Carl Zimmer reports from the frontiers of biology, where scientists are expanding our understanding of life. New York has called him “the country’s most respected science journalist.”
Zimmer has contributed reporting to the New York Times since 2004, and has been a columnist since 2013. In his “Origins” column, he explores how life’s diversity came to be. His journalism has won many awards, 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.
In addition to his reporting, Zimmer is the author of fourteen books about science. His latest book is Life’s Edge: The Search for What It Means to Be Alive. The New York Times named it a Notable Book of 2021, and it was a finalist for the 2021 PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award. Nobel Laureate Jennifer Doudna praised the book, saying, “Carl Zimmer shows what a great suspense novel science can be. Life’s Edge is a timely exploration in an age when modern Dr. Frankensteins are hard at work, but Carl’s artful, vivid, irresistible writing transcends the moment in these twisting chapters of intellectual revelation. Prepare to be enthralled.”
Zimmer started his journalism career at Discover, where he went on to serve for five years as a senior editor. He has also written for other magazines including National Geographic, Wired, and The Atlantic. In 2003, Zimmer launched “The Loom,” an award-winning blog which has been hosted by Discover and National Geographic.
Zimmer is a two-time winner of an Online Journalism Award. He won in 2017 for his reporting on genomes for STAT. In 2021, his Covid-19 vaccine coverage was part of the package that earned the New York Times an award for general excellence. 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 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. His work has been anthologized in both The Best American Science Writing series and The Best American Science and Nature Writing series. In 2023, Zimmer served as the editor of The Best of American Science and Nature Writing. During the Covid-19 pandemic, he contributed to the coverage that won the New York Times the public service Pulitzer Prize in 2021.
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 thirteen more books, for which he has won fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
In 2018, Zimmer publishedShe 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. The book won the 2019 Communications Award from the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, and the Science in Society Journalism Award from the National Association of Science Writers.
Among his other books, Zimmer is the author of Soul Made Flesh, a history of neuroscience. It was also named a Notable Book 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 2021, the University of Chicago Press published the third edition of his book, A Planet of Viruses. In its review of the book, 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.” Poland’s Jagiellonian University named A Planet of Viruses 2021’s Smart Book of the Year.
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. 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 of Montana biologist Doug Emlen. The third edition was published in 2019, and a fourth edition is in preparation.
In addition to writing about science, Zimmer speaks frequently at universities, medical schools, museums, and festivals. He is a familiar voice on podcasts such as The Daily and Radiolab. In 2009, Zimmer began teaching writing workshops and seminars at Yale, and in 2017 he was appointed professor adjunct in the Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry.
Zimmer served 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.
You can find Carl on a lot of social media channels, such as Mastodon.