Donald Kennedy

2015 recipient of the Carl Sagan Prize for Science Popularization

In nominating Donald Kennedy for the Sagan Prize, legendary S.F. Chronicle science editor—and Wonderfest advisor—David Perlman wrote the following:

“From the time he talked with reporters about the neurophysiology of crayfish and octopuses in 1974, to his recent press discussion at AAAS meetings on the subject of science communication, Don Kennedy has been a major guide and influence on the public understanding of science.

I can also recall a public series of summer programs on environment issues that he created and ran at Stanford when he was a mere professor. They raised public awareness of environmental problems years before “environmentalism” and “green” became catchwords.

As Commissioner of the FDA for more than two years during the Carter administration, 1977-79, and despite continual heavy lobbying by the drug and food additives industries, Kennedy ran an agency that still protects the public strongly on many fronts (even though many FDA operations are still flawed today—either because of direct lobbying or Congressional reluctance to increase its powers).

During his tenure as editor of Science, of course, he greatly broadened the audience for that magazine by encouraging more staff-writtten articles that covered the ground of the often highly technical papers. These articles then became completely accessible to lay readers and extremely helpful to journalists, again communicating to the public. He’s done much the same thing in discussion with reporters time and again at AAAS meetings, too.”