I have always been a reader and a lover of words. As a child, my favorite way to spend the day was lying on my bed with a book. I still love that, though I get to do it far less often. I got hooked on the New Yorker and John McPhee in high school. I loved how McPhee could take almost anything and show you why it was interesting. Perhaps because of that, I only ever wanted to write non-fiction.
Halfway through my career, after working in news magazines and freelancing for women’s magazines, I gravitated to writing primarily about science. No one was more surprised than I was! I had always been more interested in history (my major), literature, politics, languages—pretty much anything but biology and chemistry. But a switch got flipped along the way. Pulled by my interest in health and the environment, I felt compelled to dig into science. It mattered. And it affected me and my family. I find the work deeply engaging. I’ve visited brain imaging labs and baboon troops in Kenya, and I’ve written about everything from Alzheimer’s to zebrafish. When I don’t understand what scientists are telling me, I keep asking questions. Then I strive to explain their work in ways that my pre-science writing self, and a broader audience, can understand.
I am now a contributing editor for Scientific American and I write the Brain Waves blog for Psychology Today. My work has also appeared in The Atlantic, Newsweek, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Time, Spectrum and many other publications.
I’m the author of three books of popular science. Toxic Truth told the story of how a scientist and a doctor risked their careers and reputations to sound alarm bells about how lead was contaminating our environment and endangering children. I Can Hear You Whisper is the story of my investigation into hearing, sound, brain plasticity and Deaf culture after I learned my youngest son couldn’t hear. And now I’ve written Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life’s Fundamental Bond. Working on the book has revitalized my appreciation for friendship and quality relationships and I hope it will do the same for you. I’m honored that the book was supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
A native of Philadelphia and graduate of Princeton, I moved to Brooklyn right out of college and have considered it home ever since even though I have also lived in France, London and Hong Kong. Although I am a lifelong city person, my husband, Mark Justh, my three sons, and I now also have a foot in the country. We split our time between Brooklyn and our sustainable farm in Central New York (see www.EatonHemp.com and look for JD Farms on Facebook).