200 Years. 200 Stories. Story 125: “Making Science Accessible ”

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Scott Widensaul with an owl
Author Scott Weidensaul and a friend. (Photo by Bill Uhrich, Reading Eagle.)

Making Science Accessible

For nearly 200 years, the Academy has explored the remarkable diversity of our natural world and shared our discoveries with the public through innovative exhibits, publications, and educational programming. We take our job seriously, especially when it comes to making natural science accessible. In keeping with that priority, we like to recognize the work of naturalists who share their work with wide audiences. On May 25, 2010, the Academy awarded a prestigious honor to a Schuylkill County naturalist and prolific author for his outstanding contributions to making the science of nature and the physical world more accessible to the general public. Scott Weidensaul of Schuylkill Haven received the Richard Hopper Day Memorial Medal for his lifelong contributions to interpreting and communicating natural science and discoveries for the general public at a ceremony open to Academy members. The Richard Hopper Day Memorial Medal was established in 1960 in memory of Day (1847–1924), a life member of the Academy, in recognition of his keen interest in natural history.

“It’s one thing for scientists to discover new species, publish scientific papers, and present research to colleagues at scientific conferences,” said Dr. Ted Daeschler, vice president of systematics and the Library (then acting Academy president and CEO). “But it is important that this new knowledge be conveyed to non-scientists in a non-technical way that reaches everyone. Scott is a master of this and is especially passionate about ornithology, one of the traditional research strengths of the Academy.”

Weidensal’s work has appeared in many general-interest publications including Smithsonian, The New York Times, Nature Conservancy, National Wildlife, Audubon, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and Harrisburg Patriot-News. He has written more than two dozen books on natural history, including Living on the Wind: Across the Hemisphere with Migratory Birds, a 1999 Pulitzer Prize finalist for general nonfiction. His recent book, Of a Feather: A Brief History of American Birding, traces 400 years of bird study and birding in America.

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