Speaker Details

Farouk El-Baz

Since 1986, Dr. Farouk El-Baz has served as Research Professor and Director of the Boston University Center for Remote Sensing, and Adjunct Professor in its Departments of Archaeology and Electrical and Computer Engineering. He also serves as Faculty Advisor to two of the university’s student organizations: the “1001 Wells for Darfur,” and the “Egyptian Club.” His early career witnessed the initiation of the science and technology of remote sensing by photography of the Moon in preparation for the Apollo missions. He served as Secretary of the Lunar Landing Site Selection Committee and Chairman of Astronaut Training in Orbital Observations and Photography. His role was recognized in Episode 10 “Galileo Was Right” of the TV series From the Earth to the Moon, produced by Tom Hanks for HBO, where his training of the astronauts was featured in a segment entitled: “The Brain of Farouk “El-Baz”. In his honor, the popular television program Star Trek: The Next Generation featured a shuttle craft named “El-Baz”. Upon completion of the Apollo program, he established and directed (1973-82) the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies at the National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC. To apply the knowledge gained form Apollo, he served as Principal Investigator of the Earth Observation and Photography Experiment on the Apollo-Soyuz Mission. Emphasis on this first American-Russian space mission of 1975 was placed on photography of desert landforms. In order to confirm the interpretations of the orbital photographs, he initiated field excursions throughout the Western Desert of Egypt. These field missions accumulated new insights on the origin and evolution of desert landforms. His observations were also key to a better understanding of the features that were revealed by photographic missions to Mars. The significance of the findings was underlined by a NASA publication on the analogy of the features of Mars to those in Egypt. In 1978, he was appointed Science Advisor to the late President Anwar Sadat of Egypt and asked select segments in the desert that would be amenable to development. His detailed studies led to the recognition of the symbiotic relationship between the dry environment and the people who populated the desert at the dawn of ancient Egyptian civilization. He was appointed Senior Advisor to the Egyptian Antiquities Organization and participated in the study of the Tomb of Nefertari near Luxor in preparation for its conservation by the Getty Conservation Institute. He also led the National Geographic Society’s team to unveil the second “Solar Boat” south of the Great Pyramid of Giza, and was Science Advisor to the committee responsible for the preservation of the Great Sphinx. As a pioneer of applying remote sensing in archaeology, he was elected member of the prestigious US National Academy of Engineering and became chairman of its Charles Stark Draper Prize award committee and member of its committee on the Grand Challenges of Engineering. He also chaired the US National Academies committees on Geological Sciences and the Keck Futures Initiative on Imaging Science. In 1999, the Geological Society of America (GSA) established the “Farouk El-Baz Award for Desert Research,” an annual award aimed at rewarding excellence in arid land studies by experts worldwide. It was followed by the “Farouk El-Baz Student Award” to be presented annually to one male and one female graduate students to encourage desert research throughout the world.

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