He studied zebrafish genetics, molecular biology and wrote for Scientific American. You should have seen his writing in the pages of this paper, though — he could take science and make it sound totally gettable, like it was just bad writing that might have kept you from really thinking about future applications for graphene all these years. (This past year, I'd mentioned to my editor the idea of asking him to contribute to the paper, or as a possible candidate for our People Issue last year.) He'd written a book called the Instant Egghead's Guide to the Universe, and his blog was called Fistful of Science. He would also leave comments on stories in town about, say, global warming, and dash off in a matter-of-fact paragraph what it took other people whole books to explain.
I never met the guy, but I'd always wanted to. People who knew him reflect here and here. The latter link mentions that, he'd asked a colleague recently to recommend him for a doctoral program, and had written out some of his future goals, further proof of what a thoughtful thinker he was:
My overarching interests are social change in general and climate activism in particular. I believe that deliberate social change has to emerge from individual change, in the sense that individual minds have to come to view the world in new ways. I want to understand how individuals make the cognitive switch from being politically inactive or unaware to politically active and engaged. [...] My idea is to conduct a series of case studies of individuals who have made the cognitive switch I’m talking about. My goal would be to publish these stories and/or use them to develop more effective ways of reaching out to those who are politically undecided.
[Via Chris Wage.]