M*A*S*H’s Hawkeye has something to tell Australians about science

Alan Alda in 1976, in the driving seat of a jeep, surrounded by Loretta Swit and other cast members of M.A.S.H. Keystone/Getty Images

Alan Alda, who played Hawkeye Pierce in M*A*S*H, is joining the Australian National University (ANU) to help promote science communication by using techniques used by actors.

The Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, based in Stony Brook University’s School of Journalism in the United States, has signed a partnership agreement with the ANU Centre for the Public Awareness of Science (CPAS).

“ANU has a distinguished history in science communication,” says Alda said. “This partnership raises our work to a level I’ve only been able to dream about until now.”

Alda will visit Australia next month for the World Science Festival in Brisbane and give a public talk at Australia National University on March 9: Getting the public beyond a blind date with science.

The Alda Center uses innovative instructional approaches, including improvisational theatre exercises, to help scientists learn to communicate more clearly and vividly.

Senior lecturer Will Grant, of the ANU Centre for the Public Awareness of Science (CPAS), says the two institutions have complementary strengths.

“There is some amazingly innovative work, drawing on Alan Alda’s improvisational theatre background, being done there,” says Dr Grant.

“In turn CPAS has a wealth of experience in different areas, including research on the interaction between science and society.”

The television series M*A*S*H, based on a book by military surgeon Dr H Richard Hornberger, ran from 1972 to 1983. When the final episode aired on February 28, 1983, it became most-watched and highest-rated single television episode in US TV history, with 125 million viewers.

Alda, now 80, is better known to younger viewers as presidential candidate Arnold Vinick from The West Wing, and for the role of Senator Owen Brewster in the 2004 film The Aviator.