Alan H McGowan, selected as 2019’s Top Science and Technical Expert by the International Association of Top Professionals, also received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Marquis Who’s Who that same year. Now a Lecturer at The New School, he served first as chair of the Science, Technology, and Society Program (now called the Interdisciplinary Science Program) then as chair of the Environmental Studies Program, where he developed several new initiatives, including a newsletter going to four hundred leaders in global environmental studies, and an internal “Friday Letter” going to interested staff and faculty.
After graduating Yale University with an engineering degree, and a two-year stint at American Electric Power, a public utility, Mr. McGowan left to pursue graduate work in physics, then taught science and mathematics at private schools for ten years, winning the Teacher Recognition Award from the American Association of Physics Teachers in 1968. Following that, after serving for five years as Scientific Administrator of the Center for the Biology of Natural Systems, an interdisciplinary environmental research, and training program at Washington University in St. Louis, he became president of the Scientists’ Institute for Public Information (SIPI), which under his leadership became a major bridge between the scientific and journalist communities. Board Chairs of SIPI included such people as Margaret Mead, Lewis Thomas, and David Baltimore. SIPI’s Media Resource Service, its signature program of which Walter Cronkite was the Honorary Chair, fielded up to fifty calls a day from journalists connecting them to expert sources. Another important program was “TV News: The Cutting Edge,” weekend gatherings of local and national television news directors and leading scientists, including Nobel Laureates.
When changing foundation priorities forced SIPI to close, he founded and ran The Gene Media Forum, part of the Newhouse School of Journalism of Syracuse University, which served as a bridge among geneticists, ethicists, and journalists. Highlights of the program included a major conference in South Africa on genetically modified organisms funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, a session on race, genes, and intelligence which aired on ABC News, and a session on genetics and injuries featuring Christopher Reeves.
Mr. McGowan was a member of both the New York State and the New York City Advisory Committees on Energy Policy and was for twenty years the scientist member of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. He has served on many boards and advisory committees, including the Center for the Advancement of Health, the Organization of Tropical Studies, and the Metcalf Institute of the Oceanography School of the University of Rhode Island. He chaired the board of Student Pugwash, USA, an offshoot of the Pugwash Conference on Science and Public Affairs; the organization focuses on ethical issues in science and technology. He currently serves on the board and executive committee of the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences, where he chairs the Legal and Governance Committee. He is also one of six Executive Editors of Environment magazine, now published by Taylor and Francis.
He is the author of over forty articles focusing on the interconnections among science, society, and technology, both in peer-reviewed journals and the popular press. They have appeared in Jewish Currents, Christian Science Monitor, PTA Magazine, Think magazine, World Book Encyclopedia, and many others. He has presented his research on Franz Boas, ethical issues in science and innovative course in science at scientific and education conferences around the world, and in seminars at Columbia and Princeton Universities as well as at The New School. In addition, he has written over one hundred editorials for Environment magazine over a forty-year period, including one in 1978 warning of the perils of global climate change.