|Born||July 13, 1966|
New Haven, Connecticut, U.S.
|Occupation||Popular science writer & blogger|
|Alma mater||Yale University (BA)|
Carl Zimmer (born 1966) is a popular science writer, blogger, columnist, and journalist who specializes in the topics of evolution, parasites, and heredity. The author of many books, he contributes science essays to publications such as The New York Times, Discover, and National Geographic. He is a fellow at Yale University's Morse College and adjunct professor of molecular biophysics and biochemistry at Yale University. Zimmer also gives frequent lectures and has appeared on many radio shows, including National Public Radio's Radiolab, Fresh Air, and This American Life.
Zimmer describes his journalistic beat as "life" or "what it means to be alive". He is the only science writer to have a species of tapeworm named after him (Acanthobothrium zimmeri). Zimmer's father is Dick Zimmer, a Republican politician from New Jersey, who was a member of U.S. House of Representatives from 1991 to 1997.
Zimmer received a B.A. in English from Yale University in 1987. In 1989, he started his career at Discover magazine, first as a copy editor and fact checker, eventually serving as a senior editor from 1994 to 1998. Zimmer left Discover after ten years to focus on books and other projects. In 2004, he started a blog called "The Loom", in which he wrote about topics related to his books, but later expanded it into what he terms "a place where I could write about things I might not be turning into an article for a magazine, but were really interesting'. The Loom has been hosted by Discover and National Geographic for many years, and has been invited to be part of Scienceblogs. It was transferred to Zimmer's personal website in 2018. Zimmer writes a weekly column called "Matter" in The New York Times. Zimmer and the STAT team have put out "Game of Genomes", a 13-part series that enlisted two dozen scientists, with the goal of exploring Zimmer's own genome.
He has given lectures at universities, medical schools, and museums. In 2009, Zimmer was the keynote speaker at Northeast Conference on Science and Skepticism (NECSS). He also presented at NECSS 2011 and CSICon 2018. Zimmer has twice been a spotlight speaker at the Aspen Ideas Festival, in 2017 and 2018. In 2009 and 2010 he was host of the periodic audio podcast "Meet the Scientist" of the American Society for Microbiology. Zimmer's 2004 article "Whose Life Would You Save?" was included in the 2005 The Best American Science and Nature Writing series.
Zimmer has received a number of awards, including the 2007 National Academies Communication Award, a prize for science communication from the United States National Academy of Sciences, for his wide-ranging coverage of biology and evolution in newspapers, magazines, and his blog. In 2016 Yale University appointed Zimmer Adjunct Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, stating that he is "a world-renowned science journalist and teacher, and his ability to make science, particularly biology, accessible to the general public is without peer". Zimmer has taught a science communication course at Yale since 2017 and participates in other molecular biophysics and biochemistry courses.
Opinions on science and skepticism
Zimmer has publicly expressed his concerns about science denial, noting that attacks on science "are in a number of cases well-funded campaigns, and some politicians are backing some of them for their own political ends", where "climate change, evolution, and vaccines seem to top the list". He says that each case of science denial is concerning, and that some, e.g. spreading misinformation about vaccines to worried parents, lead to needless outbreaks of disease that even puts children at risk of death. Similarly, Zimmer considers global warming as one of the biggest societal issues of our time, as our children and their children will inherit not only our genes, but this planet too, and states that "We should think about tinkering with the future of genetic heredity, but I think we should also be doing that with our environmental heredity and our cultural heredity." According to Zimmer there is a broader threat of these particular attacks on science, potentially eroding people's understanding of how science works in general: "If people come to see science as just someone else's opinion, rather than a powerful way of knowing based on evidence, then all sorts of trouble may arise."
In his keynote talk at Rockefeller University on September 6, 2017, he noted that democracy, science and journalism are "three valuable institutions that have made life...far better than it would have been without them." He stated however that we should not take it for granted that they are free from corruption, and urged to keep them that way. Specifically, he stated that "We can look back through history and see how in different places and in different times, each of these pillars cracked and sometimes fell. We should not be smug, when we look back at these episodes. We should not be so arrogant, as to believe that we are so much smarter or nobler that we're somehow immune from this disasters." Zimmer is critical of politicians' negative influence on science. He has been critical of Trump's anti-science stance, specifically his denial of human-caused climate change. Similarly, he is critical of Trump's appointment of science-deniers to lead crucial U.S. environmental agencies, such as National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Department of Energy. Zimmer is also critical of Putin's influence on Russian science, specifically his "friendly take-over" of a Russian science magazine, Putin being the "hands-off chairman" of the Russian Geographical Society.
After publishing She Has Her Mother's Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity, Zimmer was asked for his opinion about genome editing and CRISPR. While Zimmer thought that some gene-editing procedures, especially for conditions caused by single gene mutations, might provide simple ways to battle serious diseases, he urged for caution about intervention at the embryonic stage. However, he further pointed out the complexity of the issue and the need to address other countries' practices.
- 2002: John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship.
- 2005: Poynter Fellowship, Yale University. Invited speaker, Psychology.
- 2006: Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Grant for Public Understanding of Science and Technology
- 2010: Poynter Fellowship, Yale. Invited speaker, Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry
- 2015: Osher Fellowship, California Academy of Sciences
- 2017: Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Grant for Public Understanding of Science and Technology
- 1994: Everett Clark/Seth Payne Award for Young Science Journalists, awarded "to encourage young science writers by recognizing outstanding reporting and writing in any field of science."
- 1997: American Institute of Biological Sciences' Media Award that "recognizes outstanding reporting on biology to a general audience."
- 1999: The Pan American Health Organization's Award for Excellence in International Health Reporting
- 2004, 2009, 2012: American Association for the Advancement of Science's Science Journalism Award, awarded to honor "professional journalists for distinguished reporting on the sciences, engineering, and mathematics".
- 2007: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine's Science Communication Award, awarded to "recognize excellence in reporting and communicating science, engineering, and medicine to the general public", in the category Newspaper/magazine/internet
- 2015: National Association of Biology Teachers' (NABT) Distinguished Service Award, awarded to "recognize teachers for their expertise in specific subject areas, for contributions to the profession made by new teachers, and to recognize service to NABT, life science teaching, or leadership in learning communities."
- 2016: Society for the Study of Evolution's The Stephen Jay Gould Prize, awarded "to recognize individuals whose sustained and exemplary efforts have advanced public understanding of evolutionary science and its importance in biology, education, and everyday life in the spirit of Stephen Jay Gould."
- 2017: Online News Association's Online Journalism Award, awarded in the explanatory reporting category.
- 2019: Science in Society Journalism Awards from the National Association of Science Writers for his book, She Has Her Mother's Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potentials of Heredity.
- 2021: Asteroid 212073 Carlzimmer, discovered by astronomers with the Mount Lemmon Survey in 2005, was named in his honor. The naming was announced by the International Astronomical Union on 16 June 2021.
- Zimmer, Carl (1998). At the water's edge : macroevolution and the transformation of life. New York: Free Press.
- — (1999). At the water's edge : fish with fingers, whales with legs, and how life came ashore but then went back to sea (First Touchstone ed.). New York: Touchstone.
- — (2000). Parasite rex : inside the bizarre world of nature's most dangerous creatures. New York: Free Press.
- — (2001). Evolution : the triumph of an idea.
- — (2004). Soul made flesh. Free Press.
- — (2005). Smithsonian intimate guide to human origins. New York: Smithsonian Books.
- — (2005). Where did we come from? An intimate guide to the latest discoveries in human origins. Sydney: ABC Books for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
- The Descent of Man: The Concise Edition. Carl Zimmer, Charles Darwin and Frans DeWaal, 2007 ISBN 1101213523 (electronic book)
- Microcosm: E. coli and the New Science of Life London : William Heinemann Ltd., 2008 ISBN 0434016241
- The Tangled Bank: An Introduction to Evolution. Roberts, 2009, ISBN 1936221446
- Brain Cuttings: Fifteen Journeys Through the Mind. Independent Publishers Group, 2010, ISBN 1935622145
- More Brain Cuttings: Further Explorations of the Mind. New York : Scott & Nix, Inc., 2011 ISBN 1935622293
- A Planet of Viruses (2011) ISBN 0-226-98335-8
- Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed (2011) ISBN 978-1-4027-8360-9
- Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed. Reprint. Sterling: New York, 2014. ISBN 1454912405
- A Planet of Viruses. 2nd ed. University of Chicago Press: Chicago, 2015. ISBN 022629420X
- Evolution: Making Sense of Life. co-authored with Douglas Emlen. Roberts and Company; Greenwood Village, Colorado, 2016 ISBN 1936221365
- She Has Her Mother's Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity. Dutton: New York, New York, 2018 ISBN 1101984597 
- Life's Edge: The Search for What It Means to Be Alive New York: Dutton, 2021.
Essays and chapters
- Zimmer, Carl (July 1995). "Carriers of extinction". Discover. 16 (7): 28, 30.
- — (January 1996). "From fin to hand". Discover. 17 (1): 50–51.
- — (January 1996). "From teeth to beak". Discover. 17 (1): 50.
- — (January 1996). "Verdict (almost) in". Discover. 17 (1): 78–79.
- — (January 1996). "The State of the Earth : 1995". Discover. 17 (1): 80–81.
- — (February 1996). "Circus science". Discover. 17 (2): 56–63.
- — (April 1996). "Beetle of burden". Discover. 17 (4): 27.
- — (March 2010). Photographs by Helene Schmitz. "Fatal attraction". National Geographic. 217 (3): 80–95. Archived from the original on February 20, 2010.
- — (2006). "Making sense of evolution". In Diamond, Judy (ed.). Virus and the whale : exploring evolution small and large. Arlington, Va: NSTA Press.
- — (2006). "Evolution in seven organisms". In Diamond, Judy (ed.). Virus and the whale : exploring evolution small and large. Arlington, Va: NSTA Press.
- — (June 2013). "The mystery of the second skeleton". The Atlantic. 311 (5): 72–82.
Critical studies and reviews of Zimmer's work
- She has her mother's laugh
- Flannery, Tim (March 7–20, 2019). "Our twisted DNA". The New York Review of Books. 66 (4): 38–39.
- Zimmer, Carl. "Bio". Personal website. Archived from the original on February 28, 2019. Retrieved December 22, 2018.
- Viskontas, Indre (February 4, 2013). "Viruses and other little things". Point of Inquiry. Center for Inquiry. Archived from the original on February 28, 2019. Retrieved September 15, 2016.
- Zimmer, Carl (8 July 2009). "A tapeworm to call my own". The Loom. National Geographic. Archived from the original on July 9, 2013. Retrieved 15 September 2016.
- Zimmer, Carl. "Curriculum Vitae" (PDF). Carl Zimmer. Archived (PDF) from the original on February 28, 2019. Retrieved February 24, 2019.
- Josh Romero (February 2007). "Backgrounder: John Rennie and Carl Zimmer". Bullpen (NYU Department of Journalism). Archived from the original on February 28, 2019. Retrieved June 1, 2011.
- "Carl Zimmer". Penguin Random House Speakers Bureau. Penguin Random House. Archived from the original on February 28, 2019. Retrieved December 25, 2018.
- "The Loom Ends. The Loom Lives!". ScienceBlogs. Science 2.0. Archived from the original on February 28, 2019. Retrieved December 22, 2018.
- "Recent and archived work by Carl Zimmer for The New York Times". The New York Times. Archived from the original on February 28, 2019. Retrieved February 25, 2019.
- "Game of Genomes". STAT. STAT. Archived from the original on February 28, 2019. Retrieved February 24, 2019.
- Gerbic, Susan (31 May 2018). "On Tapeworms and Laughter". Skeptical Inquirer. Archived from the original on February 28, 2019. Retrieved November 27, 2018.
- "Aspen Ideas Festival | Engaging Ideas that Matter". The Aspen Ideas Festival. The Aspen Institute. Archived from the original on February 28, 2019. Retrieved December 25, 2018.
- Zimmer, Carl. "Meet the Scientists". Meet the Scientists. American Society for Microbiologists. Retrieved September 16, 2016.[permanent dead link]
- Zimmer, Carl. "Whose Life Would You Save?". Discover. Kalmbach Media. Retrieved February 24, 2019.
- Balbach, Stephen. "Online Index to The Best American Science and Nature Writing Series". Archived from the original on February 28, 2019. Retrieved February 24, 2019.
- O'Leary, Maureen (October 1, 2007). "National Academies press release". United States National Academy of Sciences. Archived from the original on February 28, 2019. Retrieved November 1, 2007.
- "World-renown science journalist, Carl Zimmer, to join MB&B as Adjunct Professor". Yale School of Medicine. Archived from the original on February 28, 2019. Retrieved December 23, 2018.
- "Carl Zimmer Professor Adjunct". Yale School of Medicine. Archived from the original on February 28, 2019. Retrieved December 23, 2018.
- Peikoff, Kira (September 9, 2018). "Carl Zimmer: Genetically Editing Humans Should Not Be Our Biggest Worry". Leapsmag. Leapsmag. Archived from the original on February 28, 2019. Retrieved February 26, 2019.
- Ball, Philip (August 11, 2018). "Carl Zimmer: 'We shouldn't look to our genes for a quick way to make life better'". The Guardian. Archived from the original on February 28, 2019. Retrieved December 23, 2018.
- "Maybe DNA can't answer all our questions about heredity". Wired. May 28, 2018. Archived from the original on March 14, 2019. Retrieved February 26, 2019.
- "A Science Writer Explores The 'Perversions And Potential' Of Genetic Tests". KUNC. KUNC. 11 June 2018. Archived from the original on February 28, 2019. Retrieved February 26, 2019.
- "Carl Zimmer". John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Archived from the original on February 28, 2019. Retrieved February 24, 2019.
- "Osher Fellows". California Academy of Sciences. California Academy of Sciences. Archived from the original on February 28, 2019. Retrieved February 24, 2019.
- "Grants". Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Archived from the original on February 28, 2019. Retrieved February 24, 2019.
- "Evert Clark/Seth Payne Award for Young Science Journalists". Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. CASW. Archived from the original on February 28, 2019. Retrieved June 6, 2018.
- "AIBS Media award". American Institute of Biological Sciences. Archived from the original on February 28, 2019. Retrieved December 27, 2018.
- "AAAS Science Journalism Award Recipients". aaas.org. Archived from the original on February 28, 2019. Retrieved October 23, 2015.
- "Congratulations to Carl Zimmer - NCSE". ncse.com. November 14, 2012. Archived from the original on February 28, 2019. Retrieved October 23, 2015.
- "News from the National Academies". News. National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine. Archived from the original on February 28, 2019. Retrieved September 15, 2016.
- "2015 Award Recipients". The National Association of Biology Teachers. Archived from the original on February 28, 2019. Retrieved December 27, 2018.
- "The Stephen Jay Gould Prize". Society for the Study of Evolution. Archived from the original on February 28, 2019. Retrieved December 25, 2018.
- "Major Awards for STAT". STAT. Archived from the original on February 28, 2019. Retrieved December 27, 2018.
- "Carl Zimmer wins NASW Science Book Award". Skeptical Inquirer. 44: 9. January–February 2020.
- "WGSBN Bulletin Archive". Working Group Small Body Nomenclature. 16 June 2021. Retrieved 17 June 2021. (Bulletin #3)
- "A fascinating history of heredity research reveals the field's highs and lows". Science Magazine.
- Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva.
- Carl Zimmer official website
- Phenomena: The Loom Archived 2018-06-30 at the Wayback Machine Zimmer's blog at National Geographic
- List of video conversations and debates with Zimmer and others on Bloggingheads.tv
- Color images of viruses from his book, A Planet of Viruses
- Career advice for those looking to get into science journalism offered by Carl Zimmer
- Appearances on C-SPAN