Thursday, March 28, 2013

Albert Baez, Science Educator and UNESCO Pioneer

Albert V. Baez was the first director of science education at UNESCO. Dr. Baez was the director of the science education program of UNESCO from 1961-67. During that period he organized and led a program to improve science education in secondary schools worldwide. The program included projects to improve physics education in Latin America, chemistry education in Asia, biology education in Africa, and mathematics education in the Arab states.

The trail breaking program he developed at UNESCO introduced simple, inexpensive kits to allow science experiments in secondary schools, produced films, and utilized programmed education techniques (which were very innovative at the time) for the teachers of science. The work depended significantly on Dr. Baez' earlier participation in the Physics Science Studies Committee which helped to improve physics education in U.S. secondary schools.

Previously, in 1951, he had served UNESCO in Baghdad. The Government of Iraq had requested of the United Nations assistance in setting up physics, chemistry and biology departments at the University College of Baghdad which was the forerunner of what would become the University of Baghdad.

In the 1980s, he served as chairman of the Commission on Education for the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.

Dr. Baez was a distinguished physicist, known professionally as the co-inventor (in 1948) of the X-ray reflection microscope. He also developed optics for the X-ray telescope.  In 1991, the International Society for Optical Engineering awarded him and his coinventor the Dennis Gabor Award for pioneering contributions to the development of X-ray imaging microscopes and X-ray imaging telescopes.

During his long teaching career he served on the faculties of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard, Stanford, UC Berkeley and other universities. A Quaker and a pacifist, he refused to use his considerable expertise to advance the nuclear arms race during the Cold War.

In retirement, he served as president of Vivamos Mejor (Let Us Live Better), an organization is dedicated to improving the quality of life through science-based education and community development projects in Latin America. He was active in the work of Bread and Roses, an organization founded by his daughter Mimi Baez Farina to bring free live music to people confined in institutions - jails, hospitals, juvenile facilities and rest homes. He endowed the Hispanic Engineer Albert Baez Award, which is given for Outstanding Technical Contribution to Humanity.

In 1956 (with W.C. Nixon) he published Lectures on the X-ray Microscope, and in 1967 he wrote The New College Physics: A Spiral Approach. He co-authored The Environment and Science and Technology Education, published in 1987, and with his wife, Joan Baez Senior, the memoir A Year in Baghdad in 1988. To those in the international community interested in science education, he is known as a founding father of their work.

To the general public he is perhaps better known as the father who introduced his daughters, Joan Baez and Mimi Baez Farina to music, to the love of peace, and to social responsibility. Dr. Baez was born on November 15, 1912, in Puebla, Mexico, and came to the United States with his family at two years of age. He received a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Drew University, a master's degree in physics from Syracuse University, a master's degree in mathematics and a doctorate in physics from Stanford University.

Thomas Malone: A Chairman of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO

I believe we are at a historical choice point in determining the kind of world our children's children will inherit. If we make these choices based only on the models of our industrial-age past, we will almost certainly miss the true opportunities before us. 
An environmentally sustainable, economically equitable, and socially stable and secure society in which all of the basic needs and an equitable share human "wants" can be met by successive generations while maintaining a healthy, physically attractive and biologically productive environment.
Thomas F. Malone
Thomas Malone was one of the prime movers in the revolution that catapulted weather and climate to a high position on the public agenda during the second half of the twentieth century. He chaired the U. S. National Commission for UNECO from 1965 to 1967.

Malone was born in 1917 in Sioux City, Iowa. Brought up at his parents homestead ranch in South Dakota, his schooling was interrupted in the 1930s by the need to help out on the ranch due to the drought and economic problems of the time.

He finally completed his high school studies in 1936 and attended college at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City, SD.

Awarded a graduate scholarship at MIT in 1940, Malone was soon selected to train Naval and Air Force officers in a special program of weather forecasting for military operations. Ultimately, he served as a special consultant to the 19th Weather Squadron at Payne Field in Cairo, Egypt, where he was charged with developing weather forecasts for an alternate route (the Red Ball Express) to military operations in the Pacific Theater. At the end of World War II, he returned to MIT and completed his doctoral studies in 1946.

As an Assistant Professor at MIT, he took a leave between 1949 and 1951 to edit the 1300 page Compendium of Meteorology, a report that set the stage for meteorological research in the second half of the 20th century. That, in turn, led to his appointment to a National Academy of Sciences’ Committee on Meteorology charged with framing national initiatives in meteorological research and education.

Invited by a group of universities to prepare plans for what turned out to be the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, CO, Malone convened a series of planning conferences that produced the famous “Blue Book” – an agenda for NCAR. He later joined NCAR’s Board of Trustees, subsequently serving as its chair.

He left a tenured faculty appointment at MIT in 1955 to join The Travelers Insurance Companies where he went on to become Senior Vice President and Director of Research. He returned to academia in 1970 as Professor of Physics and Dean of the Graduate School at the University of Connecticut.

A member of the National Academy of Sciences, he was elected Foreign Secretary of the National Research Council in 1978.  He also chaired the Academy’s Geophysics Research Board and its Board on Atmospheric Physics and Climate. His overlapping presidencies of the American Meteorological Society and the American Geophysical Union, and his position as chair of the NAS Committee on Atmospheric Sciences, gave him stature to influence President Kennedy in his UN Address to propose a global program to improve weather forecasting and study climate change.

Malone also had a prominent role in the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU). He was elected founding Secretary General of the ICSU’s Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE) in 1970. In that role, and as a Dean of the Graduate School of the University of Connecticut, he was the lead-off speaker in a conference on “Technological Changes and the Human Environment” in preparation for the UN Conference on the Human Environment to be held in Stockholm in 1972.

He was on the U.S. delegation to the 1979 UN Conference on Science and Technology for Economic Development in Vienna and was was instrumental in the initiation of a grants program in the NAS’s Board on Science and Technology in Development, a U.S. initiative for UNCSTD. It was in that latter role that I came to know Dr. Malone and to respect his contributions (as I was part of the team planning for the initiative and the designated government official to negotiate the BOSTID grant).

Read more in Thomas F. Malone's autobiography (abridged)

The U.S. National Commission for UNESCO presents a silver tray to President Harry S. Truman in recognition of his work to found UNESCO. Left to right are Commission Chair Thomas Malone, President Truman, Jennell Moorhead of the National PTA, and Forrest McCluncy, Chair of the Commission's 10th Annual Meeting Committee (11/20/65 - Kansas City, MO)