Frank Drake 1930-2022. Image Credit: YouTube / SETI Institute
One of the pioneers of the modern field of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence has sadly passed away.
Born in Chicago on May 28th, 1930, Drake expressed an interest in electronics and chemistry from an early age.
As a young man he enrolled at Cornell University on a Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps scholarship and served as a ship's electrician for a time aboard the U.S.S. Albany before enrolling at Harvard University as a graduate student in radio astronomy.
He had always had a fascination with the idea of life elsewhere in the universe and had concluded at a young age that it was likely that other civilizations existed out there in the cosmos.
This interest would ultimately see him become one of the pioneers of SETI ( the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence ) alongside the likes of Giuseppe Cocconi and Carl Sagan.
Drake's first SETI experiment, which began in 1959, was known as Project Ozma and involved using the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in Green Bank, West Virginia to hunt for alien signals coming from the Tau Ceti and Epsilon Eridani star systems.
In 1961, he came up with the famous Drake equation which provided a means with which to calculate the potential number of intelligent extraterrestrial civilizations that might exist in our galaxy.
In 1972, he worked on the famous Pioneer plaque - the first physical message sent into space that had been designed to be understood by an intelligent alien civilization.
He also wrote the Arecibo message which, in 1974, was the first interstellar message transmitted directly from Earth.
Throughout his long life, he served in numerous roles ranging from section chief of Lunar and Planetary Science at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to dean of Natural Sciences at the University of California at Santa Cruz.
He will always be remembered, however, for his pioneering work on the search for intelligent alien life.
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