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 163,000 members, ACS is the world's largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.