The PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award celebrates writing that exemplifies literary excellence on the subject of physical and biological sciences. The winner receives a cash award of $10,000 and will be honored at the PEN Literary Awards.
The PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award was founded by scientist and author Dr. Edward O. Wilson, activist and actor Harrison Ford, and the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation. The award is also supported by James and Cathy Stone. The inaugural award was conferred in 2011.
Examples of published works that exemplify the quality of writing the award is designed to acknowledge include Rachel Carlson’s Silent Spring (1962), Dr. James Watson’s The Double Helix (1969), Lewis Thomas’s The Lives of a Cell (1978), and Douglas Hofstadter’s Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid (1979).
2021 Longlist Finalists
A Series of Fortunate Events: Chance and the Making of the Planet, Life, and You, Sean B. Carroll (Princeton University Press)
The Better Half: On the Genetic Superiority of Women, Sharon Moalem (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
The Next Great Migration: The Beauty and Terror of Life on the Move, Sonia Shah (Bloomsbury Publishing)
The Bird Way: A New Look at How Birds Talk, Work, Play, Parent, and Think, Jennifer Ackerman (Penguin Press)
Nose Dive: A Field Guide to the World’s Smells, Harold McGee (Penguin Press)
Breath from Salt: A Deadly Genetic Disease, a New Era in Science, and the Patients and Families Who Changed Medicine Forever, Bijal P. Trivedi (BenBella Books)
The Last Stargazers: The Enduring Story of Astronomy’s Vanishing Explorers, Emily Levesque (Sourcebooks)
Owls of the Eastern Ice: A Quest to Find and Save the World’s Largest Owl, Jonathan C. Slaght (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Fathoms: The World in the Whale, Rebecca Giggs (Simon & Schuster)
Apollo’s Arrow: The Profound and Enduring Impact of Coronavirus on the Way We Live, Nicholas A. Christakis (Little, Brown Spark)
The finalists for all book awards will be announced in February 2021.
This year’s PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award judges are Nassir Ghaemi, Christine Kenneally, Erin Macdonald, Banu Subramaniam.
Nassir Ghaemi is a psychiatrist and author of A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness (Penguin Group, 2011), a New York Times bestseller. He has published a half dozen other books, over 200 scientific articles or book chapters, and blogs for Psychology Today and Medscape. He is a professor of psychiatry at Tufts University and Harvard Medical School, a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, and on the editorial board of numerous psychiatric journals. His textbook, Clinical Psychopharmacology (Oxford University Press, 2019), won the 2020 Prose Award for Excellence in Biological and Life Sciences (Association of American Publishers).
Christine Kenneally is an award-winning journalist and author who has written for The New Yorker, The New York Times, New Scientist, Scientific American, and other publications. Her book, The Invisible History of the Human Race: How DNA and History Shape Our Identities and Our Futures (Black Incorporated Books, 2014), was a New York Times Notable Book of 2014. Her first book, The First Word: The Search for the Origins of Language (Viking, 2007), was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Kenneally received a Ph.D. in linguistics from Cambridge University and was a 2019 finalist for a National Magazine Award and a Michael Kelly Award.
Erin Macdonald received her Ph.D. in astrophysics at the University of Glasgow in Scotland doing research into gravitational waves as a member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration. After leaving research in 2014, she pursued informal education at museums while giving talks at popular science fiction conventions on the science behind various franchises. Life took her to Los Angeles, where she began speaking at official Star Trek events and working as a science consultant for the entertainment industry. In 2019, she was hired as the official science consultant for the ever-expanding Star Trek universe and is currently working on six shows in development.
Banu Subramaniam is author of Ghost Stories for Darwin: The Science of Variation and the Politics of Diversity (University of Illinois Press, 2014), which was awarded the Ludwik Fleck Prize for best book in science and technology studies in 2016. She also authored Holy Science: The Biopolitics of Hindu Nationalism (University of Washington Press, 2019), which won the 2020 Michelle Kendrick Book Prize for the best book in literature, science, and the arts. Coeditor of several anthologies, Subramaniam teaches in the Department of Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.