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The NASA insignia. A blue circle with the word NASA in white across the blue circle. There is also a red vector across the blue circle.

Richard Lewis

Reporter, Chicago Sun Times

Richard “Dick” S. Lewis was a science reporter who had tremendous credibility and made a real difference in the world. He also just happens to have been a police reporter, war correspondent, as well as a drama and music critic.

Graduating from Pennsylvania State University in 1937, Lewis immediately went to work for the Cleveland Press. He left the paper in 1943 to join the U.S. Army and served in Europe as a reporter for the Stars and Stripes. That was not exactly a safe assignment; he earned a Purple Heart when he was wounded in battle.

Always interested in science, Lewis soon found a way to combine that interest with journalism when he went to work for the Chicago Sun Times after the war and reporting jobs in Indianapolis and St. Lewis. For 17 years, beginning in 1951, he worked as a reporter, and then assistant city editor and science editor for the Sun Times making sure its readers were properly introduced to and kept abreast of the growing space program. During this period he was a frequent visitor to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

Space reporting was only part of his passion. In 1954, Lewis won the Marshall Field Award for his investigative reporting on the surplus food handling in the Illinois school lunch program. The Chicago Newspaper Guild gave him its Page One award for the same investigative stories.

Lewis’ insight and expertise in the field of science reporting next brought him to editorship of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. Although his visits to Kennedy were less frequent during that period, he decided to retire to Melbourne, Fla., to be closer to the space center.

Retiring was not exactly the right word though because he continued an active career as a free-lance writer and wrote several books that are classics in the field: “Appointment on the Moon; The Full Story of Americans in Space from Explorer I to the Lunar Landing and Beyond,” “Challenger; The Final Voyage” and “Space in the 21st Century.”

Lewis was also pivotal in the founding of the science communication program of the University of California at Santa Cruz, UCSC. He was the first visiting expert lecturer to teach the undergraduate course in science writing. Although he stayed only one academic year, Lewis so influenced John Wilkes, one of the professors auditing his lectures, that he credits Lewis with inspiring him to continue in teaching science writing at MIT and later start the new program at UCSC.

Outside of the space field, Lewis wrote “The Other Child,” a book for parents who have brain injured children, and “A Continent for Science – The Antarctic Adventure.” Even today “The Other Child” is important reading for parents. His book on Antarctica was a labor of love written after two lengthy trips to the sub-continent and was the first definitive history of the world’s last land frontier.

Lewis passed away after a long illness in 2001.