Alan J. Friedman, 72, who ran the New York Hall of Science for 22 years and has been called its savior, died Sunday of pancreatic cancer in Manhattan.
The hands-on science museum in Flushing Meadows Park was designed for the 1964-65 World’s Fair and had fallen into disuse when Friedman was hired to revitalize it in 1984.
He is credited with not only doing that but giving the institution credence. The hall’s current president and CEO Margaret Honey offered the following statement on Wednesday:
“If not for Alan Friedman, there would be no Hall of Science. When Alan arrived in 1984, the museum had been closed for three years. Renovations and fundraising were stalled. The city was suggesting it would be better to move the hall to Manhattan. Alan arrived, and everything changed. He turned the Hall of Science into a place that emphasized education and visitor participation above all else. He had a vision for what the hall could be. We owe him so much.”
During his tenure the museum’s attendance rose from zero to 447,000 visitors a year, and it featured more than 450 exhibits. Friedman headed a $13 million expansion in 1996, installed a science playground, restored the Rocket Park and added a $92 million wing in 2006.
Friedman retired in 2006 to become an advisor and consultant to museums and universities throughout the world.
Before coming to the museum, he served for two years in Paris as conseiller scientifique et museologique for the Cite des Sciences et de l’Industrie. Prior to that, from 1973 to 1984, he was director of astronomy and physics at the Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California, Berkeley
He also taught at Hiram College in Ohio from 1969 to 1974.
The former hall director was the recipient of the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Award for Public Understanding of Science, the Association of Science-Technology Centers’ Fellow Award and the American Institute of Physics’ Gemant Award.
The American Association of Museums named him to its centennial honor roll in 2006.
Friedman was a graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology and received his Ph.D. from Florida State University.
Born in Brooklyn, he moved with his family as a young child to Georgia.
Surviving are his wife, Mickey and a sister, June Entman.
The Hall of Science will hold a memorial service sometime in the future.