Frank Drake

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Dr. Frank Donald Drake (born May 28, 1930, Chicago) is an American astronomer and astrophysicist. He is most famous for founding SETI[1][2][3][4] and creating the Drake equation and Arecibo Message.


Early life and education

As a youth in Chicago, Drake loved electronics and chemistry. He reports that he considered the possibility of life existing on other planets as an 8-year-old, but never discussed the idea with his family or teachers due to the prevalent religious ideology.

He enrolled at Cornell University on a Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps NROTC scholarship. Once there he began studying astronomy. His ideas about the possibility of extraterrestrial life were reinforced by a lecture from astrophysist Otto Struve in 1951. After college, he served briefly as an electronics officer on the USS Albany. He then went on to graduate school at Harvard in radio astronomy.

Drake's hobbies include lapidary and orchid cultivation.


Although explicitly linked with modern views on the likelihood and detectability of extraterrestrial civilizations, Drake started his career undertaking radio astronomical research at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in Green Bank, West Virginia, and later the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He conducted key measurements which revealed the presence of a Jovian ionosphere and magnetosphere.

In the 1960s, Drake spearheaded the conversion of the Arecibo Observatory to a radio astronomical facility, later updated in 1974 and 1996. As a researcher, Drake was involved in the early work on pulsars. In this period, Drake was a professor at Cornell University and Director of the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center (NAIC) – the formal name for the Arecibo facility. In 1974 he wrote the Arecibo message.[5]

Drake designed the Pioneer plaque with Carl Sagan in 1972, the first physical message sent into space. The plaque was designed to be understandable by extraterrestrials should they encounter it. He later supervised the creation of the Voyager Golden Record. He was elected to the AAAS in 1974.

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