Deborah Blum (born October 19, 1954) is an American journalist and the
director of the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology. She is author of books including The
Poisoner's Handbook (2010), and has been a columnist for the New
York Times and a blogger for Wired.
As science writer for the Sacramento Bee, Blum wrote a series of
articles examining the professional, ethical, and emotional conflicts
between scientists who use animals in their research and animal rights
activists who oppose that research. Titled "The Monkey Wars", the
series won the 1992 Pulitzer Prize for Beat Reporting.
1 Background and early career
2 Environmental journalism
3 Science writing and teaching
Tim Hunt controversy
5 Knight Science Journalism Program at MIT
6 Personal life
7 Selected bibliography
9 External links
Background and early career
Born in Urbana, Illinois, Blum grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana,
Bristol, England, and Athens, Georgia. She graduated from the
University of Georgia
University of Georgia where she was editor of the student newspaper,
The Red and Black. She worked as a reporter covering police, fires,
courts, and other general assignment beats for newspapers in Georgia,
Florida and California before she turned to science writing. She was
on the staffs of the Macon Telegraph, the
St. Petersburg Times
St. Petersburg Times and the
Fresno Bee, among other publications.
After earning a master's degree in environmental journalism from the
University of Wisconsin–Madison, Blum returned to the Fresno Bee,
where she became an award-winning environmental reporter. She was the
first to report on the startling incidence of severely deformed
waterfowl at the Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge, where poor
management of irrigation runoff had polluted the wetland with toxic
levels of the element selenium. Her work for the
Fresno Bee put the
mid-sized paper ahead of much larger regional rivals, including the
San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Chronicle and the
Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times in covering this
major environmental story.
Science writing and teaching
In 1984, Blum joined the staff of the Sacramento Bee, where she
broadened her range, covering science subjects as diverse as medical
issues, superconductivity, and the physics of weaponry. Her series
"California: The Weapons Master" was awarded the 1987 Livingston Award
for National Reporting. In 1992 the American Association for the
Advancement of Science awarded her its AAAS-Westinghouse Award for
Science Journalism, also for the "Monkey Wars" series.
Blum expanded the Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper series into a book
of the same title. Her second book, Sex on the Brain examines the
biological differences between men and women. In Love at Goon Park,
she explores the life and career of groundbreaking psychology
researcher Harry Harlow, and in Ghost Hunters she follows a quest by
19th century psychologist-philosopher
William James and colleagues to
apply objective scientific methods to the study of paranormal
The Poisoner's Handbook
The Poisoner's Handbook she explores the pioneering work
of two unheralded scientists who paved the way for modern forensic
detectives. This book was promoted on Point of Inquiry. She
received the James T. Grady-James H. Stack Award for Interpreting
Chemistry for the Public from the
American Chemical Society
American Chemical Society in 2015
for this book.
Blum has written, most often about science and its interrelationship
with American culture, for publications that have included the New
York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, Time, the
Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Discover, Psychology Today,
Rolling Stone, the Utne Reader, and Mother Jones. In 2013,
she began writing "Poison Pen" which appears as a column in the New
York Times and as a blog post in the newspaper's online edition.
Her blog "Elemental" appears regularly on the Wired website. After
becoming director of the Knight Science Journalism Program, she
created and became publisher of a new on-line science magazine,
From 1997 until 2015, she was a professor in the School of Journalism
and Mass Communication at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. In
2005 she was appointed Helen Firstbrook Franklin
Journalism, an endowed faculty position within the University of
Wisconsin journalism school. In July 2015, she became director of
Knight Science Journalism at MIT.
A past president of the National Association of Science Writers, she
has been a member of the governing board of the World Federation of
Science Writers and has also served on such panels for the Council for
the Advancement of Science Writing, the AAAS Committee on Public
Understanding of Science and Technology, the National Research
Council’s Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources, the Society
for Science & the Public and a US Congress committee on
science. Blum is co-editor (with Mary Knudson and Robin
Marantz Henig) of the book A Field Guide for Science Writers.
Tim Hunt controversy
In 2015, after Nobel Prize winning biochemist
Tim Hunt made a
controversial speech about women in science, Blum was one of three
journalists present who initially broke the story. Although
acknowledging that parts of it praised women scientists, she wrote
that she found Hunt's speech troubling even after she asked him for
clarification. Reporting on accusations that Hunt had been
taken out of context, conflicting recollections of the phrase "now
seriously" became a focal point for many commentators. Blum stated
that she did not remember whether or not he spoke these words.
Former UK member of Parliament
Louise Mensch has documented what she
considers to be factual and ethical shortcomings in Blum's account of
Hunt's remarks. These claims have been disputed by British
journalist and author Dan Waddell, who argues that they are
Knight Science Journalism Program at MIT
Blum became director of the Knight Science Journalism Program, a
highly respected mid-career fellowship program endowed by the James S.
and John L. Knight Foundation, in July 2015. The following year, she
expanded on the fellowship program by launching Undark, a new digital
science magazine, dedicated to exploring the intersection of science
and society. The magazine's debut, in March 2016, was hailed by the
Columbia Journalism Review in a story titled, "Can Undark Go Where No
Other Online Science Magazine Has Gone Before?" The magazine's
founding editor in chief is Tom Zeller, long time environment writer
for The New York Times. In July 2016, David Corcoran, former editor of
Science Times at The New York Times, joined the program as a senior
editor at the magazine and associate director of the program.
Blum is the eldest of four daughters born to entomologist Murray S.
Blum and Nancy Ann Blum, an educator and writer.
Blum and her husband have raised two sons.
This list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it.
Blum, Deborah (1994). The Monkey Wars. New York: Oxford University
A Field Guide for Science Writers: the official guide of the National
Association of Science Writers (1997; 2nd ed., 2006), edited by Blum,
Mary Knudson, and Robin Marantz Henig
Sex on the Brain: the biological differences between men and women
(1997) — a
New York Times
New York Times Notable Book of the Year in 1997
Love at Goon Park:
Harry Harlow and the science of affection (2002)
— named among the best books of 2002 by Publishers Weekly, National
Public Radio and Discover magazine, finalist for Los Angeles Times
2002 Book Prize
William James and the search for scientific proof of
life after death (2006)
The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in
Jazz Age New York (2010)
Angel Killer: A True Story of Cannibalism, Crime Fighting, and
Insanity in New York City (2012), The Atavist
Blum, Deborah (Dec 2013). "F-100 therapeutic milk". What's Inside.
Wired. 21 (12): 118. 
^ "Faculty & Staff Knight Science Journalism at MIT". Faculty
and staff listing for Knight Science Journalism at MIT. Retrieved
^ "The Poisoner's Handbook". Publisher's product display. Penguin
Group. Retrieved 2013-11-01.
Quote: "Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer
Deborah Blum follows New
York City's first forensic scientists to discover a fascinating Jazz
Age story of chemistry."
^ "Deborah Blum, author at Wired". Wired. Retrieved 2015-09-04.
^ "Beat Reporting". The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved 2013-11-01.
^ "Doug Moe: UW journalism prof's book on forensics gets positive
reaction". Wisconsin State Journal, January 18, 2010.
^ Mooney, Chris (2010-04-23). "
Deborah Blum — Murder and chemistry
in jazz age New York". Point of Inquiry. Retrieved 2015-09-04.
^ "2015 National Award Recipients". American Chemical Society.
^ Blum, Deborah (2010-01-23). "Poison and Progress". The Wall Street
Journal. Retrieved 2015-09-04.
^ Blum, Deborah (2010-01-14). "Civilization on a Fault Line". The New
York Times. Retrieved 2015-09-04.
^ Blum, Deborah (2005-01-23). "Solving for XX". The Boston Globe.
^ Blum, Deborah. "Poison Pen column". The New York Times. Retrieved
^ "Pulitzer Prize-winner to head Knight Science Journalism at MIT".
MIT press release, July 18, 2014.
^ "Penguin Books profile". Penguin Group. Retrieved 2015-09-04.
^ Blum, Deborah (1998-05-14). "Testimony". US House of
Representatives. Archived from the original on 2003-04-21. Retrieved
^ Blum, Deborah (2015). "
Tim Hunt "jokes" about women scientists. Or
not". Retrieved 2015-09-03.
^ Young, Cathy (2015-07-08). "Lab rats: How the misogyny police and
sloppy journalists smeared a top scientist". The Observer. Retrieved
^ Whipple, Tom; Waterfield, Bruno (2015-06-24). "Leaked transcript
shows 'sexist' scientist was joking". The Times. Retrieved
^ Mensch, Louise (2015-12-14). "The
Tim Hunt Debacle Why Feminists
Cleared a Nobel Prizewinner". Medium. Retrieved 2015-12-19.
^ Waddell, Dan. "Saving Tim Hunt". Medium. Retrieved 3 July
^ Waddell, Dan. "Hunt and the Hunted". Medium. Retrieved 3 July
^ Waddell, Dan. "Hunt and the Hunted Two". Medium. Retrieved 3 July
^ Dattaro, Laura. "Can Undark Go Where No Other Online Science Mag Has
Gone Before?". Columbia Journalism Review. Retrieved 3 July
^ Wired often changes the title of a print article when it is
published online. This article is titled "What’s Inside: The
Life-Saving Ingredients in F-100 Therapeutic Milk" online.
Officlal website for Deborah Blum
Deborah Blum on IMDb
CV at UW–Madison
Interview with American Scientist Online
Video of interview/discussion with Blum and George Johnson on
NPR review of "The Poisoner's Handbook"
77Square review of "Angel Killer" on Madison.com
Ghost Hunters Reviews at Metacritic
The Final Frontier, review by Dennis Drabelle in The Washington Post,
July 30, 2006
A different kind of believer, review by
Michael S. Roth
Michael S. Roth in Los Angeles
Times, August 6, 2006
Salon.com review of 'Love at Goon Park
ISNI: 0000 0001 1447 3026
BNF: cb13328752m (data)