Arnold Grobman Passes Away at 94

Publish Date: 
Tue, 07/17/2012

Arnold GrobmanBSCS is sad to share news of the passing of its first director, Arnold Grobman, who died on 8 July in Gainesville, Florida, at the age of 94. Grobman was the Director of BSCS from 1958-1965, subsequently serving as Chair of the Board from 1965-1969.

We celebrate his significant and lasting contributions to the field of science education in general and BSCS in particular, where he led the development of its three transformative high school biology “versions,” Yellow, Blue, and Green.

Current BSCS Executive Director Janet Carlson said, "BSCS would not be the organization it is today had it not been for Arnold’s leadership in the first years of our history. I had the honor of spending time with Arnold multiple times during my tenure at BSCS and was always inspired by his vision of making high-quality biology education accessible for all teachers and students as well as his commitment to the mission of BSCS."

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Janet Carlson, BSCS Executivie Director, wrote the following statement, which was shared at Mr. Kennedy's memorial service.

BSCS Statement in Memory and Honor of Arnold Grobman

Arnold Grobman was the first Executive Director of BSCS, serving in that role from 1958-1965. He then continued his service to the organization by serving as Chair of the Board from 1965-1969. Arnold’s 11-year tenure of leadership was among the most influential periods for the organization, and much of what BSCS is today, we owe directly to Arnold and the men and women he worked with during the first decade of the organization.

BSCS is a research and development organization dedicated to providing leadership in science education. This leadership began in 1958 when Arnold was asked to head up the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study committee that eventually became the separate non-profit organization known as BSCS. BSCS is alive and thriving today in part because of his significant and lasting contributions to both the field of science education and BSCS. In particular, we would like to note the following contributions that we can attribute directly to Arnold’s work at BSCS:

  1. Arnold, along with the original steering committee, held an absolute insistence that the scientific integrity of the content in curriculum materials not be compromised by being watered down or adjusted to suit a particular funder, publisher, or curriculum-adoption committee. To this day, BSCS maintains “content control” over all of its materials and stands by the accuracy and integrity of the science content.
  2. Arnold was the director who led the charge to re-introduce evolution into the high school biology curriculum. The organization has maintained this position vigilantly in support of evolution as the foundation of all of biology. Unfortunately, we still fight the battle for the inclusion of evolutionary theory in the K-12 science curriculum as regularly as Arnold and the original writers of BSCS did in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
  3. Arnold maintained an organizational position that teaching about the human reproduction system was an important component of the content for high school biology. This work was done with scientific accuracy and without ethical, moral, and legal judgment.
  4. Arnold instigated the writing conference approach to developing curriculum materials, in particular forming teams of scientists, classroom teachers, and science educators.  BSCS projects still use variations of this approach today.
  5. Arnold was the director during the development of three transformative high school biology programs, affectionately known as the Yellow, Blue, and Green versions. During the height of the implementation of these programs during the 1970s, researchers have estimated that more than 50 percent of high school students were using one of these programs.
  6. Arnold is credited with making the decision that if our materials were to be used in foreign countries then we would not create translations of the original materials, but instead would work with teams of scientists and educators from the other country to adapt the program so that students would be learning key biological concepts with examples of local flora and fauna. Arnold is quoted as saying that these adaptation and the accompanying teacher workshops were “an extraordinary example of international cooperation on a person-to-person basis.”

BSCS would not be the organization it is today had it not been for Arnold’s leadership in the first years of our existence. He inspired generations of curriculum developers with his vision of making high-quality biology education accessible for all teachers and students. He never backed off from expressing his opinion on the important issues facing science education and what he wanted to see happen in the nation's schools and universities.  During his leadership of BSCS, Arnold established the high standards that guide us today. He never compromised quality and never yielded on the mission of the organization—that all citizens should be scientifically literate, which is no small challenge.

As Arnold himself said: “Although I have held positions as a university professor, museum director, college dean, and university chancellor, none has been as exciting, as challenging, as stimulating, as rewarding, and as important as serving as director of BSCS.” To this day, the current staff of BSCS do their best to maintain this inspired approach in our work each day. We owe the opportunities we have currently at BSCS to those who came before us, and we are forever indebted to the courageous and wise leadership of Arnold Grobman. As Bentley Glass, chair of the board, prophetically remarked in 1965, “In time to come, when the books and laboratory programs of the BSCS have been replaced by something better and are a matter of history, surely the revolution in the curriculum of the American high school that has taken place in this decade will be regarded as the greatest educational development of our time, the greatest since John Dewey shaped American secondary education through his philosophy. On the basis of this achievement … we will pay tribute to the men [and women] who wrought it, and foremost among them, Arnold Grobman.”

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Manert Kennedy, who was hired by Grobman as a staff associate and who later served as BSCS Associate Director from 1968-1982, worked with Dr. Grobman for many years. Kennedy said, "Arnold was a sterling administrator who went on to have a very distinguished career. Under Arnold's leadership, we developed the largest international biology education program of any organization in the country."

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Jack Carter, BSCS Associate Director from 1966-1968 and Director from 1982-1985, said, "We have lost an important scientist and scholar who was so important in all our lives. For those of us who worked with Arnold in the early days of BSCS, he was a powerful leader. We first met in about 1960. At that time the National Science Foundation was preparing and training so many of us to conduct workshops for BSCS biology teachers all over the U.S. As the director of BSCS, he was the first person I heard speak concerning the goals and objectives of the program. He made it very clear that as the directors of the workshops the future of the BSCS program was on our shoulders. 
 
The first time I had an opportunity to meet Arnold in Boulder was in 1964 as I was preparing to participate in the summer science studies program in India. He was always warm and friendly, but extremely matter of fact. He never backed off from expressing his opinion on the important issues facing science education and what he wanted to see happen in the nation's schools and universities. Then later in the summer of 1965, when I was joining the BSCS as Associate Director, Arnold was preparing to leave BSCS for a new administrative position in higher education and Bill Mayer was becoming Director. As I look back on my career, that was probably the most important summer of in my life as I worked closely with these two distinguished leaders in the biological sciences. Of equal importance, Bentley Glass, then Chairmen of the BSCS Board, was in Boulder working on one of the writing teams. Associating with these three people I learned more about the life sciences and science education over lunch each day than I did in six years completing my Ph.D. program. For so many years I relied heavily on these three people for their thoughts and opinions. Oh how I miss them!"

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Background info, courtesy of the Grobman family:
The U.S. Congress was shocked by the Soviet Union’s launch of the first satellite in 1957, which indicated the U.S. was “losing the space race.” It encouraged the National Science Foundation (NSF) to revamp high school education in the U.S., including a redevelopment of high school biology textbooks. NSF did so through a grant to the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS), which established the BSCS, and recruited Dr. Grobman as founding director.

Obituary courtesy of the Grobman family:
Arnold Grobman, Chancellor Emeritus of the University of Missouri, St. Louis, was a renowned herpetologist, educator, and researcher in atomic science for the Manhattan Project. In the 1950s, Dr. Grobman was the Director of the Florida State Museum (now the Florida Museum of Natural History) in Gainesville, where he laid foundations for its development into a major university research museum.

In 1958, he became the founding director of the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study in Boulder, Colorado, a group developing secondary school biology textbooks promoting the teaching of evolution and lab fieldwork.

After a stint as dean of Rutgers College and a vice-chancellorship at the University of Illinois at Chicago, he was selected as chancellor of the University of Missouri-St. Louis, where he oversaw the addition of new schools of nursing and optometry.

Dr. Grobman published dozens of educational and scientific articles, many focusing on reptiles, and wrote several books, including Our Atomic Heritage, The Changing Classroom, and Urban State Universities. The salamander Plethodon grobmani was named after him.

Dr. Grobman was married to the former Hulda Gross, who predeceased him, and is survived by a son, Marc Grobman of Fanwood, New Jersey, and a daughter and grandson, Beth Grobman and David Burruss, of San Jose, California.

Arnold Grobman Reading___________________________

Excerpted from The BSCS Story

Young Arnold Grobman, just 13, began taking the long trolley rides from his home on the edge of Newark, N.J., to the Newark Public Library in the central part of the city. Perusing the natural history shelves, he seized upon the volumes on reptiles and amphibians, eagerly reading everything he could find.

One day he discovered that the Newark Museum was only a few doors away. He wandered in, disappointed when all he saw were paintings and decorative arts. Upon further investigation, however, he found something more interesting: a modest live-animal display in the rear corner of the first floor, containing a box turtle, a small alligator, a bull frog, and a king snake. This was more like it. A kindly lady, Frankie Culpepper, asked him if he’d like to hold the turtle so he could examine it more closely … and in that moment, a biologist was born—not to mention the future first director of BSCS, Arnold Brams Grobman.

To finish the story, Grobman soon met other youngsters who had been attracted by Miss Culpepper to her junior museum section. They formed a club they called the Newark Society of Natural History and gave a public lecture on the snakes of New Jersey. “Every one of the boys in the club grew up to earn a doctoral degree in the biological sciences,” Grobman, who became a herpetologist, recalled.

The son of a jewelry designer whose income was severely reduced during the Depression, Grobman worked his way through college, earning his B.S. at the University of Michigan and his M.S. and Ph.D. at the University of Rochester, all in zoology. While in Rochester, he was “volunteered” to work on the Manhattan Project (the development of the atomic bomb). Grobman headed a lab that autopsied the offspring of male mice that had been exposed to radiation, to determine the potential genetic effects and estimate the permissible exposure level for men who worked in atomic energy plants.