David Grinspoon of the Planetary Science Institute has today been named an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Fellow in the field of astronomy. AAAS is the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the Science family of journals.


Grinspoon, a Senior Scientist at PSI, was elected a class of 2021 Fellow by AAAS for distinguished scientific research in the field of comparative terrestrial atmospheres with a particular focus on Venus, and for prolific public science communication via books, articles, lectures, and other media.


“It’s a great honor for me to be named as an AAAS fellow,” said Grinspoon. “It’s such an exciting and hopeful time to be involved in planetary exploration and astrobiology, and simultaneously a somewhat harrowing time to inhabit this rapidly changing planet where scientifically enlightened policy is both desperately needed and currently under threat. We need to serve society while advancing science and I’m proud to be recognized by an organization of my peers which has as its mission to do both.”


“David provides an important perspective of Earth as a planet in the Anthropocene, where humans continue to change our world in ways observable from another star,” said Mark Sykes PSI’s Director, who was named an AAAS Fellow in astronomy in 2005. “His studies of other planets in the solar system provides insights into the potential fate of our own world.”


Grinspoon has served on the science teams of several interplanetary spacecraft and has published numerous papers on the evolution of the atmospheres, planets and potential biology of Earthlike planets, and has given invited keynote talks at conferences around the world. He has written and edited six books, including Lonely Planets the Natural Philosophy of Alien Life which won the PEN Literary award for nonfiction, and Earth in Human Hands: Shaping Our Planet’s Future, named a Best Science Book of 2016 by NPR’s Science Friday. His articles have been published in Slate, Scientific American, Natural History, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the New York Times, and he writes the regular “Cosmic Relief” column for Sky & Telescope Magazine. 


In 2013 he was appointed as the inaugural Chair of Astrobiology at the U.S. Library of Congress where he studied the human impact on Earth systems and organized a public symposium on the Longevity of Human Civilization. Grinspoon has taught undergraduate and graduate courses at four universities and online, given dozens of public lectures about climate change in the Solar System, and collaborated with numerous scholars from the humanities on the ethical, spiritual and political dimensions of space exploration. He has appeared widely on radio and television, including as a frequent guest-host of StarTalk Radio. The American Astronomical Society awarded him the Carl Sagan Medal for Public Communication of Planetary Science. Asteroid 22410 Grinspoon, a main-belt asteroid, is named after him.


“Dave’s career shows a remarkable ability, not always common in scientists, to be aware of work in a wide variety of scientific fields, to be able to relate them to each other, and to convey their implications to the public,” said PSI Senior Scientist Emeritus William K. Hartmann, who was named an AAAS Fellow in astronomy in 2001. “My congratulations to Dave. He’s a good choice to be an AAAS Fellow!” 


“AAAS is proud to bestow the honor of AAAS Fellow to some of today’s brightest minds who are integral to forging our path into the future,” said Sudip Parikh, AAAS chief executive officer and executive publisher of the Science family of journals. “We celebrate these distinguished individuals for their invaluable contributions to the scientific enterprise.” 


The new Fellows will receive an official certificate and a gold and blue rosette pin to commemorate their election  – representing science and engineering, respectively – and will be celebrated later this year during an in-person gathering when it is feasible from a public health and safety perspective. The new class will also be featured in the AAAS News & Notes section of Science in January 2022.


AAAS Fellows are a distinguished cadre of scientists, engineers and innovators who have been recognized beginning in 1874 for their achievements across disciplines, from research, teaching, and technology, to administration in academia, industry and government, to excellence in communicating and interpreting science to the public.