Ken Frazier, editor of 'Skeptical Inquirer' magazine, dies at 80 - Albuquerque Journal

Ken Frazier, editor of ‘Skeptical Inquirer’ magazine, dies at 80

Kendrick “Ken” Frazier stands near the Firehole River in Yellowstone National Park this past September. Frazier, a noted science writer, died in Albuquerque on Nov. 7. (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 in 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 out in the countryside,” Ruth said. “But it was a university trailer and there were three university scientists there. We went there to listen to sounds being emitted from Jupiter. It sounded like static.”

Perhaps only Ken Frazier would have considered that the kind of outing on which to launch a romance. But Ruth understood.

“Ken just loved science, especially astronomy and geophysics, but also a very broad-based area of different sciences,” she said.

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

“Ken helped launch the whole skeptical movement with people 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 tossing out the things that don’t work.”

Ken Frazier died in Albuquerque on Nov. 7 of 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. There will be a celebration of his life from 3-5 p.m. Jan. 8 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 hard for a lot of us.”

Still 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 he was the total opposite of me,” she said. “I had heard the expression that still waters run deep and Ken was the stillest of waters. I am a total extrovert and he was a classic introvert. They say opposites attract, and we were both attracted.”

They were married about a year after he took her to that trailer to listen to Jupiter’s noise.

He got a master’s in journalism at Columbia University in New York City.

While editor of “Science News” in 1976, Frazier reported on the founding of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal. The committee published a journal, which was originally called “The Zetetic,” but soon changed its name to “Skeptical Inquirer.” Frazier became editor in August 1977 and, working out of his Albuquerque home, continued in that role until his death.

Thomas knew Frazier for about 20 years. He said Frazier encouraged him to write an article about Project Mogul, a top-secret U.S. Army Air Forces project involving high-altitude balloons equipped with microphones to detect sound waves generated by Soviet Union atomic bomb tests. The crash of such a balloon in New Mexico in 1947 is believed by some to be the source of the famous Roswell UFO Incident.

That was the first of about five articles Thomas wrote for “Skeptical Inquirer.” “Ken nurtured the skeptical community, not just by editing ‘Skeptical Inquirer,’ but also by encouraging people to write and investigate. He was extremely friendly, thoughtful and engaging.”

Endlessly curious

Radford, who grew up in Corrales and lives now in Rio Rancho, was a University of New Mexico student when he discovered an old issue of “Skeptical Inquirer” in a Logan, Utah, used-book store in the early ’90s. He was hooked right away.

“In my teens, I had realized that all the mystery-mongering TV shows about UFOs and Bigfoot had very little investigation,” Radford said. “They were not giving me any evidence. I loved the critical-thinking aspect of ‘Skeptical Inquirer.’ ”

When he discovered the magazine’s editor lived in Albuquerque, Radford wrote Frazier a letter saying, “I love what you are doing and would like to contribute.”

Radford would become managing editor, and then deputy editor, 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 of them for “Skeptical Inquirer.”

“I worked with Ken for 25 years,” he said. “He kind of gave me my break in publishing. The main thing I remember about him is that he was endlessly curious and had an enthusiasm that was infectious. I sometimes forgot he was my boss. We were just two guys with a shared love of skepticism and critical thinking. I will always have fond memories of him.”

Last Grand Tour

In September, Ken and Ruth made 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 at the doors of our house in the (Sandia) foothills. We had a second-floor deck we could go up on to look at sunsets. He would often get up at 3 or 4 in the morning and go look for the space station.”

Ken learned soon after returning from his September trip that he was suffering from aggressive leukemia.

In a note to “Skeptical Inquirer” readers, which will be published in a forthcoming issue, he wrote: “New generations of scientific skeptics are moving into positions of influence. I have no qualms about their being up to the task and only wish I could journey along with all of you a while longer.”

Home » ABQnews Seeker » Ken Frazier, editor of ‘Skeptical Inquirer’ magazine, dies at 80


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

1
NMSU coach 'apologetic' about deadly shooting
ABQnews Seeker
Takes responsibility; no comment on discipline Takes responsibility; no comment on discipline
2
State sues tobacco companies over settlement payments
ABQnews Seeker
Complaint notes that NM has lost ... Complaint notes that NM has lost out on more than $84M in the past 14 years
3
Could EV charging stations become targets?
ABQnews Seeker
Sandia researchers sound alarm on potential ... Sandia researchers sound alarm on potential cyberattacks
4
Saint Mary's to challenge unbeaten Lobos in a way ...
ABQnews Seeker
The unbeaten Lobos get tested Wednesday ... The unbeaten Lobos get tested Wednesday against a Saint Mary's team that takes away what UNM has been doing so well.
5
It's how we roll
ABQnews Seeker
Iconic figure has returned to his ... Iconic figure has returned to his perch along the north side of Interstate 40
6
UNM's Anderson School of Management names new interim dean
ABQnews Seeker
Current Dean Mitzi Montoya is departing ... Current Dean Mitzi Montoya is departing for a University of Utah job.
7
Holiday Wish Program is looking for sponsors
ABQnews Seeker
Families with limited resources and extensive ... Families with limited resources and extensive needs get help
8
Man accused of shooting at police drone, officers
ABQnews Seeker
Auto theft investigation led to chase, ... Auto theft investigation led to chase, shots fired
9
Old Town Boys Club faces another allegation of sexual ...
ABQnews Seeker
Four lawsuits filed against organization Four lawsuits filed against organization