Pioneering OSU physicist honored at graduation


CORVALLIS - John A. Gardner, Jr., a professor of physics at Oregon State University and a pioneer in bringing the world of science to the blind, will be recognized with the university's Distinguished Service Award on Sunday, June 16, at one of OSU's two commencement ceremonies.

Gardner is an expert in materials science and the microscopic structure of semiconductors, superconductors and oxide ceramics. But since losing his eyesight in 1988 due to complications from glaucoma, he has gained international recognition for his work to improve the access of blind people to the world of advanced mathematics and science.

"John Gardner's work embodies OSU's reasons for being, including to advance knowledge and to serve the public," said Rich Holdren, OSU vice provost for research. "He has certainly been opening doors for many, and also opening minds about how and why to do so. Our whole research community can appreciate his innovation, and his perseverance in bringing its value to others."

At OSU, Gardner created the Science Access Project, which has produced a steady stream of innovations in recent years that are revolutionizing the potential for blind students and scholars to pursue their varied interests. First, he invented "Dots Plus," an extension of standard Braille that made advanced mathematics easily available for the first time to the blind. New systems have been created to display and allow easy printing of graphics in a tactile, raised-dot form that blind people can use.

And now these technologies are being applied to materials on the Internet, opening a vast new reservoir of information to the blind.

The ideas, concepts and technologies that are emerging from this initiative may aid not only those with visual handicaps, Gardner says, but help educators all over the world better understand the different ways in which students learn and how the very process of education can be made more effective for everyone.

Gardner holds a doctorate from the University of Illinois, and has received numerous career and professional honors, both for his cutting-edge research in physics and his work on behalf of those with physical disabilities. He has more than 100 professional publications dating back to the 1960s.