Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y.–Bard College announces the appointment of science, technology, and global public health writer Michael Specter to the faculty as visiting professor of environmental and urban studies in the division of social studies. In fall 2012, Specter will teach the course “The Global Politics of Food,” which will examine one of our most fundamental problems—whether it is possible to overhaul our badly broken system of industrial agriculture and feed the Earth’s rapidly growing population, while also growing safe, plentiful, and nutritious food.
Specter has been a staff writer at the New Yorker since 1998, where he writes about science, technology, and global public health. Since joining the magazine, he has published several articles about the global AIDS epidemic, avian influenza, malaria, the world’s diminishing freshwater resources, genetically modified food, synthetic biology, the attempt to create edible meat in a lab, and the debate over the meaning of our carbon footprint. He has also published profiles of subjects including Lance Armstrong, the ethicist Peter Singer, Sean (P. Diddy) Combs, Manolo Blahnik, Miuccia Prada, and Ingrid Newkirk, the head of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
Specter came to the New Yorker from the New York Times, where he had been a roving foreign correspondent based in Rome. From 1995 to 1998, Specter served as the New York Times Moscow bureau chief. From 1985 to 1991, he wrote for the Washington Post, where he covered local news, became a national science reporter, and then served as the newspaper’s New York bureau chief.
Specter has twice received the Global Health Council’s annual Excellence in Media Award— for his 2001 article about AIDS, “India’s Plague,” and for his 2004 article, “The Devastation,” about the ethics of testing H.I.V. vaccines in Africa.
He received the 2002 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science Journalism Award for his 2001 article, “Rethinking the Brain,” on the scientific basis of how we learn.
His book, Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives, received the 2009 Robert P. Balles Annual Prize in Critical Thinking, presented by the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. At the 2010 TED conference, he delivered the talk “The Danger of Science Denial,” which addressed many of the issues in his book.
In 2011, Specter won the World Health Organization’s Stop TB Partnership Award for Excellence in Reporting for his New Yorker article, “A Deadly Misdiagnosis,” about the dangers of inaccurate TB tests in India, where there is the highest rate of TB in the world.