Frank Drake

Frank Drake

Overview
Frank Donald Drake PhD
Doctor of Philosophy
Doctor of Philosophy, abbreviated as Ph.D., PhD, D.Phil., or DPhil , in English-speaking countries, is a postgraduate academic degree awarded by universities...

  is an American astronomer
Astronomer
An astronomer is a scientist who studies celestial bodies such as planets, stars and galaxies.Historically, astronomy was more concerned with the classification and description of phenomena in the sky, while astrophysics attempted to explain these phenomena and the differences between them using...

 and astrophysicist. He is most notable as one of the pioneers in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, including the founding of SETI
SETI
The search for extraterrestrial intelligence is the collective name for a number of activities people undertake to search for intelligent extraterrestrial life. Some of the most well known projects are run by the SETI Institute. SETI projects use scientific methods to search for intelligent life...

, mounting the first observational attempts at detecting extraterrestrial communications in 1961 in Project Ozma
Project Ozma
Project Ozma was a pioneering SETI experiment started in 1960 by Cornell University astronomer Frank Drake, at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory at Green Bank, West Virginia. The object of the experiment was to search for signs of life in distant solar systems through interstellar radio waves...

, developing the Drake equation
Drake equation
The Drake equation is an equation used to estimate the number of detectable extraterrestrial civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy. It is used in the fields of exobiology and the Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence...

, and as the creator of the Arecibo Message
Arecibo message
The Arecibo message was broadcast into space a single time via frequency modulated radio waves at a ceremony to mark the remodeling of the Arecibo radio telescope on 16 November 1974. It was aimed at the globular star cluster M13 some 25,000 light years away because M13 was a large and close...

,
a digital encoding of an astronomical and biological description of the earth and its lifeforms for transmission into the cosmos.

Born on the 28th of May 1930 in Chicago, as a youth Drake loved electronics and chemistry.
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Encyclopedia
Frank Donald Drake PhD
Doctor of Philosophy
Doctor of Philosophy, abbreviated as Ph.D., PhD, D.Phil., or DPhil , in English-speaking countries, is a postgraduate academic degree awarded by universities...

  is an American astronomer
Astronomer
An astronomer is a scientist who studies celestial bodies such as planets, stars and galaxies.Historically, astronomy was more concerned with the classification and description of phenomena in the sky, while astrophysics attempted to explain these phenomena and the differences between them using...

 and astrophysicist. He is most notable as one of the pioneers in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, including the founding of SETI
SETI
The search for extraterrestrial intelligence is the collective name for a number of activities people undertake to search for intelligent extraterrestrial life. Some of the most well known projects are run by the SETI Institute. SETI projects use scientific methods to search for intelligent life...

, mounting the first observational attempts at detecting extraterrestrial communications in 1961 in Project Ozma
Project Ozma
Project Ozma was a pioneering SETI experiment started in 1960 by Cornell University astronomer Frank Drake, at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory at Green Bank, West Virginia. The object of the experiment was to search for signs of life in distant solar systems through interstellar radio waves...

, developing the Drake equation
Drake equation
The Drake equation is an equation used to estimate the number of detectable extraterrestrial civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy. It is used in the fields of exobiology and the Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence...

, and as the creator of the Arecibo Message
Arecibo message
The Arecibo message was broadcast into space a single time via frequency modulated radio waves at a ceremony to mark the remodeling of the Arecibo radio telescope on 16 November 1974. It was aimed at the globular star cluster M13 some 25,000 light years away because M13 was a large and close...

,
a digital encoding of an astronomical and biological description of the earth and its lifeforms for transmission into the cosmos.

Early life and education


Born on the 28th of May 1930 in Chicago, as a youth Drake loved electronics and chemistry. He reports that he considered the possibility of life existing on other planets as an 8-year-old, but never discussed the idea with his family or teachers due to the prevalent religious ideology.

He enrolled at Cornell University on a Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps scholarship. Once there he began studying astronomy. His ideas about the possibility of extraterrestrial life
Extraterrestrial life
Extraterrestrial life is defined as life that does not originate from Earth...

 were reinforced by a lecture from astrophysist Otto Struve
Otto Struve
Otto Struve was a Russian astronomer. In Russian, his name is sometimes given as Otto Lyudvigovich Struve ; however, he spent most of his life and his entire scientific career in the United States...

 in 1951. After college, he served briefly as an electronics officer on the USS Albany
USS Albany (CA-123)
USS Albany was a United States Navy Oregon City-class heavy cruiser, later converted to the guided missile cruiser CG-10. The converted cruiser was the lead ship the new Albany guided missile cruiser class...

. He then went on to graduate school at Harvard in radio astronomy
Radio astronomy
Radio astronomy is a subfield of astronomy that studies celestial objects at radio frequencies. The initial detection of radio waves from an astronomical object was made in the 1930s, when Karl Jansky observed radiation coming from the Milky Way. Subsequent observations have identified a number of...

.

Drake's hobbies include lapidary
Lapidary
A lapidary is an artist or artisan who forms stone, mineral, gemstones, and other suitably durable materials into decorative items such as engraved gems, including cameos, or cabochons, and faceted designs...

 and orchid cultivation.

Career


Although explicitly linked with modern views on the likelihood and detectability of extraterrestrial civilizations, Drake started his career undertaking radio astronomical research at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in Green Bank, West Virginia
Green Bank, West Virginia
Green Bank is a census-designated place in Pocahontas County in West Virginia's Potomac Highlands inside the Allegheny Mountain Range. Green Bank is located along WV 28. Green Bank is also close to the Snowshoe Mountain ski resort...

, and later the Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Jet Propulsion Laboratory is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, California, United States. The facility is headquartered in the city of Pasadena on the border of La Cañada Flintridge and Pasadena...

. He conducted key measurements which revealed the presence of a Jovian ionosphere
Ionosphere
The ionosphere is a part of the upper atmosphere, comprising portions of the mesosphere, thermosphere and exosphere, distinguished because it is ionized by solar radiation. It plays an important part in atmospheric electricity and forms the inner edge of the magnetosphere...

 and magnetosphere
Magnetosphere
A magnetosphere is formed when a stream of charged particles, such as the solar wind, interacts with and is deflected by the intrinsic magnetic field of a planet or similar body. Earth is surrounded by a magnetosphere, as are the other planets with intrinsic magnetic fields: Mercury, Jupiter,...

.

In the 1960s, Drake spearheaded the conversion of the Arecibo Observatory
Arecibo Observatory
The Arecibo Observatory is a radio telescope near the city of Arecibo in Puerto Rico. It is operated by SRI International under cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation...

 to a radio astronomical facility, later updated in 1974 and 1996. As a researcher, Drake was involved in the early work on pulsars. In this period, Drake was a professor at Cornell University and Director of the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center (NAIC) – the formal name for the Arecibo facility. In 1974 he wrote the Arecibo message
Arecibo message
The Arecibo message was broadcast into space a single time via frequency modulated radio waves at a ceremony to mark the remodeling of the Arecibo radio telescope on 16 November 1974. It was aimed at the globular star cluster M13 some 25,000 light years away because M13 was a large and close...

.

He is one of the pioneers of the modern field of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence with Giuseppe Cocconi
Giuseppe Cocconi
Giuseppe Cocconi was a former director of the Proton Synchrotron at CERN in Geneva. He is known for is work in particle physics and for his involvement with SETI.-Life:...

, Philip Morrison
Philip Morrison
Philip Morrison, was Institute Professor Emeritus and Professor of Physics Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology .-Early life and education:...

, Iosif Shklovsky
Iosif Shklovsky
Iosif Samuilovich Shklovsky was a Soviet astronomer and astrophysicist...

, and Carl Sagan
Carl Sagan
Carl Edward Sagan was an American astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, science popularizer and science communicator in astronomy and natural sciences. He published more than 600 scientific papers and articles and was author, co-author or editor of more than 20 books...

.

Drake co-designed the Pioneer plaque
Pioneer plaque
The Pioneer plaques are a pair of gold-anodized aluminium plaques which were placed on board the 1972 Pioneer 10 and 1973 Pioneer 11 spacecraft, featuring a pictorial message, in case either Pioneer 10 or 11 are intercepted by extraterrestrial life...

 with Carl Sagan
Carl Sagan
Carl Edward Sagan was an American astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, science popularizer and science communicator in astronomy and natural sciences. He published more than 600 scientific papers and articles and was author, co-author or editor of more than 20 books...

 in 1972, the first physical message sent into space. The plaque was designed to be understandable by extraterrestrials should they encounter it. He later supervised the creation of the Voyager Golden Record
Voyager Golden Record
The Voyager Golden Records are phonograph records which were included aboard both Voyager spacecraft, which were launched in 1977. They contain sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth, and are intended for any intelligent extraterrestrial life form, or for...

. He was elected to the AAAS
American Academy of Arts and Sciences
The American Academy of Arts and Sciences is an independent policy research center that conducts multidisciplinary studies of complex and emerging problems. The Academy’s elected members are leaders in the academic disciplines, the arts, business, and public affairs.James Bowdoin, John Adams, and...

 in 1974.

Drake is a member of the National Academy of Sciences
United States National Academy of Sciences
The National Academy of Sciences is a corporation in the United States whose members serve pro bono as "advisers to the nation on science, engineering, and medicine." As a national academy, new members of the organization are elected annually by current members, based on their distinguished and...

 where he chaired the Board of Physics and Astronomy of the National Research Council (1989–92). He also served as President of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific
Astronomical Society of the Pacific
The Astronomical Society of the Pacific is a scientific and educational organization, founded in San Francisco on February 7, 1889. Its name derives from its origins on the Pacific Coast, but today it has members all over the country and the world...

. He was a Professor of Astronomy at Cornell University (1964–84) and served as the Director of the Arecibo Observatory. He is currently involved in "The Carl Sagan Center for the Study of life in the universe".

He is Emeritus Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz
University of California, Santa Cruz
The University of California, Santa Cruz, also known as UC Santa Cruz or UCSC, is a public, collegiate university; one of ten campuses in the University of California...

 where he also served as Dean of Natural Sciences (1984–88). He serves on the Board of Trustees of the SETI Institute
SETI Institute
The SETI Institute is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to “explore, understand and explain the origin, nature and prevalence of life in the universe”. SETI stands for the "search for extraterrestrial intelligence". One program is the use of both radio and optical telescopes to search...

.

Honors


Drake Planetarium at Norwood High School in Norwood, Ohio
Norwood, Ohio
Norwood is the second most populous city in Hamilton County, Ohio, United States. The city is an enclave of the larger city of Cincinnati. The population was 21,675 at the 2000 census. Originally settled as an early suburb of Cincinnati in the wooded countryside north of the city, the area is...

 is named for Dr. Drake and linked to NASA.

External links


  • "Only a matter of time, says Frank Drake" A Q&A with Frank Drake about his famous equation and the meaning of SETI, from an interview in February 2010, leading up to the 50th birthday of SETI.
  • "The Drake Equation"Astronomy Cast
    Astronomy Cast
    Astronomy Cast is an educational nonprofit podcast discussing various topics in the field of astronomy. The specific subject matter of each episode shifts from week to week, ranging from planets and stars to cosmology and mythbusting...

     transcript (html), Fraser Cain and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
    Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
    Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, commonly abbreviated SIUE, is a four-year coed public university in Edwardsville, Illinois about from St. Louis, Missouri. SIUE was established in 1957 as an extension of Southern Illinois University Carbondale, and is the younger of the two largest...

     professor, Dr. Pamela Gay
    Pamela L. Gay
    Dr. Pamela L. Gay is an American astronomer, educator, podcaster, and writer, best known for her work in astronomical podcasting. She was one of the cofounders of Slacker Astronomy, and was an "on air" personality for the show from February 2005 until the end of its first iteration in September...

    , Monday 12 February 2007. (Full pdf transcript.)