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Flatow, Ira 1949–

Flatow, Ira 1949–

PERSONAL:

Born March 9, 1949; married; wife's name Miriam; children: three. Education: Graduated from State University of New York in Buffalo.

ADDRESSES:

Home—CT.

CAREER:

Radio host and science journalist. WBFO-FM, Buffalo, NY, reporter, then news director; National Public Radio, science correspondent, 1971-86, then Science Friday, host; TalkingScience, president and founder. Worked as a science reporter for CBS This Morning, Westinghouse, and CNBC; Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution resident scholar, 2004; World Economic Forum Media fellow, 2005.

MEMBER:

National Association of Science Writers, American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Carl Sagan Award, 1999; Brady Washburn Award, 2000; journalism award, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2000; Elizabeth Wood writing award, 2002; public service award, National Science Board, 2005; lifetime honorary member of Sigma Xi, Scientific Research Society, 2005; Faraday Science Communicator Award, National Science Teachers Association, 2007.

WRITINGS:

Rainbows, Curve Balls, and Other Wonders of the Natural World Explained, illustrated by Howard Coale, Morrow (New York, NY), 1988.

They All Laughed—From Light Bulbs to Lasers, the Fascinating Stories behind the Great Inventions That Have Changed Our Lives, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1992.

Present at the Future: From Evolution to Nanotechnology, Candid and Controversial Conversations on Science and Nature, Collins (New York, NY), 2007.

Writer for the Public Broadcasting Service's television series Newton's Apple; writer, host, and producer for the documentary Transistorized. Contributor to periodicals and journals, including Woman's Day, American Lawyer, ESPN magazine, and Los Angeles Times.

SIDELIGHTS:

Ira Flatow is a radio host and science journalist. Born on March 9, 1949, he graduated from the State University of New York in Buffalo with a degree in engineering. Flatow got his start in radio journalism working for Buffalo's WBFO-FM as a reporter. He later became the news director for the station. In 1971 Flatow began working for National Public Radio (NPR), serving as a science correspondent until 1986. Flatow later became the host of the network's popular Science Friday show. He is the president and founder of TalkingScience, a nonprofit company that aims to make media projects in a mold that casts science in an interesting and easy-to-do light.

In addition to radio, Flatow has appeared as a commentator on a number of television programs. He also worked as a science reporter for CBS This Morning, Westinghouse, and CNBC, and as a writer for the Public Broadcasting Service's television series Newton's Apple. In 2004 he served as a Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution resident scholar and the following year as a World Economic Forum Media fellow. Flatow is a member of the National Association of Science Writers and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. His contributions to science journalism have been rewarded a number of times. He is the 1999 recipient of the Carl Sagan Award and the 2000 Brady Washburn Award. He also received the journalism award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science that year and the Elizabeth Wood writing award two years later. In 2005 he earned a public service award from the National Science Board and was made a lifetime honorary member of Sigma Xi by the Scientific Research Society. He earned the Faraday Science Communicator Award from the National Science Teachers Association in 2007.

Flatow had a strong interest in science since he was a child growing up in New York. In a 2000 interview in the New York Times with Claudia Dreifus, he explained his fascination with science and experimenting. Flatow stated: "I was the kind of kid who did experiments in basements. I'd travel to Vesey Street in Manhattan and go through electronics stores to pick up old radar parts and transistors. Then back at home, I'd take a heavy duty wire-coil, plug the wire into a wall socket and turn it until it glowed. That basically turned it into a toaster. I'd get transformers and hook them up backward and get mushroom clouds out of them by plugging them into the walls and then melting them."

Flatow published his first book, Rainbows, Curve Balls, and Other Wonders of the Natural World Explained, in 1988. Flatow explains how common phenomena and concepts work using science geared toward a general audience.

James Gorman, writing in the New York Times Book Review, found that "the true soul of the book may well lie in its tidbits. Some of the better trivia are highlighted and labeled as trivia. Others are sprinkled throughout the text." Gorman pointed out that "Flatow seldom tells us more than we want to know. The length of each explanation is usually, like the baby bear's porridge, just right."

Flatow's second book, They All Laughed—From Light Bulbs to Lasers, the Fascinating Stories behind the Great Inventions That Have Changed Our Lives, was published in 1992. The book shows how patent lawyers, unimaginative industrialists, and skeptics have, throughout history, negated some of the world's most brilliant inventions. Flatow also shows how many of these inventions were realized in unusual places or circumstances.

Douglas A. Sylva, writing in the New York Times Book Review, observed that in the book "Flatow conducts an entertaining and informative tour of the laboratories, institutes, and beauty salons of science." A contributor to Publishers Weekly opined that the book "lacks creativity" but thought that "it will appeal as a reference book to" young inventors and science teachers.

In 2007 Flatow published Present at the Future: From Evolution to Nanotechnology, Candid and Controversial Conversations on Science and Nature. Here the author uses interviews from NPR to disprove myths and commonly believed falsehoods about scientific topics ranging from nanotechnology to immortality.

A contributor to the Thisisby.us Web site noted that Flatow's "discussion of what is involved in stem cells and cloning is a must read for anyone with an uninformed position on the matter." The same contributor concluded that "overall, the book is an A-, only because it seemed too short—lacking crucial subjects in some areas. It is particularly recommended for anyone who wants to get more acquainted with science or wants to better understand the interplay between politics and science better." A contributor to Kirkus Reviews remarked that "Flatow certainly has a knack for finding the appropriate professionals to discuss each topic," but thought that the text "will likely confuse newbies," concluding that the book is "a disappointingly superficial book about a number of fascinating subjects." Booklist contributor Gilbert Taylor stated: "Cultivating the curiosity essential to finding science interesting, Flatow produces a varied introduction to the topic." Carla H. Lee, writing in Library Journal, found that Present at the Future "is likely to be popular with general readers" owing to "its conversational style and broad range of topics."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

American Scientist, July 1, 2005, "Ira Flatow and David Quammen Honored," p. 382.

Booklist, July 1, 1992, Denise Perry Donavin, review of They All Laughed—From Light Bulbs to Lasers, the Fascinating Stories behind the Great Inventions That Have Changed Our Lives, p. 1908; September 1, 2007, Gilbert Taylor, review of Present at the Future: From Evolution to Nanotechnology, Candid and Controversial Conversations on Science and Nature, p. 33.

Book Report, January 1, 1993, Carol Mann Simpson, review of They All Laughed.

Boys' Life, January 1, 1987, Denny Angelle, "Newton's Apple; Bite-sized Science," p. 20.

Christian Science Monitor, October 13, 1983, Arthur Unger, "Newton's Apple," p. 29.

Instructor, March 1, 1990, review of Rainbows, Curve Balls, and Other Wonders of the Natural World Explained, p. 18.

Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2007, review of Present at the Future.

Library Journal, July 1, 1992, Hilary D. Burton, review of They All Laughed, p. 115; September 15, 2007, Carla H. Lee, review of Present at the Future, p. 82.

New Scientist, January 21, 1989, James Burke, review of Rainbows, Curve Balls, and Other Wonders of the Natural World Explained, p. 64.

New York Times, April 4, 2000, Claudia Dreifus, author interview.

New York Times Book Review, August 28, 1988, James Gorman, review of Rainbows, Curve Balls, and Other Wonders of the Natural World Explained, p. 14; July 16, 1989, review of Rainbows, Curve Balls, and Other Wonders of the Natural World Explained, p. 32; August 30, 1992, Douglas A. Sylva, review of They All Laughed, p. 14.

Publishers Weekly, February 17, 1984, Jean F. Mercier, review of Newton's Apple, p. 90; May 27, 1988, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of Rainbows, Curve Balls, and Other Wonders of the Natural World Explained, p. 46; June 8, 1992, review of They All Laughed, p. 50.

Reference & Research Book News, October 1, 1988, review of Rainbows, Curve Balls, and Other Wonders of the Natural World Explained, p. 27.

Science Books & Films, January 1, 1989, review of Rainbows, Curve Balls, and Other Wonders of the Natural World Explained, p. 165; March 1, 1993, review of They All Laughed, p. 41.

Science'85, January 1, 1985, Barbara Seeber, review of Newton's Apple.

SciTech Book News, September 1, 1992, review of They All Laughed, p. 37.

Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), July 2, 1989, review of Rainbows, Curve Balls, and Other Wonders of the Natural World Explained, p. 5; July 18, 1993, review of They All Laughed, p. 8.

TV Guide, January 19, 1985, Robert MacKenzie, "Newton's Apple," p. 64.

Wilson Library Bulletin, October 1, 1988, James Rettig, review of Rainbows, Curve Balls, and Other Wonders of the Natural World Explained, p. 111.

ONLINE

American Program Bureau Web site,http://www.apbspeakers.com/ (June 9, 2008), author profile.

National Public Radio, Science Friday Web site,http://www.sciencefriday.com/ (June 9, 2008), author profile.

National Public Radio Web site,http://www.npr.org/ (June 9, 2008), author profile.

Thisisby.us,http://www.thisisby.us/ (May 5, 2008), review of Present at the Future.

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