Ken Frazier, editor of Skeptical Inquirer magazine, has died at the age of 80

Kendrick “Ken” Frazier was standing near the Firehole River in Yellowstone National Park last September. Frazier, a well-known science writer, died November 7 in Albuquerque. (Courtesy of Ruth Frazier)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

On one of their first dates, Kendrick “Ken” Frazier took his future wife, Ruth, to a trailer home on the dark outskirts of Boulder, Colorado. That was in 1963 when they were students at the University of Colorado.

“My dad thought it was just a sneaky way for Ken to get me into the country,” Ruth said. “But it was a university trailer and there were three university scientists. We went there to listen to the sounds emanating from Jupiter. It sounded like noise.”

Maybe only Ken Frazier would have seen this as the kind of getaway to start a romance. But Ruth understood.

“Ken loved science, especially astronomy and geophysics, but also a very broad area of ​​science,” she said.

Ken Frazier embarked on a career as a prominent science writer. He was editor of Science News; he was the author or editor of 10 books; he worked for Sandia National Laboratories for more than 20 years, writing about the laboratory’s research projects and being the editor of Sandia Lab News; He was also the longtime editor of Skeptical Inquirer, a magazine dedicated to combating disinformation and pseudoscience and finding rational explanations for paranormal claims.

“Ken helped start the whole skeptical movement with guys like James Randi and Carl Sagan,” said Dave Thomas, a physicist at New Mexico Tech and president of New Mexicans for Science and Reason. “Ken was interested in everything about the integrity of science and the scientific method of evaluating things and discarding things that don’t work.”

Ken Frazier died November 7 in Albuquerque from acute myeloid leukemia. He was 80.

Survivors include his wife Ruth; son, Christopher; and seven grandchildren. Ken was preceded in death by a daughter, Michele. His life will be celebrated on January 8 from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. at St. Chad’s Episcopal Church, 7171 Tennyson NE.

“The skeptical community is pretty small,” said Ben Radford, deputy editor of Skeptical Inquirer. “Ken’s loss hits a lot of us hard.”

quiet waters

Frazier was born in Windsor, Colorado. He started out as a science major at the University of Colorado Boulder, but switched to journalism. He and Ruth met at a fraternity party.

“I could tell right away that he was the complete opposite of me,” she said. “I had heard the expression that still waters run deep and Ken was the stillest water. I’m totally extroverted and he was classic introverted. They say opposites attract and we were both attracted.”

They got married about a year after he took her to this trailer to listen to Jupiter’s sounds.

He earned a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University in New York City.

As editor of Science News in 1976, Frazier reported on the formation of the Committee for the Scientific Inquiry into Claims of the Paranormal. The committee published a magazine originally called The Zetetic but soon changed its name to the Skeptical Inquirer. Frazier became editor in August 1977, working from his home in Albuquerque until his death.

Thomas had known Frazier for about 20 years. He said Frazier encouraged him to write an article on Project Mogul, a top-secret US Army Air Forces project involving high-altitude balloons equipped with microphones to detect sound waves produced by Soviet Union nuclear bomb tests will. The crash of one such balloon in New Mexico in 1947 is believed by some to be the cause of the famous Roswell UFO incident.

This was the first of about five articles Thomas has written for Skeptical Inquirer. “Ken nurtured the skeptical community not only by publishing ‘Skeptical Inquirer,’ but by encouraging people to write and do research. He was extremely friendly, thoughtful and engaging.”

Endlessly curious

Radford, who grew up in Corrales and now lives in Rio Rancho, was a student at the University of New Mexico when he spotted an old copy of the Skeptical Inquirer at a second-hand bookshop in Logan, Utah, in the early 1990s. He was instantly hooked.

“As a teenager, I realized that all the mysterious TV shows about UFOs and Bigfoot were very understudied,” Radford said. “They gave me no evidence. I liked the critical thinking aspect of Skeptical Inquirer. ”

Upon discovering that the magazine’s editor lived in Albuquerque, Radford wrote Frazier a letter saying, “I love what you do and want to make a contribution.”

Radford became editor-in-chief and then deputy editor-in-chief of Skeptical Inquirer. He is the author of 13 books, including Mysterious New Mexico: Miracles, Magic and Monsters in the Land of Enchantment, and has written hundreds of articles, many for Skeptical Inquirer.

“I worked with Ken for 25 years,” he said. “He kind of got me my break from publishing. The most important thing I remember about him is that he was endlessly curious and had an enthusiasm that was contagious. Sometimes I forgot that he was my boss. We were just two guys with a shared penchant for skepticism and critical thinking. I will always remember him fondly.”

Last big tour

In September, Ken and Ruth embarked on a 3,700-mile trip that took them from Albuquerque to Grand Teton, Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks and back home.

“We called it The Last Grand Tour,” Ruth said. “Ken had an incredible love of nature, from the planets to the mountains outside the doors of our home in the foothills of (Sandia). We had a second floor patio where we could watch the sunsets. He often got up at 3 or 4 in the morning and looked for the space station.”

Ken learned shortly after returning from his trip in September that he had aggressive leukemia.

In a note to readers of The Skeptical Inquirer, which will appear in a future issue, he wrote: “New generations of scientific skeptics are moving into positions of influence. I have no qualms that they are up to the task and only wish I could travel with you all for a while longer.”