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Hurd Collection

The Paul DeHart Hurd Collection on Science Education

The Paul DeHart Hurd Collection on Science Education includes materials on the teaching of science, science education policy, curriculum, and related topics. Professor Hurd collected these materials throughout his career as a science education reformer, and they represent milestones in science curriculum design, government policy toward the teaching of science, and innovations in science pedagogy.


Memorial Resolution: Paul DeHart Hurd (1905-2001)

Born on December 25th, 1905, in Denver, Paul DeHart Hurd graduated from Manual High School in Denver, Colorado (1925) and received a bachelors in botany and a masters degree in plant ecology from the University of Northern Colorado in 1929 and 1932 respectively, and a doctorate from Stanford's School of Education in 1947. In addition, he held Honorary DSc degrees from Ball State University, Drake University, and University of Northern Colorado.

Paul began his teaching career as a high school biology teacher, Head of Science Department, and Science Curriculum Director in elementary and secondary schools in Greely, CO (1929-1939). He then moved to the Stanford area and served as biology teacher and Chair of the Science Department at Menlo School and Junior College (1940-1951). He joined the Stanford University School of Education in 1951, became emeritus professor in 1971, and taught courses related to the certification of elementary and secondary school science teachers as well as courses for science education doctoral students; he directed a summer institute for experienced high school chemistry, mathematics and physics teachers.

Paul was a progressive educator in spirit and in conception and devoted his career to ensuring scientific literacy for all Americans developing curricula and instructional practices that teach students the reasoning skills of scientific inquiry, along with facts. His contributions to policy-making, research, curriculum development, pedagogy and teacher training extend back to his 1949 dissertation analyzing science education in the first half of the century. He believed science should have social relevance for elementary and secondary students and they should have hands-on experience with scientific problems in the course of their studies. His views earned him both a national and international reputation in the field of science education. Now widely acknowledged as a way to increase the meaningfulness of scientific understanding, during the 40s science was much more docile a subject, despite the progressive influence on some elementary schools during that period.

Paul wrote 9 books or monographs on the historical and philosophical aspects of science education, including the landmark Biological Education in American Secondary Schools 1890-1960. Although he retired in 1971, he continued to write profusely. He published over 200 articles on science education in the United States and in other parts of the world. Although Paul's formal retirement took place in 1971, his was a voice often heard about prospects and directions for science education at the turn of the millennium. He remained active virtually until his death at 95 years of age.

Paul was recognized for his intellectual impact on science education during his fifty year career, and his prolific and persuasive writing stimulated the thinking of science educators throughout the nation. He also was one of the most influential figures in the formulation of science education policy when the nation turned new attention to the improvement of science education in the early 1980s. His historical perspective and deep personal experience added weight to his pleas for linking science education to matters of environmental protection and constructive uses of new technologies. His gift for clear and direct language made him a favorite of newspaper and television journalists. So it is not surprising that he served as a senior consultant to the National Academy of Sciences and the National Science Foundation, tothe Biological Science Curriculum Studies and to other state and federal committees during the period of 1960-1995.

Among other honors, he received the Distinguished Service to Science Education Citation from the National Science Teachers Association (1969); the Apollo Award from the National Aeronautics and Space Agency (1970); the Robert H. Carleton Award for National Leadership in Science Education (1979); served as president of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (1970-1971) and the Distinguished Contribution to Science Education Research Award from the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (1987). He was a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and held honorary life memberships in eight professional societies.

Paul DeHart Hurd was one of the first to recognize the need for a post-modern approach to science for pre-collegiate education in the sciences, early adolescent development and its significance for middle grade science curriculum. His interest in closing the educational gaps between science, technology, and society was a foremost interest. What he wanted, perhaps above all, was the creation of new ways of thinking for a new age. He was persuasive. "Not just hands-on, but minds-on" was one of his memorable aphorisms. Paul DeHart Hurd was a science educator with a social vision, an idea of what science could become to enhance the lives of individuals and to enrich the culture. He was a man who commanded the respect of his peers and the admiration of his students. He aimed at what was broad and most significant in the field of science education and he will be remembered as someone who succeeded in articulating a vision that shaped much of science education during the middle of the twentieth century.

Elliot Eisner, chair
Richard Shavelson
Myron Atkin