patrusky benBen Patrusky

Class of 1958EE

Inducted 2007

Ben Patrusky is a widely published, award-winning science writer who held key positions with the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing for almost 40 years. He was executive director of the CASW, which develops and funds programs aimed at enhancing the quality of science news, from 1987 until retiring in 2013, and from 1975 to 2005, he produced the Council’s annual New Horizons in Science Briefing for journalists. That affair brings distinguished scientists from a host of disciplines together with as many as 200 science writers for an intensive four-day exploration of new developments in science, medicine, technology and the environment that are likely to make news in the year ahead, thereby giving the reporters a leg up on coverage.

In 2003, in recognition of its contributions to science writing and the public understanding of science, the CASW, under Patrusky’s stewardship, was selected to receive the highly prized Public Service Award of the National Science Board, the body that advises the president and Congress on science and oversees the research programs of the National Science Foundation.

patrusky ben public service award

Ben Patrusky (far right) accepting a Public Service Award, 2003, with Jerry Bishop, CASW president, and Shirley Malcom, chairwoman of the National Science Board.

When Patrusky retired, he was honored by CASW with tributes that included the formation of a fund, named for him, to carry on his work and support an annual Patrusky Lecture by “a renowned senior scientist and vivid interpreter of science” to be presented at the annual New Horizons meetings.

“Ben has always been ahead of his time,” said Miles O’Brien, a long-time journalist and CASW board member. “He was succeeding as a freelance journalist long before the rest of us were forced to join him. Smart, knowledgeable, and engaged in the niche he covers, I consider him the preeminent role model for those of us who are committed to ‘carrying the fire’ in sharing the wonder, promise and peril of science.”

Born in Brooklyn on Nov. 30, 1935, Patrusky attended the prestigious Stuyvesant High School and entered City College with thoughts of becoming an engineer. He graduated with a degree in electrical engineering, but perhaps more important, he joined the staff of The Campus and found that journalism was his true calling. Following graduation, Patrusky attended Columbia University’s School of Journalism as a Sloan-Rockefeller Advanced Science Writing Fellow. He joined the American Heart Association as research reporter and science editor and subsequently designed and launched its annual science writer seminars.

While at AHA, Patrusky began freelancing, writing a monthly medical/science column for Signature magazine for eight years. In 1972, he was invited to Israel for the first of three consecutive years by the Weizmann Institute of Science as a Visiting Science Writer. When AHA moved from New York to Dallas in 1975, Patrusky opted for a fulltime freelance career. On his last day at AHA, he was offered a weekly health column by Newsday. It ran for four years.

In 1991, CASW asked Patrusky to lead a group of science writers through Central and South America to report on efforts to enhance agricultural productivity in the developing world. As a follow-up in 1995, he took journalists on a month-long journey through sub-Saharan Africa. Patrusky has also directed seminars for institutions such as the Ford Foundation, the National Academy of Science, the National Kidney Foundation, Research to Prevent Blindness, the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions and the National Institutes of Health. In 1987, he became a consultant to the Scientists’ Institute for Public Information, to create and direct seminars for TV news directors.

He has written some three dozen major articles for Mosaic, the National Science Foundation’s research magazine, on subjects ranging from archaeology to climate change. He has also been a contributing editor to Science. He has contributed to two World Book annuals, Science Year and YearBook and his work has appeared in Cosmopolitan, Look, GEO, Think, Medical World News and American Health. He is the author of three books: “The Laser: Light That Never Was Before,” “Living With Your Heart” and “Gravity.”

His honors include the American Institute of Physics Science Writing Award and the American Chemical Society’s Grady-Stack Award. In 1989, he was named a trustee of Science Service, publisher of Science News and administrator of the Intel Science Talent Search. In 1994, he was elected to honorary lifetime membership in Sigma Xi, the scientific research society.