ALAN J. FRIEDMAN

The museum community has lost our cherished friend and colleague Alan J. Friedman. Over the years we have been enriched by his warm camaraderie, acute intellect, clarity of vision, and ongoing mentoring.

If you never spent time with Alan Friedman, you missed something special. A bona fide scientist (Ph.D. in low-energy physics), Alan loved talking science, and he did it in such a way that anyone could understand him.  Alan also loved a good story. He told stories—about science and most everything else--with such deliberate glee you were captivated while being instructed.  A warm and generous man, Alan died of pancreatic cancer at age 71 on May 4, 2014. His admirers in The Museum Group and at museums around the world sorely miss him.

In the 1960s when Alan was completing his dissertation, he realized that most of the interesting questions in his branch of physics couldn’t be addressed without complex machinery, but really important questions about public understanding of science lay wide open. As it turned out, he dedicated his life to exploring those questions through science centers--creating, analyzing, promoting, and celebrating them and their sister institutions for hands-on science learning.  His first innovations were planetarium exhibits and programs. He became a practitioner and life-long advocate for analysis of museum practice through audience research (prototyping, all forms of evaluation). He spent 22 years leading the New York Hall of Science from a rebirth into a nationally recognized leader in programming across disciplines and, for promising youth, across cultures. As a consultant, he served as a leading advisor to national agencies developing science education standards and assessments. He wrote articles and gave talks around the globe to share his expertise and enthusiasms.

Alan received awards for leadership from American Alliance of Museums, and Association of Science-Technology Centers, and American Association for the Advancement of Science, among others.  His many fans in the museum world remember him for his grace as a coach and colleague as well as for his intellect.

Alan's colleagues at the New York Hall of Science have set up a site http://nysci.org/thinking-of-alan/ where friends can share their thoughts and memories. There is also a wonderful history of how he saved the museum http://nysci.org/the-physicist-who-saved-the-hall-of-science/ . NYSci is also developing plans for a permanent memorial to Alan.

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