Carl Zimmer reports from the frontiers of biology, where scientists are expanding our understanding of life. Since 2004 he has written about science for the New York Times, where his column “Matter” has appeared weekly since 2013. He is a popular speaker at universities, medical schools, museums, and festivals, and he is also a frequent on radio programs such as Radiolab and This American Life. Zimmer has won many awards for his work, including the Stephen Jay Gould Prize, awarded by the Society for the Study of Evolution to recognize individuals whose sustained efforts have advanced public understanding of evolutionary science.
Zimmer is the author of thirteen books about science. His latest is She Has Her Mother’s Laugh: The Power, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity. David Grann, author of Killers of the Flower Moon praised the book, saying, “No one unravels the mysteries of science as brilliantly and compellingly as Carl Zimmer, and he has proven it again with She Has Her Mother’s Laugh—a sweeping, magisterial book that illuminates the very nature of who we are.” The Guardian named it the best science book of 2018, and the New York Times Book Review named it a notable book of the year. Publisher’s Weekly picked it for their Ten Best Books of 2018, and it was selected for the shortlist for the Baillie Gifford Prize for Nonfiction. The book won the 2019 Communications Award from the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine.
Zimmer’ career began at Discover, where he went on to serve for five years as a senior editor. In addition to his work for the New York Times, he has written articles for magazines including National Geographic, Wired, and The Atlantic. In 2003, Zimmer also launched “The Loom,” an award-winning blog which has been hosted by Discover and National Geographic. In 2015, Zimmer became a contributing national correspondent for STAT, a publication about health and medicine, where he hosted “Science Happens,” a video series that was a finalist for a National Magazine Award. In 2019, Zimmer created “What Is Life?”, an eight-episode series of live conversations with leading thinkers about why life exists, how it began, and other big questions about existence.
His journalism has earned Zimmer many honors. In 2017, he won an Online Journalism Award for his “Game of Genomes” series for STAT. His work has been anthologized in both The Best American Science Writing series and The Best American Science and Nature Writing series. Zimmer is a three-time winner of the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Journalism Award–twice for his work for The New York Times and once for his blog, The Loom. Zimmer won the National Academies Science Communication Award in 2007 for “his diverse and consistently interesting coverage of evolution and unexpected biology.” In 2015, the National Association of Biology Teachers awarded Zimmer with their Distinguished Service Award.
In 1998, Zimmer published his first book, At the Water’s Edge: Fish with Fingers, Whales with Legs, and How Life Came Ashore and Then Went Back to Sea. Since then, Zimmer has written a dozen more books, for which he has won fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
Among his other books, Zimmer is the author of Soul Made Flesh, a history of neuroscience. It was named one of the top 100 books of the year by The New York Times Book Review, and dubbed a “tour-de-force” by The Sunday Telegraph. His book Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea was called “as fine a book as one will find on the subject” by Scientific American. The Los Angeles Times called Parasite Rex “a book capable of changing how we see the world.” Microcosm: E. coli and the New Science of Life, was hailed Anthony Doerr in The Boston Globe as “superb…quietly revolutionary.” It was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Science Book Prize. Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed was featured in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Guardian, Der Spiegel, and The Huffington Post. In 2015, the University of Chicago Press published the second edition of his book, A Planet of Viruses. In their review, the Washington Post declared, “Science writer Carl Zimmer accomplishes in a mere 100 pages what other authors struggle to do in 500: He reshapes our understanding of the hidden realities at the core of everyday existence.”
Zimmer is also the author of two widely praised textbooks. The Tangled Bank: An Introduction to Evolution was the first textbook about evolution ever published intended for non-majors. Edward O. Wilson of Harvard called it “excellent for students, the general public, and even other biologists.” Choice named it an academic title of the year. Zimmer also co-authored Evolution: Making Sense of Life a textbook for biology majors, with University Montana biologist Doug Emlen. “Their text can only be described as an exciting moment for our field,” said Neil Shubin of the University of Chicago. The third edition of the book was in 2019.
In 2009, Zimmer began teaching workshops and seminars at Yale, and in 2017 he was appointed professor adjunct in the Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry. He lives in Connecticut with his wife Grace and their children, Charlotte and Veronica.
He is, to his knowledge, the only writer after whom a species of tapeworm has been named.