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George Johnson

Award-winning science journalist, author of The Cancer Chronicles

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  • About George Johnson

    George Johnson writes regularly about science for The New York Times, including the monthly column Raw Data. He has also written for National GeographicSlateDiscoverScientific AmericanWired, and The Atlantic, and his work has been included in The Best American Science Writing. A former Alicia Patterson Foundation fellow, he has received awards from PEN and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and his books were twice finalists for the Royal Society’s book prize. He is a co-host of Science Faction on bloggingheads.tv.

    The author of nine books, George Johnson’s most recent work The Cancer Chronicles takes a provocative and intellectually vibrant look at recent advances in the war on cancer. Born out of personal struggle—Johnson’s wife was diagnosed with a metastatic cancer—he plunged himself into a study of the disease, unearthing surprising changes in science’s understanding of the causes of cancer, with dietary and environmental toxins taking a lesser role.

    Johnson regularly speaks at universities, scientific associations, and public lecture series. He is co-founder and co-director of the Santa Fe Science Writing Workshop.

  • Speaking Topics

    Jurassic Cancer

    We think of cancer as a modern disease—a scourge of civilization brought on by synthetic chemicals and processed foods. But cancer has been with us since the beginning. In this lecture, George Johnson tells of the first evidence of cancer in prehistoric human ancestors and of a Jurassic period dinosaur with the disease. He shows that cancer, an unfortunate evolutionary tradeoff, is inevitable. We evolved from single-celled creatures, flourishing in the primordial waters, into creatures with trillions of cells—all under tight control. There is always the chance that one of them will break from the pack and revert to its primitive form and start evolving on its own. With a more realistic understanding of cancer, we can celebrate medicine's successes while realizing that there is only so much we can do.

    The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments

    Science in the twenty-first century has become industrialized. The experiments so often acclaimed in the newspapers—sequencing the genome, proving the existence of the top quark, discovering a new planet by analyzing the wobble of a distant star—cost millions of dollars and research teams that have grown to the size of corporations. But until very recently, the most earthshaking science came from individual pairs of hands. These experiments were designed and conducted with such straightforward elegance that they deserve to be called beautiful. Johnson, author of The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments, brings us back to the days when a single mind confronting the unknown could uncover a new law of the universe.

  • Video

  • Praise for George Johnson

    Praise for The Cancer Chronicles

    Johnson’s fine work…[is] an important one.

    The Atlantic

    The ideal primer for those who want to know the real story of cancer, rather than the version that is usually presented in the media.

    The Economist

    Among a small cluster of very good recent books on cancer, including The Emperor of All Maladies, by Siddhartha Mukherjee; The Philadelphia Chromosome, by Jessica Wapner; and The Truth in Small Doses, by Clifton Leaf, Johnson’s stands out as especially illuminating, forceful and, in its own quiet way, profound.

    The New York Times Book Review
  • Books by George Johnson

  • Media About George Johnson

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  • 212 572-2013
  • George Johnson travels from Santa Fe, NM

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