FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | October 01, 2020

Sam Kean wins Grady-Stack Award for science communication

WASHINGTON, Oct. 1, 2020 — The American Chemical Society (ACS) today announced Sam Kean as the 2021 recipient of the Grady-Stack Award for Interpreting Chemistry for the Public. The award, named for ACS News Service managers James T. Grady and James H. Stack, was established in 1955 to recognize individuals who have increased public knowledge and understanding of the chemical sciences through the press, television, film, books, lectures and other media.

Kean is a freelance writer and author of the bestselling book “The Disappearing Spoon,” which compiles little-known stories about each element of the periodic table. He has also authored four other books about science, all of which engage readers with unique takes on topics not covered by traditional scientific curricula. In addition, Kean has written about scientific subjects for Science magazine, The Atlantic, The New Yorker and other major outlets and edited the 2018 edition of “The Best American Nature and Science Writing.”

Earlier this year he launched the “Disappearing Spoon” podcast, named after his first book. Each episode tells an offbeat story about science history and how it relates to today. The podcast debuted at No. 1 on the iTunes science charts. Kean’s new book, “The Icepick Surgeon,” will be out next year.

“Sam has helped teachers, students and skeptics learn more about their connection to chemistry and its centrality to history,” says Adam Boyd, program director for the American Association of Chemistry Teachers (AACT). “Because Sam has sought out opportunities to communicate about chemistry as broadly as possible, his impact on the public at large has been considerable.”

Beyond his prolific writing career, Kean has contributed to science communication in other media, including script-writing and appearances in videos produced by ACS and AACT, and has appeared on National Public Radio shows such as Radiolab, Science Friday and All Things Considered. He is a frequent public speaker at high schools, universities and libraries, where he engages with students and educators about an array of scientific topics.

“If there’s one common denominator to all the science communication I do, it’s storytelling,” says Kean. “There are stories about startling discoveries, about brave sacrifices, about unlikely heroes. In communicating science to the public, I try to bring that human element to the front, and show people just how deeply chemistry touches every aspect of our lives.”

Kean earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Minnesota, where he studied physics and English literature, and he holds a master’s degree in library science from Catholic University of America.

As part of his award, Kean will receive $5,000 and a medallion. He will be presented with his award in August 2021 at the fall ACS National Meeting in Atlanta, where a symposium will be held in his honor.

The American Chemical Society (ACS) is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. ACS’ mission is to advance the broader chemistry enterprise and its practitioners for the benefit of Earth and its people. The Society is a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related information and research through its multiple research solutions, peer-reviewed journals, scientific conferences, eBooks and weekly news periodical Chemical & Engineering News. ACS journals are among the most cited, most trusted and most read within the scientific literature; however, ACS itself does not conduct chemical research. As a specialist in scientific information solutions (including SciFinder® and STN®), its CAS division powers global research, discovery and innovation. ACS’ main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

To automatically receive press releases from the American Chemical Society, contact


Follow us:      

Media Contact

ACS Newsroom