"There are ground-up earthworms in my baloney!" This misconception is one of many that Dr. Joseph Schwarcz--winner of the top communications award from the world's largest scientific society--tries to dispel with his reporting, making "sense from nonsense with science."
A newspaper and broadcast journalist whose work is seen throughout Canada, Schwarcz has been named the 1999 recipient of the American Chemical Society's James T. Grady-James H. Stack Award for Interpreting Chemistry for the Public. Established in 1955, this annual award represents the highest honor the Society gives for public communication about chemistry and includes a $3,000 prize. Named after two former managers of the American Chemical Society's News Service, the award aims to recognize, encourage, and stimulate outstanding reporting that promotes the public's understanding and knowledge of chemistry, chemical engineering and related fields.
Schwarcz writes a weekly column for the Montreal Gazette called "The Right Chemistry." He has a regular feature entitled "Joe's Chemistry Set" on the Canadian Discovery Channel, and he hosts a weekly radio phone-in show about chemistry on Montreal station CJAD.
"Familiarity with science allows us to look at the world in a different light," explains Schwarcz. "It allows us to be logical in our convictions, rational in our fears, realistic in our hopes and reasonable in our decisions." Schwarcz works to educate the public so that people can make informed choices, such as the mother who thought that ground-up earthworms were being used as fillers in meat products like hot dogs and bologna because "sodium erythorbate" was listed as an ingredient on the packages. She did not realize that sodium erythorbate is a preservative and a form of Vitamin C. Schwarcz elaborates, "It makes a lot more sense to minimize hot dog and baloney consumption because of their high fat and salt content than because they contain sodium erythorbate."
Schwarcz's work focuses on the useful applications of chemistry in everyday life. In addition to food additives, he has covered the chemistry of love and new developments in cosmetics. Schwarcz has received many awards and accolades, including the Chemical Manufacturers Association's National Catalyst Award and the American Chemical Society's James Flack Norris Award.
Schwarcz has also collaborated on a Reader's Digest best-seller Foods That Harm Foods That Heal and he has lectured in the U.S. and Canada on a variety of topics. Schwarcz is senior adjunct professor of chemistry at McGill University and also serves on the faculty of the chemistry department at Vanier College in Montreal.
Hungarian born, Schwarcz grew up in Montreal where he received both his Ph.D. and B.Sc. in chemistry from McGill University in 1974 and 1969 respectively. He currently resides in the Montreal suburb of Cote-St-Luc with his wife Alice and his three daughters.
Schwarcz, the first non-American to win the award, will receive the $3,000 Grady-Stack award, and a gold medal and bronze replica at the Society's spring national meeting in Anaheim, Calif., next March.
Among past Grady-Stack Award recipients are last year's winner, National Public Radio Correspondent Joseph Palca, Don Herbert ("Mr. Wizard"), Malcolm Browne of The New York Times, and Tom Siegfried of The Dallas Morning News.