2005 Winner: Lifetime Achievement in Popular Science Writing
James Trefil was born in Chicago and educated in the public schools. After receiving a B.S. in physics from the University of Illinois, he won a Marshall scholarship to Oxford University, where he studied physics and the philosophy of science and received B.A. and M.A. degrees. He finished his studies as a National Science Foundation Fellow at Stanford University, where he received an M.S. and Ph.D. in theoretical physics.
James has written extensively about science for the general audience, including more than 25 books. He is the Contributing Editor for Science for USA TODAY Weekend. He serves as a regular contributor and science consultant for Smithsonian and Astronomy Magazines. He has served as a science commentator and member of the Science Advisory Board for National Public Radio and for numerous PBS productions. He is Chief Science Consultant to the McDougal-Lyttell Middle School Science Project.
He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, the American Association of the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and the World Economic Forum. He is a member of the Davos Global Issues Group and is a General Councillor of the American Physical Society. James has received both the Andrew W. Gemant Award for linking physics to the arts and humanities, given by the American Institute of Physics, and the Science Writing Award for promoting effective science communication in print and broadcast media to improve the general public's appreciation of physics, astronomy, and allied science fields, given by the American Physical Society. He is a recipient of the AAAS Westinghouse Science Journalism Award and of the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship. A former Phi Beta Kappa national lecturer, he is the Robinson Professor of Physics at George Mason University.
His interest in scientific literacy began with a contributed essay to E. D. Hirsch's Cultural Literacy and continued through participation as a co author of the New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy (3rd edition, 2002). His textbook, The Sciences: An Integrated Approach (with Robert Hazen), has been widely adopted, and he served on the Content Review Board for the National Science Education Standards.
He has published over 100 papers in professional journals and has made contributions to research in elementary particle physics, fluid mechanics, medical physics (including cancer research) and the earth sciences.