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Thomas Levenson

Thomas Levenson

Science Writing
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Fellow, 2021-22

At CASBS, Thomas Levenson will be working on So Very Small, a book that traces the history of germ theory.  This project examines why it took so long to move from the discovery of microbes in the late seventeenth century to the recognition that such naked-eye-invisible organisms could produce human disease in the 1870s, and then what was done with that knowledge.  Most broadly, it traces the evolving conceptions of the human role in or dominion over nature that have shaped our engagement with the microcosmos, in ways that still affect social behavior in the face of disease.

Levenson, a science writer with a historical bent, focuses on moments when scientific ideas shift, with a particular emphasis on the social and cultural context for such shifts.  One of the goals of this larger project is to undermine notions of discovery as solitary bolts of inspiration. His most recent books are Money for Nothing (Random House, 2020), The Hunt for Vulcan (Random House, 2015), and Newton and the Counterfeiter (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009). He has previously held a Guggenheim fellowship, shared a Peabody award, and won the National Academies Science Communication Award. He is a professor of science writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.