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Professor Emeritus Willard J. Jacobson, Science Educator, Dies at 78


Professor Emeritus Willard J. Jacobson, Science Educator, Dies at 78

Willard Jacobson

Willard James Jacobson, Professor Emeritus of Natural Science at Teachers College, who directed public attention to the national problem of "a sadly deficient" science education in the 1950s, died on Friday, December 29, 2000, at his home in Duxbury, Massachusetts. He was 78.

Jacobson received his B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Wisconsin, River Falls, in 1946 and his M.A. (1948) and Ed.D. (1951) in Science Education from Teachers College.

During World War II, Jacobson served as copilot of a B52 bomber in the U.S. Army Air Force and was decorated with an Air Medal with seven oak leaf clusters.

Jacobson was highly recognized for his efforts at international science education and worked with UNESCO and major universities of education in England, Germany, France and Portugal on the development of science curricula. In the mid-1950s, Jacobson worked with the Royal Afghan Ministry of Education on science education and in the early 1960s was a Fulbright Senior Lecturer in Science Education at the University of London's Institute of Education. He was also the Director of Teacher Education for the Science Curriculum Improvement Study (SCIS), and senior author of the SCIS Elementary Science Sourcebook.

In 1954, Jacobson was instrumental in the planning for a Science Manpower Project dedicated to the improvement of science education in American schools, and the cultivation of student interest in science and science-related careers. Support for the Project was received from American industries and foundations, and operations began in September 1956.

In an address to his colleagues about the role and impact of Teachers College in the field of international education, Jacobson spoke of the College's role in the organization of the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA). IEA was headquartered at Teachers College with a mission to improve education in science.

As Chairman of the Department of Science Education at Teachers College (1965-73), Jacobson wrote "To Action in Science Education" in The Science Teacher (1971), calling for recognition of the central importance of the science teacher.

By 1987, Jacobson was the author of more than 50 books, including the ABC Science Series (grades K-6) and the three volume Inquiry into Science series for junior high school. He and Professor Abby Bergman co-authored Science for Children, a textbook for teachers, which went through multiple editions. His 1979 text, Population Education, A Knowledge Base, provided teachers of science and social studies at the middle and high school levels with basic knowledge of population issues. In his latter years, he became increasingly involved in the nuclear disarmament movement and peace education, contributing an essay to Reardon and Nordlund's Learning Peace: The Promise of Ecological and Cooperative Education.

Jacobson was the former Chairman of the Educational Advisory Committee of the New York Academy of Sciences (1975), the President of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (1968-69), and President of the Association for the Education of Teachers in Science (1962-63), an active member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the National Teachers Association, which in 1987 awarded him the Robert H. Carleton Award for national leadership in the field of science education. In the 1980s Jacobson was the National Director for the U.S. of the Second International Science Study, which measured and compared the quality of science education in the United States and several other industrialized countries.

Jacobson is survived by his wife Carol of Duxbury, Massachusetts, his two daughters, Susan Jacobson Gaztanaga of Baltimore, Maryland, Ellen Jacobson Snoeyenbos of Halifax, Massachusetts, his son, Thomas Jacobson of Takoma Park, Maryland, his four granddaughters, a brother, and five sisters.

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